Kurdish residents of a town near northeastern Khanaqin, Iraq, evacuated their 12-home village following a wave of killings in the area carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the Kurdish outlet Rudaw reported on Wednesday.
“Ever since the Peshmerga forces left the area, five residents of our village have been killed,” Khasraw Ali, a resident of Mardan, told Rudaw. “We have no social issues with anyone. It is Daesh [ISIS] who is killing our families.”
In October, Iraq’s central government allegedly set a deadline for Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to withdraw their troops from key sites in the disputed city of Kirkuk. Peshmerga means “those who face death” in Kurdish. These fighters are the military arm of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Another resident reportedly told Rudaw, “Those who killed our families were just Daesh militants. We suspected they might be Hashd al-Shaabi militants as they are planning to force Kurdish villages out of their homes.”
Colonel Diyar Shawkat, the director of the Khanaqin police forces, told Rudaw that he and his fellow law enforcement officers “asked the residents of the village not to leave their land as we will protect them, but they didn’t agree.”
Last month, Kurdistan 24 reported that members of the Kurdish religious minority known as Kakayis, located in southern Kirkuk’s Daquq district, have been forced to leave their villages following an increase in terrorist activities from the Islamic State in the region.
Although Iraq had announced a victory against the jihadist terrorist group in December, Islamic State activities have reportedly increased in the Iraqi provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin, and Kirkuk.
The areas in question were previously under the protection of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who had a heavy presence there from 2014 until October 2017. The Peshmerga took over Kirkuk after the Islamic State attacked and the Iraqi military fled, keeping ISIS from possessing its lucrative oil fields. A military attack and takeover by Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shi’ite militias on October 16 forced the Kurdish fighters out of the region, leaving its population highly vulnerable.
The Trump administration vowed not to take sides in the Kurdish-Iraqi dispute, which some suggested escalated the situation in Iraq. The Kurdish evacuation empowered Iranian militias to come in and replace them. Iran now has heavy influence in Iraq.
“To put pressure on Baghdad to accept our demands, we found it necessary to leave the area temporarily,” Sayyid Umed Kakayi, the commander of a Kakayi force, told Kurdistan 24 at the time.