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Yazidis Say They Are Trapped in New ISIS Siege on Iraqi Mountain

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Two months after U.S. airstrikes broke an ISIS siege, members of the Yazidi religious minority say the militants have again trapped them on a mountain in Iraq. They say they need help — and expect a large attack soon.

“The situation is really bad, and it’s worsening by the minute,” a Yazidi fighter named Barakat told Reuters from Mount Sinjar. He estimated that 500 to 600 families were stranded there.

Barakat told the news service that ISIS militants surrounded the stranded on all sides. He described the Yazidis as short on supplies, including food and clothing, and said that their weapons were ineffective against ISIS Humvees.

Another fighter, named Awar, told Reuters: “There’s a strong possibility that a large-scale attack is coming tonight or tomorrow morning.”

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in remarks to reporters late Thursday, would not say whether the United States should consider sending troops to help. He said that the U.S. campaign against ISIS is a long, difficult effort, and is working.

In August, when an ISIS siege of Mount Sinjar trapped thousands of Yazidis, U.S. special operations forces were sent to assess the situation. The siege was also one of the justifications for the beginning of American airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.

“When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” President Barack Obama said Aug. 7. He noted then that the Iraqi government had asked for help.

“We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.’

U.S. airstrikes began the next day, and helped to break the siege and allow the Yazidis to evacuate. But Kurdish forces have not been able to secure Mount Sinjar, ISIS renewed its assault on the mountain on Monday, Reuters reported.

Another member of the Yazidi on the mountain, Mahama Khalil, questioned why the United States would help Syrian forces defending the border town of Kobani from ISIS but not help break the current siege.

“Unfortunately, coalition planes are in the sky and can see the tanks, but they are not striking them," Khalil told Reuters earlier this week. “Why do they defend Kobani and not Sinjar?"

A State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the United States is committed “to addressing humanitarian crises as we see them, and continuing to assist those who are impacted by the threat of ISIL.” ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.

“We certainly remain concerned about any group that’s threatened by ISIL, and we’ve taken action in the past,” she said. She said she had no information on any planned U.S. operations.

IN-DEPTH

— Courtney Kube, Abigail Williams and Erin McClam

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