Follows spate of attacks in Iraq

Daquq villages left empty as ISIS threat forces residents to flee

DAQUQ, Kirkuk – A number of villages in Kirkuk’s Daquq district are under threat from militant groups affiliated with ISIS, with only four out of 60 villages in the district’s southwestern part still inhabited.

Most of these villages are Kurdish, and the constant danger has forced many residents to leave.

In some of these villages, people only visit during the day, leaving them empty at night due to fear of attacks.

Saeed Jasim, a resident of the village of Tobzawa in western Daquq, told 964media, “Only four of our villages are still inhabited, and even those are seeing a daily decrease in residents as more people move to other areas.”

Jasim added, “The security forces in the area enforce a curfew every evening, preventing anyone from traveling to those villages due to the threat of militant activity.”

Damiral Qader, the head of Daquq police, told 964media on Wednesday, “Several operations have been conducted in these areas of Daquq, but the threat remains, and it is still unsafe for anyone to visit those villages.”

He explained, “The area has not been eliminated from militant threats as it should have been, due to its vast and harsh terrain.”

The southwestern part of Daquq encompasses more than 60 villages, mostly Kurdish bu with some Arab majority settlements. Since 2014, these areas have been continuously threatened by militant activities.

Militant threats still remain in Iraq. In the past few weeks, the country saw a spate of attacks linked to militant groups.

An army officer and four soldiers were killed in an attack on their post in Iraq’s central governorate of Salah Al-Din on May 14. Iraq’s Ministry of Defense reported that Lt. Col. Khaled Naji and several members of his regiment were killed “while thwarting a terrorist attack.”

A week later, a bomb exploded on a vehicle carrying five Iraqi army officers near Salah Al-Din’s Suleiman Beg subdistrict, killing one officer and injuring four others.

The following day, five members of the same family were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated on the Baiji-Haditha Road in Anbar governorate. Officials have confirmed that the explosive was recently placed and was not a leftover from past conflicts.

The Islamic State jihadist group overran large areas of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” and launching a reign of terror.

It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led military coalition, and in 2019 lost its last territory in Syria to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

However, its remnants continue to carry out deadly hit-and-run attacks and ambushes, particularly from remote areas and desert hideouts.

In a report published in January, the United Nations estimated that ISIS has “between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters” across Iraq and Syria.