In an unexpected move by the Islamic State (ISIS), the group released a large number captive Yazidis earlier today after holding them captive for well over eight months.
According to Yahoo! News, a total of 216 Yazidis were released by the Islamic State. These included as many as 40 children and several elderly people. According to General Hiwa Abdullah, a local Peshmerga commander whose forces are fighting the Islamic State in the region, several of the released Yazidi captives were found to be in poor health and showed signs of abuse. Most of the captives were abducted from Sinjar in northern Iraq back in September last year. All 216 captives were handed over by Islamic State to the Peshmerga forces in a town known as Himera located a few miles south of Kirkuk. The actual reasons for the release have not been revealed yet.
According to the report, many of the released captive Yazidis cried and prayed to God after they were safely handed over to the Peshmerga soldiers. Many of them were greeted by their own family members who had feared the worst.
One of the released Yazidi, Mahmoud Haji said they were initially worried that the Islamic State would take them to Syria and eventually, Raqqa.
“We are very happy now. We were worried that they were taking us to Syria and Raqqa,” he said.
The Peshmerga commanders who oversaw the release of the captive Yazidis ensured that all the captives in need of medical care were helped out first. Several people were taken to hospitals for treatment using ambulances stationed nearby.
Several of the released captives were Christians, like Jar-Allah Frensis, a 88-year-old farmer, and his wife, who were captured along with his son and his daughter-in-law. He is still not sure what happened to his son and his wife.
“The militants took all of our money and jewelry. We have been living under constant fear till our release,” Frensis told The Associated Press.
The release of over 200 Yazidis by the Islamic State has been welcomed by the U.N. and the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In a statement issued by him, he said.
“Obviously, any release of innocent civilians is to be welcomed and I think one couldn’t help but being moved by the pictures”
While the release of over 200 people by the Islamic State is good news for several people, there are thousands of other Yazidis still held captive by the Islamic State. Several captive Yazidi women have been forced into slavery as well. Back in January 2015 too, over 200 Yazidi prisoners were released by the Islamic State.
[Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images]