December 21, 2014
Iraq accuses Islamic State of Yazidi atrocity
Islamic State militants have killed hundreds of Iraq's minority Yazidis, burying some alive and taking women as slaves, an Iraqi government minister said, as US warplanes again bombed the insurgents and a political deadlock dragged on.
Human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani accused the Sunni Muslim insurgents - who have ordered the community they regard as "devil worshippers" to convert to Islam or die - of celebrating what he called a "a vicious atrocity".
No independent confirmation was available of the killings of hundreds of Yazidis, an event that could increase pressure on Western powers to do more to help tens of thousands of people, including many from religious and ethnic minorities, who have fled the Islamic State's offensive.
The US Central Command said drones and jet aircraft had hit Islamic State armed trucks and mortar positions near Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region which had been relatively stable throughout the past decade of turmoil until the insurgents swept across northwestern Iraq this summer.
That marked a third successive day of US air strikes, and Central Command said in its statement that they were aimed at protecting Kurdish peshmerga forces as they face off against the militants near Arbil, the site of a US consulate and a US-Iraqi joint military operations centre.
President Barack Obama has urged Iraqi political leaders to bury their sectarian differences and form a more inclusive government that can unite Iraqis against Islamic State militants.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, seen as a sectarian leader, was in no mood for compromise, indicating in a tough speech delivered on television on Sunday night that he would not drop his bid for a third term.
Special forces loyal to him were deployed on Sunday night in strategic areas of Baghdad, police said. Several police sources also said the forces had taken up positions at key entrances to the sprawling capital.
Maliki, seen as an authoritarian and sectarian leader, accused Iraqi Kurdish President Fouad Masoum of violating the constitution by failing to meet a deadline for asking Iraq's biggest political bloc to nominate a prime minister.
A dispute over which bloc won the most seats during the election has complicated efforts to form a new government in Iraq, a major oil exporter.
Maliki, who has served in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election in April, has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi'ites and regional power broker Iran to step aside for a less polarising figure who can unite Iraqis against Islamic State militants.
"I will submit today an official complaint to the federal court against the president of the Republic for committing a clear constitutional violation for the sake of political calculations," said Maliki.