As the cheer of victory over the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) begins to dim in newly liberated Sinjar, Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have begun the work of rebuilding a city ravaged by the terrorist group. On Thursday, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani announced plans to return electricity to Sinjar.
Barzani announced the opening of a new hydro-electric plant, the Rashava-Deralook electricity station, on Thursday, which is expected to be able to fuel Sinjar City once most of its electric infrastructure has been rebuilt. From initial inspections by Kurdish forces since the town was liberated on November 13, Islamic State terrorists destroyed much of its electricity and gas infrastructure, and reports of smoke and sudden gas explosions from destroyed pipeline continue to pour in.
“I ask the International organizations to have an effective role in renovating Shingal, and it is the Iraqi government’s duty to participate in renovating the town,” Barzani said in a statement.
Kurdistan’s Minister of Electricity Salahadin Babaker told reporters the project will cost the government $168 million.
The KRG has worked diligently to take sole credit for the liberation of Sinjar, which was under Islamic State control for more than a year when Peshmerga forces sent ISIS jihadis fleeing on Friday. Masoud Barzani, KRG president, immediately held a press conference on the outskirts of Sinjar in which he declared, “Only the Peshmerga had liberated Shingal. … [No] other force had been involved.” Disputes with the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliated Yazidi forces had delayed the operation to liberate Sinjar before last week.
Massoud Barzani officially declared Sengal has been liberated ! pic.twitter.com/lzbV03QXf3
— Cahit Storm (@cahitstorm) November 13, 2015
Experts estimated in early November that Sinjar was 90 percent under ISIS control, and Peshmerga have noted they found the fight to retake the Yazidi city surprisingly easy. In lieu of fighting, it appears that Islamic State jihadists have left the city riddled with booby traps and land mines for Peshmerga and Yazidi civilians returning to their homes to find and be hurt by. In addition to intentional traps, broken gas pipes and electrical wires pose new dangers to returning civilians.
Al Jazeera notes that Kurdish soldiers are warning civilians to beware as they search for remnants of their belongings in the rubble that used to be their homes and businesses. Just as the Yazidis fled or were massacred when ISIS took over the city, the Sunni Arab supporters who lived in Sinjar during the occupation have fled. Yazidis have now begun to find their stolen belongings in formerly Arab homes, as well. “When Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIL] came here, their local … supporters from the city and nearby villages joined them and looted our homes,” a Yazidi named Hasim told Al Jazeera, “Where did all my furniture go? We are just taking back what they took from us.”
The soldiers have also found walls and basements destroyed to build makeshift bomb shelters for protection against coalition airstrikes and underground bomb factories. “There are so many tunnels we can’t count them,” a Kurdish Yazidi officer told The Wall Street Journal.
The Islamic State has killed an estimated thousands of Yazidis, as the group kept only young Yazidi women alive to sell as sex slaves to their foreign jihadis. Kurdish soldiers have found multiple mass graves full of bodies of older women (who do not have value in the ISIS sex slave market) and men.