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Iraqi Refugees Visit Homes they Fled 2 Years ago when Islamic State (IS) Militants stormed Villages in Iraq

As families drove in with their permission slips, the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces both announced gains in the battle with IS

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Homeowners from villages where Islamic State fighters have been driven out in recent days return to visit and gather any of their possessions that remain, despite the danger of hidden bombs in the villages, in Iraq's Kazir province, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA
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“Of course we are afraid there are bombs planted in our homes,” said Badirkhan Moussa, one of the Iraqi refugees, who fled his home on foot two years ago when Islamic State militants stormed his village. “But we won’t be happy again until we go home, and go inside.”

In a dirt parking lot between a fallen bridge blown up by IS a year ago and a Peshmerga military checkpoint, Moussa and his neighbours waited for two hours to get permission to travel into the war zone surrounding Mosul to visit their homes after IS fighters were driven out in recent days.

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One man holds up a paper issued to him by peshmerga forces, allowing him to enter into the area, still generally off limits to civilians, in Kazir province of Kurdistan in Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA
One man holds up a paper issued to him by peshmerga forces, allowing him to enter into the area, still generally off limits to civilians, in Kazir province of Kurdistan in Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA

As families drove in with their permission slips, the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces both announced gains in the battle with IS. The army said it was advancing in Bakhdida, about 20 kilometers from Mosul, and Qayyara, nearly 75 kilometres to the south. Peshmerga forces tweeted that they were beginning a “major advance from three fronts.”

But IS militants were continuing to wreak havoc in Iraq, as fighting in Kirkuk continued for a second day and nearly 1,000 people reportedly were treated for inhaling toxic fumes near Mosul. The U.S. military said IS fighters set a sulfur plant on fire as they fled.

Stream of visitors

With several villages cleared of IS fighters, a steady stream of people were visiting their homes and streets despite the fear — and expectation — that IS left explosive booby traps in their wake.

“Of course we are nervous,” said Ali Mohammad, an off-duty soldier with the Iraqi army. “But we are all going at our own risk.” Hours before, mortar fire had hit a nearby formerly IS-controlled village.

The peshmerga army is granting permission to travel into military zones, but not guaranteeing security to residents visiting villages directly behind their fighting line. Mohammad said he was going to his home, but that they would all return before nightfall, taking with them anything that was left.

In villages like this one, besides being looted and booby-trapped, many homes and businesses, like this former bank of shops, have been destroyed, in Kazir province of Kurdistan in Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA
In villages like this one, besides being looted and booby-trapped, many homes and businesses, like this former bank of shops, have been destroyed, in Kazir province of Kurdistan in Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA

But a few hours later, Mohammad said there was nothing to take. All the valuables were gone and many homes had been bombed out.

“There were three or four blankets and a water container left in my house,” he said. “The whole village is like this.”

Despite the destruction, added neighbor Abbass, a day laborer, it was a relief to finally see their homes. “It’s been 2½ years,” he said. “We miss our village.”

The Mosul offensive. VOA
The Mosul offensive. VOA

Chaos

The relative calm in the area surrounding the front lines of the battle toward Mosul may be short lived, said Azat Umar Moloud, the manager of Hajj Idrees Seudin Surchi, a local aid organization. And the calm is merely relative, as an explosion interrupted him.

At an unoccupied camp about 30 kilometers outside Mosul, Moloud said the thousands of already dusty tents set up were expected to fill quickly as military forces moved toward the city.

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“This camp will not be enough for the refugees,” he said. “But we are trying our best to help them.”

Locals say that despite the dangers and the fact that they are finding little left of use, they feel the need to see their homes again, in Kazir province of Kurdistan in Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA
Locals say that despite the dangers and the fact that they are finding little left of use, they feel the need to see their homes again, in Kazir province of Kurdistan in Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. VOA

Roughly a million people are expected to flee their homes if or when Iraqi and Peshmerga forces fight their way into Mosul. Aid organizations were scrambling to erect 12,000 tents in the desert surrounding the war zone.

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In a village near one of the camps, a few soldiers occupied a mosque, using it as a station to fix mechanical parts for peshmerga vehicles. Soldiers warned that other homes in the village, abandoned when IS took over the area, were still not safe to enter despite having been under security forces’ control since last year.

“A homeowner came by,” one soldier joked, sadly, “and asked if they could charge us rent.” (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)