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US launches airstrikes to help retake large Iraq dam captured by Islamic State

The United States on Saturday launched several more air strikes in Iraq at Islamic State, including ones targeting members of the Islamic militant group who are positioned around the country’s largest dam, near Irbil.

Islamic State captured the Mosul Dam last month in its surprisingly swift and deadly run across northern Iraq in recent months.

U.S. Central Command  said a mix of U.S. fighter and remotely-piloted aircraft executed nine strikes as part of its humanitarian efforts in Iraq and to protect American personnel and facilities.

The strikes destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle, officials said.

A senior U.S. official told Fox News early Saturday that the strikes were to protect Iraq’s critical infrastructure and that the U.S. executed them at the request of the Iraqi government, which thinks Islamic State forces can no longer maintain the dam.

Moving Islamic State forces away from the facility could allow Iraqi teams to return to the dam and keep it from failing, which would result in as much as 12 feet of flooding at the U.S. Embassy and the major cities of Baghdad and Mosul, officials say.

Also on Saturday, Islamic State reportedly killed 80 Yazidi men and abducted their wives and children, said Iraq officials and eyewitnesses who insist the country’s religious community is still at risk after a week of U.S. and Iraqi air strikes on the militants.

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that U.S. surveillance drones saw evidence of the massacre of dozens of Yazidi men. The U.S. military later struck two militant targets, killing some of those involved in the killings, the source said. 

The U.S. military said in a statement Friday that the U.S. forces conducted the air strikes on Islamic State vehicles in the village of Kawju. The village is located south of the village of Sinjar.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking ethnic and religious group which numbers in the hundreds of thousands in Iraq, has been persecuted in the north by Islamic State militants, with at least 500 killed prior to Friday's news, according to Iraq's human rights minister.

Sources told Fox News it appears residents in the village did not comply with the militants' demands to convert to Islam. 

"[Militants] arrived in vehicles and they started their killing this afternoon,'' senior Kurdish official Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters. "We believe it's because of their creed: convert or be killed."

A Yazidi lawmaker and another senior Kurdish official also said the killings had taken place and that the women of the village were kidnapped.

The latest killings came just a day after President Obama said U.S.-led air strikes had broken the siege by the militants against the minorities trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq. Obama made it clear the U.S. mission in the region is not over yet.

Iraqi and Yazidi leaders say the brutal Islamic State fighters have buried Yazidi men alive, killed children and kidnapped women to be slaves.

"We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," Sudani told Reuters Sunday.

Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, but also one of several towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as "devil worshipers" and demand conversion to Islam under threat of death.

The Islamic State, which has declared a Sharia state caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, forced tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee their homes or face certain death.

The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, are spread over northern Iraq and are part of the country's Kurdish minority.

Fox News' Greg Palkot and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.