JOHN YDSTIE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie, sitting in for Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
The bloodshed between religious sects in Iraq has now brought devastation to one of that country's tiniest minorities. Three northern villages that are home to the Yazidi people were hit by a string of truck bombs, leaving at least 200 dead and hundreds wounded. Some radical Islamists accused the Yazidis of devil worship because they mix Islam with elements of ancient Persian religion. And these were the deadliest attacks in Iraq so far this year.
And NPR's Jamie Tarabay joins us on the line from Baghdad. And, Jamie, give us some more details.
JAMIE TARABAY: From the government officials and the police in the area, we understand that the tanker and vehicles all blew up at the same time. They say that the blasts were simultaneous and all caused by suicide bombers. Two of the explosions struck the village of Qahataniya and its market, which was full of people at the time who were doing their evening shopping. The force of the blasts just leveled the single-story mud houses inside the village, trapping people inside.
The two other bombs hit the villages of Jazeera and Tal Azir. And even now, in the morning, people are still being pulled from the wreckage. Last night, rescue workers were broadcasting calls for people to donate blood. And American military helicopters evacuated many of the wounded to Dahuk, the Kurdish city in the north of the country. Now, the work is still continuing. There are still many people missing, and officials expect the toll to rise even more.
MONTAGNE: Tell us more about the Yazidi people.
TARABAY: They're ethnic Kurds, and they've pretty much been able to stay away from a lot of the violence that has caught up the other sects in this country -have become entangled in. But there have been incidents that have brought the Yazidis into the public eye. There was an incident in April this year when a young Yazidi girl was stoned to death by her own people because she'd formed a relationship with a Sunni Arab man. Now, the stoning of this girl was filmed -recorded on cell phones by the men who were doing this or watching it. And it was broadcast on the Internet, which just sparked so much outrage here and around the world, and it set off a number of retaliatory attacks by Sunni Arabs. A couple of weeks after she was killed, Sunni gunman shot 23 Yazidi men dead, and recently, there have been more deaths reported.
Radical Islamists, as you said, they considered the Yazidis to be devil worshipers and infidels because they worship an angel figure who, literally, had - he has several different names, but one of the names that he goes by means devil to Christians and to Muslims. But the Yazidis say they don't believe in the devil at all. So this is something that they deny.
MONTAGNE: And just briefly, U.S. troops have launched what's being called a major operation northeast of Baghdad. Give us some details on that.
TARABAY: About 16,000 American and Iraqi troops have begun this new operation in search of insurgents who have fled Baqubah, north of Baghdad, following military operations there. This is one of the consequences of the U.S. military surge that we've seen over the past few months. As there have been more troops inside Baghdad, insurgents who used to fight there have fled to outlying areas. And many of them have gone to established bases in Baqubah. But in March, the U.S. military began operations to get rid of them there. And now this is just a continuation of that process.
According to reports that we've seen, the Air Force dropped 9,000 pounds of munition on what is said was an al-Qaida training camp, and that three suspected militants were killed.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.
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