KIRKUK, Iraq — More than 200 elderly and ailing Yazidis were freed Wednesday by ISIS militants who had been holding them captive since overrunning their villages in northwestern Iraq last summer.
A Reuters reporter saw the group of 216 people, which included two Christians, handed over to Kurdish forces near the city of Kirkuk. Some were too exhausted and disoriented to speak.
One elderly woman said she was captured by the insurgents last August when they overpowered Kurdish forces in the Sinjar area and purged its Yazidi population, killing hundreds and taking thousands captive.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said she told her son and two young daughters to run away, but stayed behind herself because she was unwell and did not want to slow them down.
“I had lost hope of seeing my children again, but today it has happened,” she said as they embraced her and wept.
It was not clear why the radical jihadis released the Yazidis, whom they consider devil-worshipers, but the group previously freed 200 more it was holding under similarly mysterious circumstances.
The Yazidis are an ancient, predominantly Kurdish people who follow their own religion derived from Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism.