Yazidi women captured by Islamic State (IS) militants are being forced to marry their captors, it has been revealed today.
The jihadist group have kidnapped more than 1,500 women and girls in Sinjar, northern Iraq, after taking over the region and forcing the people of the Yazidi sect to flee to the nearby mountains.
Witnesses in the town of Sinjar say Islamic State fighters separated the younger women from the rest of the persecuted Sinjar population and took them away in buses and trucks.
It is believed to be an attempt to co-opt them into service as the wives of the Al-Qaeda inspired fighters, say witnesses.
Up to 3,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by the jihadis in northern Iraq over the last two weeks. It was reported last week that some women had resorted to flinging themselves from the peaks of Mount Sinjar to avoid capture by the Islamic State. Many have also been sold in to sex slavery for between $5 and $10.
The kidnappings appear to have happened in villages where residents took up arms in rebellion against IS. It is understood that the seized women are being held separately from the men in IS-controlled Tal Afar, east of Mount Sinjar.
Hundreds of men who refused to convert to Islam from their Yazidi faith – which militants consider nothing more than "devil worship" – have been executed by the terrorist group.
Some 200,000 Yazidi people have escaped to safety in Iraq's Kurdish region, but thousands still remain on the mountain, where they face brutal conditions and no supply of food or water.
They fled the militants by scrambling up a barren mountain, where they became stranded. Most were eventually able to escape with help from Kurdish fighters.
IS fighters surrounded the nearby village 12 days ago and demanded that its Yazidi residents convert or die.