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Thousands of minority Yazidis flee from Iraq to Syria to escape extremists

  • Mideast Iraq-1.jpg

    This image made from video taken on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 shows Iraqis people from the Yazidi community arriving in Irbil in northern Iraq after Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar. Around 40 thousand people crossed the bridge of Shela in Fishkhabur into the Northern Kurdish Region of Iraq, after being given an ultimatum by Islamic militants to either convert to Islam, pay a security tax, leave their homes, or die. (AP Photo via AP video) (The Associated Press)

  • Mideast Iraq-2.jpg

    Iraqis from the Yazidi community chant anti Islamic militants slogans in front of UN headquarters to ask for international protection in Irbil, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar. Around 40 thousand people crossed the bridge of Shela in Fishkhabur into the Northern Kurdish Region of Iraq, after being given an ultimatum by Islamic militants to either convert to Islam, pay a security tax, leave their homes, or die. (AP Photo) (The Associated Press)

  • Mideast Iraq-3.jpg

    FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2005 file photo, Yazidi men enter a shrine at the top of Mount Sinjar, 250 miles (404 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqis on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 welcomed the U.S. airlift of emergency aid to thousands of people who fled to the mountains to escape Islamic extremists and called for greater intervention, as U.S. warplanes struck the militants for the first time. Cargo planes dropped parachuted crates of food and water over an area in the mountains outside Sinjar, where thousands of members of the Yazidi minority where sheltering, according to witnesses in the militant-held town, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.(AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg, File) (The Associated Press)

Syrian Kurdish officials say thousands of members of a religious minority group have fled across the border from Iraq after coming under attack by Islamic extremists.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press on Saturday that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Their comments came as the U.S. launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.