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When the Islamic State made another dramatic push through northern Iraq, many Iraqis fled their towns and villages before the Sunni militants notorious for beheadings arrived. But the Yazidis of the town of Sinjar were especially terrified. The Islamic State, whose methods seem excessive even to al Qaeda, regards the minority ethnic group as “devil worshippers”, making them prime candidates for the sword. Tens of thousands fled the weekend assault on Sinjar and are now surrounded, according to witnesses and the United Nations, after the Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces who had held towns in the area for years.

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