Witness accounts of the armed attack on the Kaka’i village Dara

Khanaqin, June 2020 – Ali Shahab was injured in an attack on 13 June and died on 24 July 2020 – Photo KirkukNow

Ameer Khanaqini - Diyala

Khaleel Ibrahim had just fallen asleep when he was suddenly awakened by his phone’s ringing. The caller was his niece, Chiman, who sobbinly tells him in a shaken voice: “Help us uncle, we’ve been slaughtered.”

The phone call was ended abruptly after that. Khaleel jumps out of bed and rushes towards to his niece’s home at the neighbouring village. His four sons, two of whom were standing guard on the roof, followed him.

The distance between Khaleel’s house and that of his niece, Chiman, is nearly 1,5 km.

When we arrived, I saw that my nephew Safa, and my niece’s husband, Shahab, were martyred

“When we arrived, I saw that my nephew Safa, and my niece’s husband, Shahab, were martyred. Their bodies were sill on the ground. And two of Chiman and Shahab’s sons were injured.”

The clashes were still ongoing as Khaleel and his sons take the injured to a hospital with the women and children.

The incident happened at the Dara village in Mekhas area (4 km from Khanaqin), around 10:30 PM on 13 June.

The two injured sons of Chiman and Shahab were transferred to a hospital in Erbil for treatment. One of them named Muhamad Shahab died of his injuries on 24 July.

The armed attack on the Dara village would go on until midnight. The villager are still not sure whether the attackers were ISIS militants or others.

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Khanaqin, July 2020 – Dara village, four kilometres from Khanaqin – Photo Ameer Khanaqini

In the Mekhas area, there are four Kaka’i villages. Among them are Dara, Mekhas and Rahman.

Khaleel’s home is at Mekhas. His niece’s home is at the neighbouring village Dara, which was the target of the attack that night.

“When we left for the hospital, one of my sons was hit by a sniper. He managed to find a house to hide in to avoid getting killed,” said Khaleel.

Khaleel’s injured son takes shelter at a house. Fearing repercussions from the militants, the tenants of the house don’t help him, but they don’t reveal his location either. He manages to climb up the stairs leading to the roof, where he takes position to defend himself in case the militants find him.

Most of the villagers in that region are armed in order to be able to defend themselves.

The family that lives in the house choose to flee their home in fear. Khaleel’s son finds a phone and calls his brother so that they can rescue him.

After a while, we went back to the village with a military vehicle and we got my son out

“After a while, we went back to the village with a military vehicle and we got my son out,” said Khaleel.

The attack resulted in eight casualties and five injuries. Chiman lost her husband, a brother and a son. The other individuals who were killed were three villagers, a policeman and a soldier.

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Khanaqin, June 2020 – funeral procession of one of the victims from Dara village – Photo by KirkukNow

An eye witness from Dara village named Alan Hadi said that as people rushed to help three of them were shot dead by the gunmen.

Chiman’s house is next to her brother’s and isolated from the rest of the village.

Most of the casualties were hit by snipers.

Sine the attack, life has come to a near stillstand. People confined themselves inside their homes and one doesn’t see children playing outside.

Chiman hasn’t returned to her house since the attack. She has been going to Erbil frequently to visit her injured sons at the hospital.

Askar Dara, commissioner of the Dara village, told KirkukNow: “The attack has made the people scared, we put guards at night.”

Units from the Iraqi Special Forces have been garrisoned in the area. They’ve promised to protect the villages.

Earlier this year, in March, a group of gunmen launched an attack on the Mekhas village, killing two and burning two tractors and all the crops.

In the previous attack, I lost a brother and another relative. 12 people killed in Mekhas village alone

Akram Haram, Mekhas village commissioner, told KirkukNow: “In the previous attack, I lost a brother and another relative. 12 people killed in Mekhas village alone. People are scared and forced to protect themselves at night.”

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Khanaqin, July 2020 – two Kaka’i villagers at the funeral of Ali Shahab – Photo by Ameer Khanaqini

According the commissioners, 30 families from the Mekhas area have been displaced due to such attacks and lack of security.

Iraqi forces, in cooperation with KRG security forces and the International Coalition have been sweeping the region in the past several weeks in different phases of the Operation Heroes of Iraq to eliminate remnants of ISIS.

Since the night of the attack on Chiman’s family, many other families have been attacked and asked for help, but no security force reached them on time.

“We’ve requested the security countless time to help us. But no one is protecting us. They tell us to no leave our villages, and ask us to take up arms and defend ourselves,” Khaleel said.

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