Islamic State jihadists have kidnapped 78 family members of Iraq’s defense minister, reports Kurdish media network Rudaw.
Ismat Rajab, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official in the Mosul area, told Rudaw on Sunday that the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL and ISIS) took captive “78 family members of Khalid al-Obeidi, Iraq’s defense minister, among them brothers and cousins of the minister.”
The minister’s relatives live in the Dindan and Bitarii areas of Mosul, Rajab told Rudaw, later adding, “All of their homes have also been taken.”
Obeidi, a Sunni, was appointed to the defense minister position in the cabinet of Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last month.
ISIS jihadists themselves are Sunni. However, the militants have been exacting harsh revenge against an Iraqi Sunni tribe who opposes their advance, capturing and executing scores of its members, The New York Times reported.
A United Nations report released last month accused ISIS of “attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence.”
ISIS has conquered vast swaths of Iraq and Syria. Kurdish forces in both countries have been combating the militants on the ground with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes.
U.S. forces have been advising, assisting, training, and equipping their Iraqi counterparts. President Obama has approve the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq, bringing the number already there to more than 3,000.
President Obama and defense officials have consistently stressed that there will be no combat role for American forces on the ground in Iraq.
Nevertheless, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that military officials are considering having U.S. soldiers accompany Iraqi forces on complex missions. A spokesman for Dempsey later claimed that the general was referring to U.S. advisers, not combat troops.