Kurdish villagers fend off ISIS attack in Makhmour
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
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Kurdish villagers in Aliya Rash successfully defended themselves from an Islamic State (ISIS) attack on the village on Thursday night, with no lives lost on either side.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs posted a video on its social media showing intense shooting in Aliya Rash, near the disputed town of Makhmour.
“At 7 PM tonight, December 19, 2019, ISIS militants tried to sneak into the Aliya Rash village in the Baqirt sub-district in Makhmour district, but the villagers, all of whom are Kurds, repelled them, leading to fighting,” the Ministry said.
Qarachogh, a Peshmerga fighter who is also a resident of the village, is known by ISIS. He and his father have fought against the group on more than one occasion.
On Friday, Qarachogh confirmed to Rudaw that ISIS attacked his village at 7:00 PM Thursday night.
“They wanted to sneak in and get close, probably to blow themselves up,” Qarachogh told Rudaw.
Because Qarachogh and his fellow Kurdish fighters had thermal scopes and night vision goggles, they were able to repel ISIS, which also has thermal scopes and night vision equipment.
“We are defending ourselves and our area. We aren’t on the offensive,” added Qarachogh, who said the ISIS attack was likely due to six ISIS members being killed by an Iraqi Anti-Tank missile two days ago.
The Security Media Cell of Iraq’s Ministry of Defense had announced on Thursday that “five terrorists riding three motorbikes” were “dealt with by a missile unit” of the Saladin Operations Command sector at Qarachogh mountain.
Qarachogh continued, “We can only withstand so many attacks. ISIS is the problem of the world, not ours.” He added that the Iraqi Army arrived to assist the villagers within 15 minutes .
The difficult, rough terrain of the Qarachogh mountain area separates the jurisdictions of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army, the gap between their patrols a legacy of clashes between the two forces in October 2017.
Taking advantage of the no-man’s-land between the two rival militaries, ISIS militants are now hiding in the region’s myriad caves. They descend into villages to demand food and money from people.
In summer of 2019, ISIS set fire to crop fields in Makhmour, specifically targeting families who were unwilling to cooperate with their demands.
In May 2019, ISIS killed Makhmour resident Bashdar Safar, a Kurdish security forces (Asayish) member they had kidnapped earlier in April.
By all accounts, ISIS is rebuilding itself in the area, despite the fact that it was declared defeated in Iraq in December 2017. Disagreements and a lack of coordination between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army are not helping the situation.
“They are very weak here. They mostly search for food,” Qarachogh said, denying the idea that ISIS is strong enough to pose a threat such as overtaking Makhmour, which was briefly occupied by ISIS in 2014.
“At night, ISIS controls things, while at day it is the Iraqi Army,” a Makhmour resident, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of ISIS sleeper cells, told Rudaw on Friday.
“The Iraqi Army are very lax. They cannot control anything. Either Daesh is weak or it doesn’t want to overtake Makhmour for now.”
“They must have a plan to overtake Makhmour. The people are very anxious. The Army will flee even before the civilians when that happens,” added the source.
Most villages at the foot of the Qarachogh Mountain are devoid of their Kurdish residents, added the source.
Qarachogh agreed that life is uncomfortable currently for them, but the Kurds in Aliya Rash haven’t fled because they don’t want their lands, especially agricultural lands, to be confiscated by Arab villagers.
When it is raining or foggy, the residents of Makhmour, out of fear that ISIS might capitalize and start an offensive, either go to Erbil or don’t sleep for the night.
Qarachog said that the Iraqi Army monitors the area with thermal cameras, and some of the men in the village stay alert all night in case ISIS attacks.