Fighters in the Islamic State reportedly massacred dozens of Yazidi men who refused to convert to Islam in a northern Iraq village Friday, according to Iraqi government and Kurdish officials.
The reported slaughter in the village of Kucho followed President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that the U.S. would conclude a humanitarian mission that helped tens of thousands of trapped Yazidis escape the Islamic State.
Kurdish and Iraq officials said militants reportedly surrounded the village near the mostly Yazidi city of Sinjar more than a week ago and gave its inhabitants an ultimatum: Convert or die. Villagers faced a deadline to show their faith by attending Friday prayers.
When the Yazidis did not go to a mosque, militants concluded they had not converted to Islam and began rounding up families, said Majid Shingali, a Kurdish member of Iraq’s parliament who is from Sinjar.
The Islamic State “has its rules, and because the people didn’t follow those rules, the Islamic State dragged them from their houses and opened fire on them,” he said.
Kamal Amin, spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry, said it appeared the militants killed the village’s men while capturing Yazidi women and children.
“It is not unusual to have such a thing from (the Islamic State) because their ideology and thinking is inhuman,” Amin said.
Amin’s and Shingali’s accounts were based on reports survivors gave to nongovernmental agencies in northern Iraq, Amin said.
The Yazidis are a religious minority based in northern Iraq considered to be infidels by the Islamic State.
Militants attacked the city of Sinjar on Aug. 3, driving tens of thousands of Yazidis into nearby mountains.
U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops have helped the Yazidis on the mountain get to safety, Obama said on Thursday, but the men who were slaughtered in Kucho did not take part in the Yazidi exodus and remained in their village.
The Defense Department on Saturday reported that it carried out drone strikes southwest of Sinjar, destroying two armored vehicles on Friday after it heard reports about Islamic State militants attacking the village.
Islamic State representatives have denied reports that they have taken Yazidi women into forced marriages, as has been reported by human rights organizations.
“As for Yazidis, anything is possible except being taken as concubines,” one Islamic State representative wrote on Twitter Saturday.
Also Saturday, Kurdish media reported heavy fighting near the Mosul Dam, including coordinated airstrikes that gave witnesses the impression that Peshmerga and U.S. forces were preparing to retake the dam. Kurdish officials did not respond to requests for comment about the operation.