Kerry: ISIS genocide of Christians, others underway

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday that he has determined that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

"One element of genocide is the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group, in whole or in part. We know that Daesh has given some of its victims a choice between abandoning their faith or being killed, and that for many is a choice between one kind of death and another," Kerry said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym, Daesh. "The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia. This is the message it conveys to children under its control."

Kerry made the announcement just in time to make a congressional deadline and just a day after the State Department said he would miss it. Lawmakers and others who have advocated for the determination have sharply criticized the delay.

The House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution this week that condemned IS violence as genocide. "The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority," Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., author of the bill, said in a statement. "I sincerely hope that the genocide designation will raise international consciousness, end the scandal of silence, and create the preconditions for the protection and reintegration of these ancient faith communities into their ancestral homelands."

The finding does not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS militants, according to U.S. officials. The U.S. military is already striking IS fighters.

"Naming these crimes is important. But what is essential is to stop them," Kerry said. "That will require unity in this country and within the countries directly involved, and the determination to act against genocide, against ethnic cleansing, against the other crimes against humanity must be pronounced among decent people all across the globe."

With the Associated Press