NEW YORK -- Thousands of Iraqis who fled Islamic militants remain trapped atop Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, a United Nations spokesperson said Thursday, disputing the U.S. assessment that the crisis is effectively over.
"The situation on the mountain is not over," warned Kieran Dwyer of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs via teleconference from Dohuk in northern Iraq. His comments came shortly after U.S. officials said that American military forces had successfully broken the siege.
"We know there are still people on the mountain," Dwyer said, claiming that although large numbers of people escaped in the past several days, thousands remained trapped.
"The crisis on the mountain will not be over until everybody is able to come off that mountain to a safe and secure location in a safe and secure manner," Dwyer added.
Asked about reports that some people wanted to remain on the mountain, he said that the U.N. had been unable to confirm that.
Large numbers of Iraqis had fled to the mountain to escape the Islamic State, a militants group that has seized parts of northern Iraq. Atop the mountain they faced extreme heat, thirst, and starvation. The U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops to break the siege.
Those who made it off were recuperating in emergency camps, Dwyer said. Most were exhausted and many had been separated from their families. None were able to return home, making them part of the 1.2 million people displaced in Iraq since January.