BAGHDAD — Sunni Muslim extremists punctured Kurdish defenses in a major offensive in northern Iraq on Thursday, seizing control of the country’s largest Christian town and sending thousands of civilians fleeing in panic.Kurdish officials pleaded for international assistance as they appeared to be losing control of the 650-mile border between their semiautonomous region and territorycontrolled by Sunni extremist militants belonging to the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda splinter group. The Kurdish forces were forced to pull out of the towns of Qaraqosh, Bartella and Bashika overnight, putting militants within 40 miles of the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, the officials said.The Kurds’ reverses have compounded an already desperate humanitarian situation, and have left Iraq’s religious minorities particularly vulnerable. Iraqi politicians have appealed for emergency aid for thousands of civilians who have been stranded with little food on a mountaintop since they were driven from another town, Sinjar, by the al-Qaeda-inspired rebels several days ago. Most of those refugees are members of the minority Yazidi sect. They fear death if they descend into areas controlled by the extremist rebels, who consider them apostates.
Plus, statement from Canadian Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Marc Garneau