After ISIS attacks, villagers in Kurdistan Region call for security outpost

Members of a small community in the Kurdistan Region’s Garmiyan area are calling on Peshmerga forces to establish a security outpost near their village.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) ­­– Members of a small community in the Kurdistan Region’s Garmiyan area are calling on Peshmerga forces to establish a security outpost near their village to protect them against possible Islamic State attacks.

The Garmiyan Administration is an unofficial province in the Kurdistan Region that includes the three districts of Kalar, Kifri, and Chamchamal, in territory disputed between Baghdad and Erbil. Regional Kurdish Peshmerga and Asayish forces are in charge of security in Garmiyan, while national Iraqi forces control the region to its south and west.

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Recently, members of the so-called Islamic State have carried out a series of terrorist attacks on both the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces in the area, killing dozens. They have also shelled nearby villages, wounding civilians who live there.

In response, the Kurdistan Region began reinforcing these areas and its security forces have carried out a counterterrorism operation to root out Islamic State remnants. The Iraqi forces engaged in similar efforts as well. Despite such efforts, attacks have continued in these and other parts of the country, especially close to cities and towns that the terrorist organization previously controlled.

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“This is a vast stretch of flat land, and we have been very concerned with the recent situation,” Yusef Abdullah, a Kurdish man from a village in the Zangabad area, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday. “We have been shot at on multiple occasions and seen [ISIS] men here.”

The region where the villager lives is adjacent to a sprawling strip of inhospitable terrain that separates forces from the Kurdistan Region and federal Iraqi troops. Kurdish officials have warned that the security vacuum in these areas created by the lack of coordination between the two forces offers Islamic State sleeper cells the opportunity to regroup and stage attacks in nearby populated areas.

“It has been some time that I have had to arm myself with this weapon daily,” Abdullah said, holding a firearm. “The people are afraid and are about to vacate these areas.” 

He added, “I have seen ISIS, and they are active.”

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The Islamic State’s onslaught in 2014 and its continued insurgency has led to the displacement of millions of civilians across Iraq. While most have returned to their areas of origin, some are still unable to do so amid security concerns, little general stability, and a lack of even the most basic public services.

Officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) recently reported that, in the past five months, more than 5,000 Iraqis who fled the Islamic State to live for years in displacement camps in the Kurdistan Region have gone home to find conditions unsafe or unlivable to the extent that they have again returned to the camps.

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Abdullah called on the Kurdistan Region’s authorities to install a security outpost in their area and to guard the supply route where resources are brought in from Kulajo to the northeast, which Peshmerga reinforced following successive Islamic State attacks.

“ISIS forces are attacking us in the night,” another member of the community, Abdullah Ghaidan, told Kurdistan 24. “We hope the Kurdistan Region will help us protect” the village.

As Peshmerga in Garmiyan recently began deploying additional forces close to where Islamic State militants have recently attacked, a Peshmerga official on Tuesday described the progress made so far and affirmed the troops’ commitment to safeguarding locals.

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“Our superiors ordered us to increase the number of our military posts and strengthen them,” local Peshmerga spokesperson Sherko Mohammed told Kurdistan 24. “We have established 14 outposts to protect residents of these areas.”

“We assure the people living here that, as long as the Peshmerga are here, their safety will be preserved,” Mohammed stated.

“No matter which community they belong to—Arab, Turkmen, or Kurd—we will defend them.” 

Editing by John J. Catherine