As local residents are removed, Islamic State fighters begin digging in ahead of an Iraqi army attack. In al-Shirqat, resistance groups blow pole with the caliphate flag.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - Daesh, the so-called Islamic State (IS), yesterday began expelling residents from al-Zab, in al-Hawija district, 85 km south-west from Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. Along with many other towns and villages south of Kirkuk, al-Zab has been occupied by the caliphate since 10 June 2014.
Within hours, the area was almost completely cleared of its inhabitants, forced into the open desert in Iraq’ hellish summer heat.
Expellees were not allowed to take anything heavy. In haste, with no regard for women, the elderly or children, just about everyone was evacuated under death threats, abandoning homes, fields and shops.
The order was for everyone to leave the city and once removed, the people were left on their own. Many tried to settle in the desert whilst others found refuge in the surrounding villages.
The last to leave said that IS men were digging tunnels and galleries around town, filling them with oil, which suggest that IS plans set on fire to them when Iraqi troops move in to liberate al-Zab.
Until recently Daesh had used civilians as human shields in the territory it holds. Now this appears to be changing as it accuses allied forces that continue bombing its command and control centres and weapon depots of environmental damage. The enormous amount of flammable material placed around weapon depots is evidence of that.
Al-Zab is located in al-Hawija District. It holds the largest number of Daesh fighters (pictured) since it is main transit point to the al-Shirqat District, which is in the north of the Sunni province of Salah El Din.
Daesh’s scorched earth policy seems to be delaying but not stopping the progression of Iraqi troops in the oil-rich province.
The group is also facing a hard time in al-Shirqat District. Someone blew up the pole displaying its flag in the city centre.
Jabbar Al Maamuri, one of the leaders of Al Hashd el Shaabi (popular mobilisation unit, the militia set up in response to the call for holy war against the Islamic State, launched by Ayatollah Al Sistani on 13 June 13, 2014, three days after Mosul fell into Daesh’s hands), spoke this afternoon about serious problems among Daesh leaders in al-Shirqat.
The removal of the symbol of the Islamic State in the heart of a town completely under their control is "a clear message that they are living on borrowed time," al-Maamuri said.
The terrible crimes and increasingly inhumane punishments inflicted on locals over the past three months has driven away even those who had initially supported the so-called Caliphate.
Daesh leaders now avoid moving around al-Shirqat alone. Inside the town, resistance groups have sprung up lately, carrying out attacks against members of the terrorist group, whilst on walls graffiti with anti-IS slogans have begun to appear.