Iraq official: Tens of thousands of Yazidis flee homes amid push by extremists Islamic State

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A spokesman for Iraq's minority Yazidi community says tens of thousands of its members have fled their homes after Sunni militants from the extremist Islamic State group captured their towns.

Jawhar Ali Begg, the spokesman, says about 40,000 Yazidis have left their homes in the northern towns of Sinjar and Zumar, seeking refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

He says the militants on Sunday gave the Yazidis an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax or flee their homes — otherwise they would face death.

Begg also told The Associated Press that "thousands of Yezidi people have been killed" in the onslaught by the Islamic State group.

The Islamic State has seized a large area straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and declared their own, self-styled caliphate.