Paris: The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group Friday kidnapped three Iraqi reporters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul even as French fighter jets and Iraqi military helicopters bombed its positions in northern Iraq.
The jihadis stormed the homes of the journalists in the al-Noor and al-Sukkur districts of Mosul, the head of the Iraqi Committee to Protect Journalists, Ibrahim al-Sarai, told Efe news agency. The hostages were identified as TV correspondent Talal Qais and cameramen Walid Akidi and Ashraf Abadi. Sarai expressed concern over the number of journalists abducted by the IS.
Since the IS took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, many reporters have left the city for fear of reprisals. The terrorist group executed Al-Mosulia TV channel presenter Maysaloon Jawadi and has captured two other reporters, cameramen Hisham Hirbawi and Gala al-Abbadi.
The IS, which has proclaimed a caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, recently broadcast videos of the beheading of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and of British aid worker David Haines. In a statement, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Thursday condemned the IS's "criminal and fanatical persecution of journalists".
Areas that are under the terrorist group's control have become "information black holes", added the statement. Meanwhile Iraqi military helicopters bombed IS positions around Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, where about 3,000 Yazidis have taken refuge, Efe reported.
Luqman Khansuri, leader of the Sinjar Protection Force, told Efe the bombings were aimed at easing the persecution by the jihadis of the Yazidis. After the air raids, the Sinjar forces clashed with the Islamist fighters and killed 35 IS members, while others managed to escape, Khansuri reported.
Among the dead was Khairy Sheikh Khedr, one of the prominent leaders of the Sinjar forces. Over the past few days, the IS has seized the towns of Hatin, Duhla and Burk in the Mount Sinjar area, as it took advantage of bad weather conditions which prevented aircraft of the US-led international coalition from flying over the region.
Mount Sinjar has been a sanctuary for the Yazidi minority since August when they fled the brutality of the IS jihadis who had seized the nearby city of Sinjar. It is estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 Yazidis have sought refuge on the mount to escape the brutality of the Sunni IS.
More than 500,000 Yazidis and other minorities have left northern Iraq since last June and several hundred have been murdered, according to estimates by the UN. The Sunni IS considers Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities as infidels.
According to a Xinhua report earlier Friday, the French army's chief of staff, Gen. Peter de Villiers, said Friday the country's Rafale fighter jets struck a training centre of the IS overnight in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
As part of the coalition military offensive to halt the militants' advance, French aircraft dropped 70 bombs, of which 12 were laser-guided, to destroy 12 targets in northern Iraq in the early hours of the morning, Gen. de Villiers told French broadcaster Europe1.
"We made an important operation in Iraq. We destroyed buildings where Daesh (the Arabic name of IS) produced their traps, bombs and weapons to attack Iraqi forces," he said, adding more fighter jets would be deployed "if necessary" to crack down on IS insurgents in Iraq.
For its Operation Chammal - the US-led multinational operation against the IS in Iraq -- Paris has mobilised nine fighter jets and tanker aircraft to help destroy IS targets. The strikes were the seventh by French jets since Sep 19 when France joined the US-led offensive against the Islamist militants in Iraq who have taken major cities in the country and forcibly displaced thousands of people.