Residents of a village located in Kirkuk-Erbil-Ninewa triangle evacuated their homes due to the continued threats posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL militants who raided the village three times at night in a week. The villagers confronted them, amid reports that some of the ISIL militants have infiltrated the village.
The village of Liheban, was completely evacuated December 5th from its residents, and they were displaced towards safe areas under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces, after both sides refrained from sending forces to protect the war-torn village.
Suleiman Muhammad, a resident of the village of Lehiban of Sargaran sub-district northwest of Kirkuk, told KirkukNow, "We were the last family to leave the village... There were real threats to our lives. We have been protecting the village by ourselves for a week and during that period they attacked us three times, while the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army have not bothered to rescue us."
We have been protecting the village ourselves for a week and during that period they attacked us three times, without the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army coming to our rescue.
The village of Liheban and is located near Mount Qarachukh, next to Makhmur district and its inhabitants are Kurds.
About 70 families used to live in the village yet following the events of October 16, 2017, and the return of the Iraqi forces to the disputed territories including Kirkuk families residing in the village has dropped to only to 20 families. On December 5th, the last family left their home, uncertain whether they will return.
The evacuation of the village of its residents came after a series of attacks launched by ISIL militants on the village and the Peshmerga positions at the foot of Mount Qarachukh on December 2, which resulted in the killing of 13 people, including three civilian brothers from the village of Khidir Jija in Makhmur district, and ten members of the Peshmerga.
Mount Qarachukh range, east of Makhmur district and southeast of Ninewa province, is a relatively harsh area, served as hideout for ISIL militants. It also represents a buffer zone between the locations of the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga.
Makhmur district, 45 km southwest of Erbil, is among the disputed territories. After 2003, the district was administered by the KRG yet after the events of October 16th, 2017, and the return of the Iraqi forces to the disputed territories, the Iraqi government assumed responsibility for the security and administrative file of the region.
Ramadan Rasoul, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK office in Sargaran district, said, "We were inside the village until late this evening, Sunday, all the people evacuated their homes and we returned to Sarkaran... Unfortunately, no force showed its willingness to protect the villagers.”
We were desperate of the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga so we decided to evacuate our village
"Daesh militants were seen entering the village tonight through thermal cameras... The livestock of some of the people are still inside the village," Rasoul stressed.
On December 2nd, ISIL militants launched their first attack on the village of Liheban, but the villagers repelled the attack and halted their advance.
"Last night, Daesh militants surrounded our village from nine pm until three am but we prevented them from entering the village.... We despaired of the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga forces, so we decided to evacuate our village."
While the Iraqi government has declared defeat of ISIS in 2017, IS militants are regrouping in the rural areas of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. They are targeting Iraqi forces and civilians in the suburbs of Diyla, Kirkuk Ninawa, Salahaddin and Erbil, leaving tens of casualties and causing material damage to power towers, oil wells, houses, cattle, orchards and vehicles of the villagers.