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UN Security Council condemns attacks on minorities in Iraq

Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday.

Khalid Mohammed/AP

The United Nations Security Council condemned attacks on minorities in Iraq on Thursday, and urged international support for the Iraqi government.

The council said that the attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and that those responsible should be held accountable.

"The members of the Security Council also urge all parties to stop human rights violations and abuses and ensure humanitarian access and facilitate the delivery of assistance to those fleeing the violence," said Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who read from a statement after an emergency consultation requested by France.

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Britain holds the Security Council presidency this month.

The meeting, requested by France, came after militants from the Islamic State group seized Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam earlier on Thursday, giving them control of enormous power and water resources and leverage over the Tigris River that runs through the heart of Baghdad.

The fighting has trapped tens of thousands of members of religious minorities on a mountaintop.

The Islamic State group seized large chunks of northern and western Iraq in a blitz offensive in June, including Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul. The onslaught has pushed Iraq into its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France was "very deeply concerned by the ... seizure of Qaraqoush, Iraq's biggest Christian village, and by the intolerable abuses committed." He asked that the international community mobilize itself against the threat and bring help.

The capture of Qaraqoush and at least four other nearby hamlets brings the militants to the very edge of Iraqi Kurdish territory and its regional capital, Irbil. Witnesses say tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters have fled.

Fabius said it is the civilian population and the religious minorities that are the worst hit.

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