At least 31 killed as Islamic State surges in N Iraq

* Tens of thousands of Christians flee for their lives * UN agency for children says many displaced people urgently need water, food; at least 40 already dead

ARBIL: At least 31 people were killed on Thursday in three car and a suicide bombings in the mainly Shia areas across Iraq.
Moreover, militants surged across northern Iraq towards the capital of the Kurdish region on Thursday, sending tens of thousands of Christians fleeing for their lives.
Over in Kirkuk, 11 people were killed by two car bombs that exploded near a Shia mosque holding displaced people, security and medical sources said.
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shia district, killing at least six people, police said. Earlier, a car bomb in another Shia area of the capital killed 14. Reuters photographs showed what appeared to be Islamic State fighters controlling a checkpoint at the border area of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region, little over 30 minutes’ drive from Arbil, a city of 1.5 million that is headquarters to the Kurdish regional government and of many businesses. The fighters had raised the movement’s black flag over the guard post. However a Kurdish security official denied that the militants were in control of the Khazer checkpoint, and the regional government said its forces were advancing and would “defeat the terrorists”, urging people to stay calm.
Militants captured Iraq’s biggest Christian town, Qaraqosh, prompting many residents to flee, fearing they would be subjected to the same demands the militants made in other captured areas – leave, convert to Islam or face death. The Islamic State said in a statement on its Twitter account that its fighters had seized 15 towns, the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris River and a military base, in an ongoing offensive that began at the weekend.
Kurdish officials say their forces still control the dam, Iraq’s biggest. On Thursday, two witnesses told Reuters by telephone that Islamic State fighters had hoisted the group’s black flag over the dam, which could allow the militants to flood major cities or cut off significant water supplies and electricity.
The militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces in the weekend sweep, prompting tens of thousands from the ancient Yazidi community to flee the town of Sinjar for surrounding mountains.
The militants’ weekend capture of the town of Sinjar, ancestral home of the Yazidi ethnic minority, prompted tens of thousands of people to flee to surrounding mountains, where they are at risk of starvation.
Some of the many thousands trapped on Sinjar mountain have been rescued in the past 24 hours, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, adding that 200,000 had fled the fighting.
“This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” spokesman David Swanson said by telephone. Many of the displaced people urgently need water, food, shelter and medicine, he said. A spokesman for the U.N. agency for children said many of the children on the mountain were suffering from dehydration and at least 40 had died.
Yazidis, seen by the Islamic State as “devil worshipers”, risk being executed by the militants seeking to establish an Islamic empire and redraw the map of the Middle East. Thousands of Iraqis, most of the Yazidis, are streaming to the border with neighbouring Turkey to flee the fighting, Turkish officials said. Gains by the Islamic State have raised concerns that militants across the Arab world will follow their cue. At the weekend the militants seized a border town in Lebanon, though they appear to have mostly withdrawn.
The Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in the areas of Iraq and Syria it controls, clashed with Kurdish forces on Wednesday in the town of Makhmur, about 40 miles southwest of Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone.

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Aaj Kal