Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday that the U.S. government had determined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in its territory.
Kerry announced his findings on Thursday, meeting a congressional deadline just a day after the State Department said he would miss it. The delay was sharply criticized by lawmakers and others who have advocated for the determination.
CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan said the declaration of genocide carries significant legal requirements for action from the U.S. government, which is why the White House was initially reluctant. The Obama administration argues it is already taking significant action to counter the extremist group.
The House also passed a resolution to demand that the State Department assess whether the Assad regime has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Kerry specifically mentioned Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups as victims of genocide.
Rights groups, anti-government activists and other governments have long decried the horrific tactics employed by ISIS, and CBS News has heard first-hand of some of the atrocities committed by its members.
Just this week, CBS News correspondent Holly Williams watched as about a dozen people who managed to escape ISIS' grasp in Mosul, Iraq, made it to safety in Kurdish territory.
Few have made it out of Mosul, one of the militant group's strongholds that they have sealed shut, confiscating residents' cell phones and brutally enforcing their own strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The escapees said they had seen other Mosul residents who tried but failed to flee the city beheaded by ISIS militants. One man showed Williams the scars from where he said he was tortured by the extremists for smoking.
United Nations Human Rights Office has already said that the crimes committed by ISIS amount to genocide.