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Iraqi Forces Seek Clues to how Islamic State Militants Ruled Iraqi Villages for more than 2 Years

Peshmerga soldiers, the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias are all fighting IS together, but tensions remain among them

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Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Flickr

Tarjala (Iraq), November 2, 2016: About 10 kilometers from the front lines of the battle to retake Mosul, peshmerga soldiers tour an area recently recaptured from Islamic State militants. They say they’ve learned a lot about how the militant group works from examining the ruins of what were once bustling villages.

A bomb factory was installed in one shop and oil was burnt to hide the village from coalition forces, according to the soldiers.

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Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces are exploring recaptured villages for insight into how Islamic State took and held these villages for more than two years.

Islamic State militants left supplies and food in the tunnels when they fled in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
Islamic State militants left supplies and food in the tunnels when they fled in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)

“We don’t exactly know how many IS members were here,” said a peshmerga commander, Tahir Aziz. “But since the bodies of the dead remain here, we know how many were killed. We don’t know how many escaped.”

On one end of the village, sandbags fill most of a mosque because IS militants put them inside rather than outside — a ploy to hide IS positions from coalition planes. Peshmerga slip down the tunnel IS built under the village, examining the militants’ escape route from their enemies.

While this kind of knowledge helps, soldiers say, fighting IS remains incredibly complicated.

Militants stored bags full of the dirt they pulled from the tunnels inside a mosque, so visible sandbags would not give away their position to coalition planes in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
Militants stored bags full of the dirt they pulled from the tunnels inside a mosque, so visible sandbags would not give away their position to coalition planes in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)

“The challenges that remain are the car bombs and suicide bombs,” said Lt. Col. Osman Ali of the peshmerga. “Also, we have weapons, but we are not as well equipped as the Iraqi Army. We need more and better weapons.”

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At the other end of the tunnel, soldiers emerge. They say they will keep fighting until the militant group is crushed.

Peshmerga soldiers, the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias are all fighting IS together, but tensions remain among them.

Peshmerga soldiers examine a tunnel build by Islamic State militants, one of the ways the group managed to hold villages for more than two years in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
Peshmerga soldiers examine a tunnel build by Islamic State militants, one of the ways the group managed to hold villages for more than two years in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Even as these forces clear more areas of IS fighters, many people are frustrated because they still cannot go home, as rubble, bombs and bodies make the villages unsafe.

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“We don’t want to live outside of our homes,” said Raad Ibrahim, a 35-year old father of one, as he waits outside a checkpoint Saturday, trying to get permission to visit his home. “I don’t know anything about what is there. But I’m sure it’s destroyed.” (VOA)

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Kerala Police arrest two more ‘Islamic State Recruiters’

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Kerala Police arrest two more 'IS recruiters'
Kerala Police arrest two more 'IS recruiters'. IANS

Kannur, October 26: The Kerala Police here on Thursday arrested two Muslim youths who are alleged to be the local recruiters for the Islamic State militant group.

With this, the total number of Islamic State militants arrests has reached five, with three being arrested on Wednesday by the police in Valapatanam.

All five arrested had returned from Turkey not long ago, a police officer said. They hail from Chakarakal and nearby areas of Kannur.

Their detailed interrogation is underway. (IANS)

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Iraqi Army continues Offensive on Islamic State to Regain Hawija, Anbar

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IS clamed territory Hawija in Iraq
A black sign belonging to Islamic State militants is seen on the road in Al-Al-Fateha military airport south of Hawija, Iraq.

The Iraqi army and its allied Shi’ite militias continue to press for the last pockets of Islamic State in Hawija and Anbar.

In a news conference held in Geneva, on 3rd October 2017, U.N. spokesperson Jens Laerke, said that an estimated 12,500 civilians have fled their homes in Hawija since the start of the Iraqi operation on September 21 and nearly 78,000 people could still be trapped in their homes as the fighting reaches densely populated areas.

Hawija

Hawija is a Sunni-majority city in the al-Hawija district with a population of about 100,000. It had a population of 500,000 before IS took control in mid-2014 as many residents fled the violence.

Iraqi army and allied Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces claim the fight for Hawija has entered its final stages as they recently gained a strategic foothold in the district by capturing an air base from IS on Monday. The base, known as Rashad air base, is about 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Hawija and serves as a training camp and logistic base for IS in the region.

Anbar

In western Iraq’s Anbar province, where the Iraqi army launched a separate offensive last month against IS, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said it has identified more than 8,500 newly displaced people, raising the number of displaced in the province to more than 54,000 since January 2017.

“People newly displaced from their homes often arrive dehydrated, suffering from hunger and thirst,” said IOM’s Hamed Amro. “Many require psychosocial support and need medical care. Some have chronic illness and exacerbated conditions due to a long-term lack of care, and others suffer from malnutrition. We have also received a few trauma cases.”

Commanders on the ground say IS has set fire to oil wells and has forced civilians who remained to serve as human shields to inhibit airstrikes. (voa)

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Islamic State War Crimes in Iraq being Investigated: UN Team

The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to establish an investigative team to help Iraq secure evidence of atrocities committed by Islamic State militants "that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide

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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk toward the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate (voa)

Iraq, September 22, 2017: The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to establish an investigative team to help Iraq secure evidence of atrocities committed by Islamic State militants “that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

Britain, which drafted the resolution, said the team would bring some justice to those who had experienced atrocities at the hands of IS, variously known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, called the resolution “a landmark” that would “provide an indispensable record of the scope and scale” of IS atrocities.

“This means justice for those people who have been victimized by ISIS,” Nadia Murad, a former IS captive in Iraq, said in a Facebook Live video after attending the council vote with well-known international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

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Yazidi survivor and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human trafficking Nadia Murad, center, visits her village for the first time after being captured and sold as a slave by the Islamic State three years ago, in Kojo, Iraq, (VOA)

Clooney represents women of Iraq’s Yazidi minority who were kidnapped and held as sex slaves by IS militants after the terrorist organization conquered large swaths of Iraq in mid-2014.

“It’s a huge milestone for all of those who’ve been fighting for justice for victims of crimes committed by ISIS,” Clooney said in the Facebook Live video. “It says to victims that their voices will be heard and they may finally get their day in court.”

Since then, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have driven IS from most of the land it had seized in Iraq, retaking all the major urban areas, although the group still controls some pockets in Iraq as well as territory in Syria.

ALSO READ UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

IS fighters have been on the run in Iraq since U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the Islamic State’s former stronghold capital, in July.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled the August 2014 massacre in Sinjar, and U.N. rights investigations have documented horrific accounts of abuse suffered by women and girls, such as Murad. About 3,000 women are believed to remain in IS captivity.

But Human Rights Watch criticized the resolution as a missed opportunity by the council “to address war crimes and rights abuses by all sides to the conflict in Iraq.”

“No one denies the importance of tackling the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi and international forces is not only flawed, it’s shortsighted,” said Balkees Jarrah, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “The pursuit of justice is essential to all victims who saw their loved ones tortured and killed, or houses burned and bombed, regardless of who is responsible.” (VOA)