Yazidi activists and a lawmaker have sharply criticized reports that Islamic State (IS) gunmen have carried out a fresh massacre of hundreds of Yazidis in northern Iraq, saying that there is no reliable source or confirmation to back up the claims.
Reports that there had been a mass killing made Western headlines on May 2.
One report said that 300 Yazidi captives had been shot to death by IS.
But while several Iraqi, Yazidi, and Kurdish officials gave statements about the killing, the reports remained unconfirmed.
The first report of the mass killing -- and possibly the source of further claims -- emerged on May 1, when the governor of Iraq's Nineveh Province, Atheel al-Nujaifi, posted on his Facebook page that "several hundred" Yazidis had been killed.
However, Nujaifi did not post a source for his claim, or give details about where the Yazidis were killed.
On May 2, the reports that hundreds of Yazidis had been slaughtered by IS gunmen gained momentum, as the Yazidi Progress Party said in a statement that 300 Yazidi captives had been killed on May 1 in Tal Afar, west of Mosul. However, no details of how the Yazidis were killed or why had been given.
An Iraqi member of parliament, Habib al-Tarfi, reported on May 2 that "at least 200" Yazidis had been killed by IS, saying that his source was Kurdish intelligence sources and activists.
And according to AFP, a Kurdistan Democratic Party official went even further, saying that "women, children, and elderly people" were "confirmed among the victims." However, the official did not say who had confirmed the reports.
Other reports of Yazidi killings have given more conservative numbers.
Yazidi legislator Mahma Khalil said that "at least 25" Yazidis had been shot to death by IS at a prison camp near Tal Afar.
Khalil said that he spoke to four different people with knowledge of what had happened in the camp.
Other Yazidi activists, however, slammed the reports, saying that no one had confirmed the deaths.
Hayri Demir, the editor of chief of Ezidi Press, told RFE/RL that there are several claims being reported that give varying figures for the number of Yazidis killed.
Iraq's nongovernmental human rights commission said that "about 70" Yazidis were killed, while some Yazidi groups are saying that between 300 and 600 people were victims of a mass killing, Demir said.
Demir cited Nareen Shammo, a Yazidi journalist and human rights activist, as saying that IS had killed eight people -- including Yazidis and a Sunni Turkmen smuggler.
The Yezidi Religious Council has not confirmed that a mass killing has taken place, Demir added.
Demir said that the unconfirmed reports of a mass killing of Yazidis was a "very difficult situation" for the religious minority group, raising fears and "reopening fresh wounds."
Iraq's only female Yazidi member of parliament, Vian Dakhil, slammed the claims of a mass killing. She wrote in a Facebook post on May 4 that it was "unfortunate" that some politicians in Nineveh Province had "intentionally or unintentionally confused the Yazidi street by disseminating inaccurate information that cannot be confirmed."
Dakhil, who is one of just two Yazidis in Iraq's parliament, and who works to help Yazidis who have escaped IS captivity, said that while IS has committed "the worst atrocities against Iraqis of all sects," it was "unacceptable" to promote claims without reliable sources.
The unconfirmed reports of a mass killing come after Yazidi activists in Iraq said last week that IS had separated hundreds of male Yazidi captives from women and girls and could be preparing to kill them.
Mirza Dinnayi, a senior Yazidi leader and a former adviser on minority affairs to the Iraqi president, told the Yazidi news portal Ezidi Press on April 26 that IS militants had separated about 500 Yazidi boys and men over the age of 14. The Yazidis are being held captive by IS in Tal Afar in Iraq's Nineveh Province.
Those reports came in the wake of a spate of escapes by Yazidis from IS captivity, according to Demir.
IS militants abducted as many as several thousand members of the Kurdish Yazidi minority after taking control of the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in August 2014, according to Kurdistan officials and community leaders.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk