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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

“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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US Shares List of 20 Terrorist Groups Operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Pakistani Authorities

Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, has safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

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According to media reports, US has shared list of terror groups operating in Pakistan with authorities in Islamabad. Wikimedia

Washington, November 2, 2017 : The White House retains a list of 20 terrorist groups that it claims are operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan and is believed to have shared this list with Islamabad, the media reported on Thursday.

However, the list was not given to Pakistani authorities by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visited Islamabad last week, diplomatic sources told Dawn news.

The White House list includes three types of militant groups: those who launch attacks into Afghanistan, those who attack targets inside Pakistan and those who are focused on Kashmir.

Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, has safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistan strongly rejects the charge, saying that there were no such safe havens inside the country.

The US also identified Lashkar-e-Taiba as one of the largest and most active terrorist organisations in South Asia.

The other militant groups in the list include Harakatul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundullah, Lashkar-i-Jhanghvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. (IANS)

 

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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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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.

ISLAMIC STATE
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)