The Islamic State group released more than 200 Yazidis on Wednesday after holding them for eight months, an Iraqi Kurdish security official said, the latest mass release of captives by the extremists.
Gen. Hiwa Abdullah, a peshmerga commander in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, said most of the freed 216 prisoners are in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect. He added that about 40 children are among those released, while the rest were elderly.
No reason was given for the release of the prisoners who were originally abducted from the area around Sinjar in the country's north. The handover took place in Himera just southwest of Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad.
The freed Yazidis were taken away by ambulances and buses to receive treatment and care.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled in August when the Islamic State group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. But hundreds were taken captive by the group, with some Yazidi women forced into slavery, according to international rights groups and Iraqi officials.
In January, the Islamic State group released some 200 Yazidi prisoners as well. At the time, Kurdish military officials said they believed the extremists released the prisoners as they were too much of a burden.
The Islamic State group, targeted in U.S.-led airstrikes and by Iraqi ground forces, still holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. The U.S. launched the airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops in Iraq on Aug. 8, partly in response to the Yazidi crisis.
The Sunni militant group views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax. The group has massacred hundreds of captive soldiers and tribal fighters who have risen up against it, publicizing the killings in sleek online photos and videos.
In other violence Wednesday, police and hospital officials said a bomb exploded near an outdoor market in Baghdad's southeastern suburb of Nahrwan, killing four people and wounding 10. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
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