Middle East

IS militants 'stop Iraqi villagers from escaping'

A map showing Hawija in northern Iraq

So-called Islamic State (IS) has stopped hundreds of villagers from escaping from their control in northern Iraq, a senior Kurdish commander says.

Residents fled three IS-held villages to try to get to Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk, but were shot at by IS gunmen, Maj Gen Sirwan Barzani told the BBC.

He said two villagers were killed and about 100 captured. The rest were forced to return home, he added.

Another Kurdish commander said about 40 managed to get past the militants.

He said they had now been taken to a refugee camp in northern Iraq.

The villagers are said to have tried to escape from villages around Hawija, about 30 miles (50km) south-west of Kirkuk.

IS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been fighting for control in the area since Hawija fell to IS forces in June 2014.

Hawija and its surroundings have been repeatedly hit by Iraqi and US-led coalition air strikes against IS for the past two years.