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Most of those released were children and the elderly

They are now under the care of Kurdish authorities

CNN  — 

Islamist militants freed about 250 Yazidis held captive for more than six months in Iraq, a local official said Sunday.

Most of those released Saturday were children and the elderly, said Saman Jabari, the Kurdistan Democratic Party leader.

Once they were freed, they walked up to a Peshmerga checkpoint southwest of the city of Kirkuk, according to Jabari.

They are now under the care of Kurdish authorities.

Yazidis are among Iraq’s smallest minorities. They are of Kurdish descent, and their religion is considered a pre-Islamic sect that draws from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

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One of the oldest religious communities in the world, they have long suffered persecution, with many Muslims referring to them as devil worshippers.

The militant group ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, steamrolled into Iraq’s north last year, forcing hundreds of thousands of minorities from their homes.

The U.S. State Department estimates that 500,000 Yazidis live in northern Iraq, accounting for less than 1% of the country’s population.

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