I.S militants release 200 Yazidis

Islamic State militants have released more than 200 members of the Yazidi religious community being held in northern Iraq, Kurdish security officials have said.

Most of the 216 prisoners were in poor health and bore signs of abuse, General Hiwa Abdullah told the Associated Press.

About 40 children were among those freed, while the rest were elderly.

IS attacked the Yazidis in Iraq last year, killing and abducting thousands.

Some of the captives told Reuters that they had been held in the IS stronghold of Tel Afar most of the time, but in the days leading up to their release, they were moved from one town to another.

A Reuters reporter at the scene said many of the prisoners were too exhausted and disoriented to speak.

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops have said they are gaining ground in a fresh offensive against IS in the western province of Anbar.

Military sources said the insurgents were trading mortar fire with government forces in the Sijariya area, east of the region’s capital Ramadi, where IS has been dominant.

An air strike by a US-led coalition is reported to have hit militants who were trying to flee by boat on a river.

BBC correspondents say the new offensive is an attempt by the government to build on its recent victory over IS in the battle for the city of Tikrit.

No reason has been given for the release of the Yazidi prisoners, who were originally abducted by IS from the area around Sinjar last August.

-BBC

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