Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Refugee problem unfolding after ISIS in suprise attack took over Kurdish areas in Sinjar

Displaced Iraqis from the northern town of Sinjar head towards the autonomous Kurdistan region on August 4, 2014, as they seek refuge after Islamic State  Sunni militants took control of their hometown. The Islamic State  raised its black flag in Sinjar on August 3, 2014 after ousting the peshmerga troops of Iraq's Kurdish government, forcing thousands of people from their homes. [AFP]
Kurds fleeing Sinjar heading north deeper into Kurdistan. (Photo AFP, 3 August)

The take-over, on 3 August, by ISIS of the Kurdish towns of Sinjar and Zumar has caused a major refugee problem.  According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “some 35-50,000 people displaced in nine locations” are currently “surrounded” by ISIL members. About 30,000 people, mostly women and children, have reportedly fled to Dahuk governorate in the autonomous Kurdistan region. More are expected to enter the city in the coming days. The OCHA added that there is an immediate need for water, food, fuel, shelter and health services.” Earlier reports by the United Nations indicated that 200,000 people were forced to escape Sinjar, a town with an estimated population of 310,000.

Officials worry that the militants could blow up the dam, causing major Iraqi cities to flood. (AFP/File)
ISIS also captured the Mosul dam, Iraq's largest dam. (Photo AFP)

Fighters grom ISIS on Sunday captured two northern Iraqi towns, Zumar and Sinjar, and a nearby oil field after a battle with Kurdish forces who had control of the area, witnesses said on Sunday. An official in the Northern Oil Company said ISIS fighters had taken control of the Ain Zalah oil field and two other undeveloped fields - Batma and Sufaiya. ISIS has already seized four oil fields, which help fund its operations.
In a statement on its website, ISIS said its fighters killed scores of Kurdish fighters in a 24-hour battle and then took over Zumar and 12 villages and captured numemrous vehicles and weapons..

Kurdish peshmerga fighters, who gained experience fighting Saddam Hussein's troops, were regarded as one of the few forces capable of standing up to the Sunni insurgents, who faced almost no opposition from Maliki's U.S.-trained army during their lightning advance through the north in June. Then on Sunday the Islamic State inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Kurds with a rapid advance through three towns to reach the Mosul Dam, acquiring a fifth oil field to fund its operations along the way. Kurdish commanders whose units came under attack from Islamic State fighters told Reuters they faced overwhelming firepower, were taken by surprise, and that militants had in many cases started shooting from villages where they had formed alliances with residents. On Monday Iraqi state televison reported that Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his air force for the first time to back Kurdish forces against Islamic State fighters.

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