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IRAQ

UN accuses jihadists of atrocities in Iraq

Islamic State jihadists may have committed genocide in trying to wipe out the Yazidi minority in Iraq, a Geneva-based UN agency said on Thursday in a report laying out a litany of atrocities.

Isis "may have committed all three of the most serious international crimes — namely war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide," the United Nations human rights office said in a statement.
   
The agency published a horrifying report detailing killings, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers by the extremists.
   
All of these crimes, it said, were violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and some may amount to "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes".
   
The report, which is based on interviews with more than 100 witnesses and survivors of attacks in Iraq between June 2014 and February 2015, especially highlights brutal IS attacks on ethnic and religious groups, including Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and Shia.
   
Isis, which controls a swathe of territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, launched "a series of systematic and widespread attacks on the Yazidi minority's heartland in the northern Nineveh province last August.
   
According to the report, the attacks appeared intended "to destroy the Yazidi as a group," which "strongly suggests" Isis is guilty of "genocide" against the Yazidi.

Women as 'spoils of war'

In numerous Yazidi villages, men and boys over the age of 14 were rounded up and shot, while the women and girls were abducted as the "spoils of war".
   
The report, which was ordered by the UN Human Rights Council last September following a request from the Iraqi government, pointed out that some villages "were entirely emptied of their Yazidi population."
   
Many Yezidi women and girls were sold into sexual slavery or handed over to Isis members as "gifts", the report said, adding that witnesses had described hearing girls as young as six screaming for help as they were raped in a house
used by Isis fighters.
   
A pregnant 19-year-old had told the investigators she had been repeatedly raped by an Isis "doctor" over a period of two and a half months, and that he deliberately sat on her stomach, saying "this baby should die because it is an
infidel. I can make a Muslim baby."
   
Boys as young as eight were forced to convert to Islam and given religious and military training, including being forced to watch videos of beheadings, the report said.
   
Yazidis, whose ancient religion has elements of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, are considered to be devil worshippers by the Sunni Muslim militants.
   
Other religious and ethnic groups have also been targeted, according to the report, which points to the thousands of Christians who fled their homes last June after being ordered by Isis fighters to convert to Islam, pay a tax or
leave.
   
Also in June, Isis fighters attacked the Badoush prison, dividing the 3,000 inmates into groups, freeing the Sunnis and loading the remaining 600 mainly Shia inmates onto trucks, before driving them to a ravine and shooting them.
   
Some survivors told the investigators they had escaped being killed only because other bodies landed on top of them.
   
The jihadists have also ruthlessly targeted anyone perceived to be connected with the Iraqi government, the report said, pointing to the massacre last June of up to 1,700 cadets from the Speicher army base, after they reportedly surrendered.
   
A former police officer told the investigators Isis fighters had slashed the throats of his father, five-year-old son and five-month-old daughter after he showed his police ID card during a search.
   
Iraqi security forces and affiliated militia have also been accused of a range of serious crimes during their operations against Isis, the report said.
   
As the military campaign against the jihadists gained momentum last summer, militias seemed to "operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake," it said.
   
The pro-government forces have carried out extra-judicial killings, torture, abductions and forcibly displaced large numbers of people, according to the report, which says they "may have committed war crimes."

SYRIA

Lafarge bosses in French court over jihadist funding

Two senior executives at French-Swiss cement maker LafargeHolcim, including its former CEO, were charged on Friday over claims that top management turned a blind eye to payments to jihadists in Syria, a judicial source said.

Lafarge bosses in French court over jihadist funding
Photo: AFP

Lafarge is accused of paying the Islamic State group and other militants through a middleman between 2013 and 2014 so that the company's factory in Jalabiya, northern Syria, could continue to operate despite the war.

Four people had already been charged over the case.

At Friday's hearings in Paris, Bruno Lafont, chief executive from 2007 to 2015, and the group's former Syria chief Christian Herrault, appeared in court and were charged with “financing a terrorist organisation and “endangering the lives of others” and remanded in custody.

On Thursday Eric Olsen, who took over from Lafont as CEO after the company merged with Switzerland's Holcim,  was charged with the same crimes.

The three men have been in detention since Wednesday.

Three former officials at the Jalabiya factory were charged in the case last week.

Lafarge's Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) paid out some $5.6 million (4.7 million euros) between July 2012 and September 2014, according to a report commissioned by LafargeHolcim and seen by AFP.

Of this, more than half a million dollars went to Isis, according to the April report by US consultants Baker McKenzie.

Herrault acknowledged earlier this year that Lafarge was involved in a “racket”, adding that he kept Lafont “regularly informed”, according to the report.

But Lafont has denied that he knew what was happening, saying things had appeared to be “under control”.

LCS is also suspected of using fake consulting contracts to buy fuel from Isis, which took control of most of Syria's strategic oil reserves in June 2013.

The factory's former manager Frederic Jolibois, who is among those charged, has admitted to buying oil from “non-governmental organisations”, notably Kurdish and Islamist groups, in violation of the EU embargo declared in 2011.

Lafarge hung on in Syria for two years after most French companies had left as Isis made major territorial gains, most of which the jihadists have since lost.

Investigators are also trying to determine whether Lafarge failed to ensure the security of its Syrian staff who stayed behind after management left the country in the summer of 2012.

READ ALSO: French-Swiss cement maker made 'unacceptable errors' in Syria, says chairman