ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – With more fires engulfing farmlands in different areas across Nineveh province, a local official on Thursday said Islamic State insurgents were behind the incidents and called for action to prevent further losses to farmers’ income.
“In the past two days, Nineveh province has witnessed arson fires to thousands of dunams of agricultural [lands],” Mahma Khalil, the Mayor of the Yezidi-majority district of Sinjar (Shingal), said in a statement.
The Provincial Agricultural Department director, Doureed Hikmat, corroborated the mayor’s statement, where he also revealed the latest statistics on the area lost to fires and the number of incidents that had taken place in Nineveh.
“In 48 hours, 20 fires have spread through vast territories estimated at 20,000 dunams” throughout Nineveh province, Hikmat said in a statement on Thursday. The area is the equivalent of 5,000 acres.
Although similar fires have taken place throughout the country, landowners and locals from different parts have blamed a variety of culprits. The Islamic State has previously claimed responsibility for many of these incidents.
Mayor Khalil also laid the blame on Islamic State insurgents, which continue to remain active in the country over a year after their territorial collapse in Iraq. The group holds significant sway in areas with weak security, especially regions of disputed status, where the fires have been most prevalent, according to numbers the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture published on Wednesday.
“It is undoubtedly [ISIS] that is behind these fires,” Kahlil said, adding that Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) must make “a serious stand” to prevent more incidents from occurring and bring the culprits to justice.
The Yezidis are an ethnoreligious minority that was among the chief victims of the Islamic State’s onslaught when the group emerged in 2014.
In other disputed areas such as Kirkuk province, Kurdish farmers have suffered significant losses to the blazes. Some farmers also claim the fires are ethnically-motivated intimidation tactics to get them to vacate their areas.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany