More than 22 months after his kidnapping, Hemin Jalal received a phone call from the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) forces that brought him good news. The truck he desperately wanted to find was found after that the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL left it behind.
The vehicle fell into the hands of the Peshmerga forces on Thursday morning, December 9, 2021, during a military operation to pursue the ISIL militants in the Balaga area within the borders of Kifri district, northeast of Baqubah, center of Diyala province yet under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.
"When the Peshmerga called me and said that my white vehicle had been found in the military operation, I was overwhelmed with great happiness like the one I felt when Daesh militants released me. I conveyed that good news directly to my brother Qania'," Hemin Jalal told KirkukNow.
Hemin Jalal Issa (35 years old) and Qania’ Jalal Issa (33 years old) were kidnapped by ISIL militants on the evening of February 1, 2020 in an area located between the districts of Kifri and Duz Khurmatu district of Salahaddin province while they were on their way to their village from the town of Kifri by their Toyota Hilux pickup.
15 days after their abduction, ISIL militants released them according to an agreement they had reached with the families of the kidnapped in exchange for $70,000, but they did not return the vehicle they had seized.
“I bought the vehicle in partnership with my brother three months before our abduction by Daesh. we had not paid the full amount as we still had $10,000 in debt,” Hemin said.
Hemin says that they are still in the process of collecting the amount that was borrowed to liberate them from the grip of ISIS.
“We are still $30,000 in debt. We are in a critical condition. We don’t go early in the morning to our farmlands and come back early in the evening," Hemin added
On the day the two brothers were kidnapped, they were accompanied by their wives and sons and had been abandoned by ISIL militants on one of the main roads.
The persistence of ISIL threats comes despite the fact that the former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in late 2017, the complete elimination of ISIS in Iraq, after nearly three years of military confrontations.
The regrouping militants of ISIL have attacked Peshmerga points in Kifri for three successive nights while the Peshmerga senior commanders blame the security gap between the Peshemrga and the Iraqi forces in the disputed territories in Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salahaddin for ppor mutual cooperation and coordination.
Sleeper cells and resistant pockets of ISIS militants are regrouping in the rural areas of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. They are posing a high threat by different tactics such as hit-and-run attacks, kidnappings, and IED roadside bombs targeting the Iraqi forces and civilians in the suburbs of Diyala, Kirkuk Ninawa, Salahaddin and Erbil.
"In addition to that vehicle, during the military operation, the Peshmerga forces were able to seize quantities of food, mortar bombs, booby-trapped bicycles, and others," a source in the Peshmerga forces told KirkukNow.
The operation has been going on for several days in various areas of Kifri district and Garmiyan administration, with the aim of eliminating the threats of ISIL militants.
“At first, we thought that the white pickup truck belonged to ISIS militants, but after follow-up it became clear that it belonged to the two brothers who were kidnapped last year and released in exchange for a sum of money,” the source added.
“We called them and they came to inspect the vehicle, and it is scheduled to be handed over to them after the completion of investigation."
Two days after the kidnapping of the two brothers, the Peshmerga and Asayish (the security forces of the Kurdistan Region) launched a military operation in February 2020, but failed to find the kidnapped people.
Hemin and Qania lost their father and four of their brothers during the Anfal operations in 1988 by Saddam Hussein regime against Kurdish villagers.
"I was still keeping the vehicle's documents. After the Peshmerga called me, I took the documents with me and went to see the vehicle. I made sure that the vehicle belonged to us. I said to myself, halal is not lost," Hemin says.
The last attacks by ISIL militants took place between November 27th to 29th in the district of Kifri, northeast of Baghdad, between Sulaymaniyah and Diyalah, where three attacks targeted the Peshmerga forces resulted in the death of eight Peshmerga fighters.
Hardly a day passes without the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL militants launching an attack on the military points in the disputed territories as a result of the hundreds of kilometers of security vacuums and the lack of coordination between the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG and the security forces of the Iraqi federal government which four years ago declared victory over ISIL.
"The front bumper of the vehicle was completely removed, and the rear bumper was damaged, but Daesh militants had installed four new tires to the car and filled it with fuel before leaving it behind."
The gunmen who kidnapped Hemin and Qania' were speaking in Kurdish, Arabic and Turkmen, and they had three Toyota pickups in their possession. At first, they demanded $100,000 for their release, but then agreed on $70,000.
Hemin recalls it was 7:15 pm when they were kidnapped, and about 20 armed men had set up a fake checkpoint on the road between the villages of Darajeh and Balag. "They covered our faces, and left the children and women there."
"Because of that accident, my sister who was with us on that day had a heart attack and she passed away after a while. After we were kidnapped and for fear of what would happen to us, my mother also had a heart attack and she is lying in bed for the last two years."
Hemin and Qania' were taken to an area called Qori Chay (Tea pot), where they were subjected to violence and torture, before they were offered the option of releasing them in exchange for money.
"When we told them our financial situation is poor, they told us to ask your family to collect money for you within seven days, or else they will kill us."
The families of the dominant and contented people contacted the kidnappers by phone and agreed to pay $70,000 for their release, and on the afternoon of February 16, 2020, they left the money to ISIL militants in Wardak village, located between the villages of Duraj and Zananeh, and on the next day they released the two brothers.
Twenty-two months later, ISIL militants leave the vehicle which Hemin and Qania were about to forget forever.