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Dozens of Yazidis enslaved by IS in Iraq now free

Yazidis gather to celebrate New Year in Dohuk, 18 April 2017Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The 36 liberated Yazidis were taken to Dohuk in Kurdish northern Iraq

Thirty-six members of the Yazidi religious minority are free after nearly three years in the hands of so-called Islamic State (IS), the UN says.

They have been taken to UN centres in Dohuk in Kurdish northern Iraq.

It is unclear whether they escaped in Iraq or were freed, as the UN declined to give more information to avoid jeopardising future releases.

IS killed and enslaved thousands of Yazidis after seizing the northern town of Sinjar in 2014.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces regained control in 2015 but many Yazidis were held captive by IS elsewhere as the group took over large swathes of northern Iraq.

The 36 Yazidi survivors include men, women and children who were enslaved, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

They reached Dohuk two nights ago where they are being housed in centres established by the UN Population Fund.

There, they are being reunited with family members and offered care including clothing and medical and psychological aid, the UN said.

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Media captionNadia Murad was held captive as a sex slave – she tells the BBC’s Hardtalk how she escaped

The UN estimates that 1,500 women and girls are still being held by IS and could be suffering protracted sexual abuse.

The UN did not say where the 36 had been held or where they regained their liberty.

Who are the Yazidis?

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IS has been under increasing pressure in Iraq, losing much of the territory it seized in 2014.

Iraqi forces have recaptured most the city of Mosul from IS, but they are still trying to push the group out of the Old City district in the west.

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