Militants in Iraq seize cluster of Christian villages near Kurdish region as civilians flee

Clergymen in northwestern Iraq say militants with the Islamic State group have overrun a cluster of Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area.

Bishop Joseph Tomas says the village of Qaraqoush and at least four other predominantly Christian hamlets were in the hands of the Islamic State on Thursday.

Tomas says Kurdish peshmerga units, which had protected the area, fled along with civilians. Other priests confirmed the information.

The Islamic State has already seized large chunks of northern and western Iraq, plunging the country into its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Also Thursday, the death toll from a series of bombings in Baghdad the previous day rose to 61 people, after several of the wounded died.