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The New Arab

Iraqi forces free Yazidi women held by IS

The operation is the first of its kind by Iraqi forces [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 March, 2016

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Iraqi forces have freed a group of Yazidi women held hostage by the Islamic State group in Mosul in a covert security operation, the country's ministry of defence said Wednesday.

Iraqi forces freed a group of Yazidi women held captive by the Islamic State group (IS) from the group's stronghold in Mosul, the Iraqi ministry of defence said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ministry's statement said the women were freed in an "operation carried out in the heart of IS controlled Mosul".

"The operation was the result of months of high level planning, where the captive women were contacted after breaching IS lines," the statement added.

Thousands of Yazidis were taken hostage by IS when the group overran huge swathes of Iraq in June 2014.

Survivors who managed to escape IS captivity have spoken of abhorrent treatment and sexual violence against Yazidi women by the group's militants.

Nihad Barakat al-Awsi, a 16-year-old Iraqi Yazidi girl escaped the group after a 14-month ordeal that has left her struggling to cope.

She told a conference in London last week that she was subjected to repeated episodes of sexual violence and became pregnant, and she was forced to abandon her child to flee captivity.

Earlier this month, up to 29 Yazidi hostages including women and children escaped IS and arrived in areas held by the Kurdish Peshmerga.

The men, women and children who escaped had been held by IS for two years. They slipped unnoticed thanks to bad weather conditions and visibility, a Kurdish official told The New Arab.

"The victims suffer from malnutrition and have been taken to a specialised medical centre," he said.

In mid-December, 17 Yazidi hostages escaped from an IS prison.

Yazidis are a religious minority in Iraq viewed as heretics by jihadists. Islamic State has committed mass executions and enslavement against their community.

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