They arrived bristling with heavy weapons and waving black flags from about a dozen Humvees, seized from the Iraqi army and supplied originally by the United States.
When the terrified residents looked out of their windows, they saw that Kosho, their traditional walled village in the mountains of northern Iraq, had been surrounded by jihadists. More than 200 bearded militants had besieged the village.
Then their leader – a local man from Mosul rather than the foreigners who make up more than a third of the ranks of the group now known as Islamic State – offered them a chance to save their lives.
‘He told us that either we become Muslims or they would kill us all,’ said Falah, mayor of the village made up mainly of members of the ancient Yazidi sect. ‘We offered money but they would not accept it.’
The deadline the people of Kosho have to meet is midday today. Since the residents refuse to betray their faith, it is feared an entire village of about 2,500 innocent people might be slaughtered in cold blood.