Kakai minority evacuates villages in south Kirkuk as ISIS re-emerges
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the Kurdish religious minority known as Kakais in southern Kirkuk’s Daquq district face displacement once again following an uptick in Islamic State (IS) activities in the area.
Iraq announced victory against the jihadi group in Dec. 2017, but IS activities since then have increased in Iraq, mainly in the provinces of Diyala, Salahaddin, and Kirkuk.
Kakais are just one of the groups facing re-displacement from villages in Daquq, but their small numbers make the exodus noteworthy. Recently, eight villages out of a total 13 in the region were evacuated.
The area was under the protection of Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2014, but following the Oct. 16, 2017 military attack and takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militias, they were pushed from most of the disputed territories, including Kirkuk.
Since then, Iraqi forces and Shia militias have been in charge of providing security for the region.
The emergence of IS over the past few years led some Kakayis in Daquq to join the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militias, many of which are backed by Iran, and form a regiment to fight the jihadi group in the area.
Sayyid Umed Kakai, the commander of the regiment, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that his unit, comprised of over 300 Kakayi fighters, have not been paid for the past eight months.
“To put pressure on Baghdad to accept our demands, we found it necessary to leave the area temporarily,” he said.
He mentioned that his regiment alone cannot fill the security gap in the region previously filled by three brigades of Peshmerga.
“IS activities have considerably increased in the region because Iraqi forces did not clear the villages behind our trenches from Da’esh,” the Kakai commander added, using the Arabic pejorative for IS.
He mentioned that the extremist group's fighters are often seen in the region and that residents are concerned and terrified by this.
The security situation over the past months has deteriorated markedly in Kirkuk, especially the southern part of the province, despite the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s victory announcement over IS late last year.
IS activities in the area include executions, kidnappings, bombings, and ambushes of both security forces and civilians.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Soran Kamaran)