Iraqi forces fight back as UN agrees to investigate atrocities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 2:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 2:16am


Iraqi forces made more progress yesterday in their fight against jihadists, but in Baghdad anger boiled over as hundreds stormed parliament over the fate of missing soldiers who surrendered in June.

After breaking a months-long jihadist siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli by Islamic State fighters, troops yesterday regained control of part of a key highway linking Baghdad to the north.

Two towns north of Amerli were also taken from the jihadists on Monday as Iraqi forces - backed by US air strikes - scored their first major victories since the army's collapse across much of the north in June. That collapse left some 1,700 soldiers in jihadist hands, with many believed to have been executed.

Demanding to know their fates, angry relatives stormed parliament in Baghdad, attacked MPs and began a sit-in in its main chamber, an official said.

Concern over those in jihadist hands has been fuelled by reports of widespread atrocities, including accusations from Amnesty International of war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

The Sunni extremist Islamic State declared an Islamic "caliphate" in regions under its control in Iraq and Syria after it swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north of Baghdad in June and then stormed minority Christian and Yazidi Kurdish areas.

Islamic State has carried out beheadings, crucifixions and public stonings, and Amnesty yesterday accused it of "war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions" in areas it controls.

"The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq," said its senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera.

The UN Human Rights Council unanimously agreed to send an emergency mission to Iraq to investigate Islamic State atrocities, after a senior UN official said the jihadist group had carried out "acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale".

Concern over the scale of the humanitarian crisis helped prompt limited US air strikes in support of Iraqi forces, Shiite militia and Kurdish troops battling the jihadists.