CNN Crew Captures Dramatic Rescue of Yazidis in Iraq

Monday, 11 Aug 2014 05:11 PM

By Greg Richter

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CNN reporter Ivan Watson and a cameraman captured dramatic video Monday of the aid drop and rescue of about 20 Yazidis trapped atop a mountain surrounded by ISIS forces.

The crew boarded a helicopter with the Kurdish military as they brought supplies of diapers, milk, water, and food, reported.

Machine gunners fired at ISIS forces as the chopper flew in. Supplies were hurled out the side as they flew about 50 feet above the ground and desperate Yazidis ran to pick them up.

As the helicopter touched down briefly, people began handing children on board and climbed in themselves. About 20 civilians were able to get aboard before the chopper had to take off.

"The crew was just trying to pull up as many people as possible," Watson told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "It was chaotic. It was crazy."

Children, parents, and the elderly are seen sobbing.

"There was not a dry eye on the aircraft," Watson said. "I think we were all crying on our flight back from there."

"To protect this precious cargo, as we went over the front lines again on the way back, the machine gunners then opened up, blasting at targets down below," Watson said. "And this was understandably terrifying for the people on board the helicopter. The kids were crying. The women were screaming."

The refugees were terrified and traumatized, he said.

"I've been doing this job for more than 10 years. I have never seen a situation as desperate as this, as emotionally charged as this," Watson said. "And I've never seen a rescue effort as ad hoc and as improvised as this."

Watson described the operation as "heroic."

"The Kurdish commander here says tens of thousands of people are still trapped on that mountain, about 45 minutes from where I am right now [in Irbil]," Watson said.

ISIS, which is now calling itself the Islamic State, has taken over several cities in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, saying it is establishing a caliphate, or Islamic religious state. It has persecuted and killed non-Sunni Muslims, Christians, and the Yazidi, a pre-Islamic monotheistic faith.

Up to 40,000 Yazidis were trapped on Mount Sinjar after ISIS troops moved into their city earlier this month. They face starvation if they remain on the mountain and certain death if they come down.

A rescue effort over the weekend freed 20,000, but many more remain.

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