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At least 20,000 Iraqis have safely fled Mt Sinjar: Officials

After nearly a week stranded on a desolate mountain in northern Iraq, at least 20,000 civilians who fled militants have escaped
Yazidi civilians who fled Islamic State militants are rescued on Saturday by Kurdish Peshmerga forces (AA)

At least 20,000 civilians who had been besieged by militants on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said Sunday.

An official from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish government at the Fishkhabur crossing point said 30,000 displaced who had fled Mount Sinjar had come via Syria and crossed back into Iraq.

Lawmaker Vian Dakhil, who is from the Yazidi minority most of the Mount Sinjar displaced belong to, said 20,000 to 30,000 had managed to flee and were now in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Yazidis who had been stranded on Mount Sinjar flee on Saturday with the help of the Kurdish Peshmerga (AA)
British officials have estimated that between 50,000 and 150,000 civilians are taking refuge around Mount Sinjar, close to Mosul.

More than one million Iraqis have been displaced as the Islamic State militant group advanced in the country's northern and western areas in recent weeks, the UN has warned.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including many who belong to Iraq's religious minorities, have fled this week alone, including thousands of Yazidis who have been stranded on the mountain.

The United States carried out a third wave of air strikes, which began on Thursday, against the militants on Saturday, as well as dropping more supplies to the civilians hiding in the mountains.

President Barack Obama warned on Saturday that it was "going to take some time" to help stabilise Iraq in the face of the IS insurgency.

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