Islamic State militants have been recently threatening residents of villages in Makhmur a disputed territory in southeastern Ninewa province to burn their crop fields unless they pay religious taxes (Zakat).
The group’s sleeper cells have informed villagers about their demand through leaflets and writing threats on walls of villagers’ houses during the night.
Kakalaw Bashdar, a resident of a village located in the Qarachough mountain near Makhmur district says, “IS operatives ask us to pay religious taxes or else we will face death or they would burn our crop fields.”
“IS militants publish their threats via leaflets or by writing on the walls”, he added.
The villages are located along the Qarachough mountain east of Makhmur. The area is patrolled by Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmarga forces. In recent months, the volatile area witnessed joint operations backed by coalition forces against IS.
“IS militants move openly and they roam the area in groups”, said Kakalaw.
Salar Rafiq, a resident of a village in Kandinawa Plains located in the same area told KirkukNow, “IS has started to burn crop fields of farmers in the surrounding villages of Makhmur district; so far they have set fire to an estimated 20 hectares of agricultural lands. We requested help from Iraqi forces and the Peshmarga but no one came to the rescue.”
As many as 200 IS fighters exist in the Qarachough mountain
“Many people have evacuated their villages in fear of their lives”, he added.
Salman Kamaran, a commander of the Peshmarga forces in Makhmur said, “Coalition forces and Iraqi military intelligence are closely observing IS activities in Qarachough mountain and Makhmur plains. According to our information, as many as 200 IS fighters exist in the Qarachough mountain.”
He explained that “the militants are using the caves as hideouts, making it difficult to locate them.”