ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – People from surrounding areas of Diyala’s city of Khanaqin have abandoned their villages and moved to safer towns as the number of the Islamic State-claimed attacks have considerably increased, witnesses reported on Wednesday.
Over the past 16 days, Islamic State members have carried out 10 attacks around the areas of Khanaqin and Jalawla, targeting Iraqi federal police forces and villagers.
“We, as the people of Sherk village, are requesting the Ministry of Peshmerga [and Kurdish forces] to save us as the situation is getting out of control and insecurity spreads,” Jawad Dara, head of Sherk village, told Kurdistan 24.
The area is populated by different ethnic and religious groups, with a predominant Kurdish and Sunni Arab population.
“If the Peshmerga don’t save us in the coming days, you will see barely any Kurdish family stay here,” Dara stressed.
The region is also a disputed territory claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq.
In recent years, the area was under the protection of Peshmerga forces, but following the Oct. 16 attack and military takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militias, the region has witnessed increasing insecurity.
“Our village is made of some 90 houses,” Mansour Karim, a villager of Sherk, told Kurdistan 24.
“When the Peshmerga were here, we felt very safe; We weren’t even locking out doors at night. Now, the security situation here is very bad. If this continues, we will all flee to Kifri and Kalar,” Karim lamented.
Dler Shukur, a Peshmerga Commander in Garmiyan, warned of the Islamic State re-grouping around Khanaqin and Jalawla, adding that Peshmerga forces had not yet received an order to deploy to those areas.
“We understand the security concerns of locals in those areas, but the return of Kurdish Peshmerga forces requires an agreement with Baghdad… So far, we have not received an order from the Peshmerga Ministry to deploy to areas in Khanaqin,” Shkur told Kurdistan 24.
Over the past few weeks, over 20 Kurdish and Sunni Arab villages have been evacuated around Khanaqin and Jalawla due to the increased activities of the jihadist group. The evacuation process is to continue on a larger scale should the security threat in those areas not be addressed, local security experts have warned.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Harem Jaff)