VIDEO: 400 Displaced after Fleeing Islamic State Terrorists Held Iraq’s Hawija

Fri Aug 19, 2016 16:19:08

Hundreds are fleeing a northern Iraqi town controlled by Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL) ahead of a planned assault that could be key to retaking the militant stronghold of Mosul, 100 km (60 miles) further north.

As many as 400 people have fled from Hawija, 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad, over the past two days to Peshmerga controlled areas west of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, according to the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), a Kurdish political party that has been fighting alongside Iraqi Peshmerga forces.

The displaced civilians said they walked for more than 10 hours in fields full of mines and explosives until they reached a military post 30 km west of the city of Kirkuk, Sabha Ahmed from Hawija said as she sat in a makeshift camp in the open desert under the blistering heat of sun with group of women and children.

""We, women and children walked slowly in a very narrow road in order to avoid bombs," Ahmed said. "We walked after 6 o'clock after the sunset and we arrived here at 3 at dawn. The sun shined and we continued walking until we reached our people, the Peshmerga.""

"We lived an ordeal. We suffered a lot. We call for the swift liberation of Hawija because people were hurt," Othman Ahmed said.

Strategically located east of the road from Baghdad to Mosul and near the Kurdish-held oil region of Kirkuk, the region became an Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL) stronghold when the ultra-hardline Sunni militants swept across northern and western Iraq in 2014.

Commander of the Kurdistan Freedom Party Hussein Yazdan said that more than 400 Arab civilians have entered the area over the past two days from Hawija and al-Riyadh.

According to Yazdan, all the displaced people will be moved to camps in Dibis area, northwest of Kirkuk.

""People are fleeing because they knew that the defeat of Daesh in Hawija and the area as a whole has become inevitable. People trust the Peshmerga and they are sure that they will treat them good, so they come towards us and we receive them and move them to camps," Yazdan said."

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to recapture Mosul, the ultra-hardline group's de facto Iraqi capital and the largest city anywhere in their self-proclaimed caliphate, by the end of 2016, more than two years after it fell to the militants.

Officials have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster as locals struggle to get food and basic services.

The United Nations says the main assault on Mosul could displace at least another million people, compounding pressure on a government already facing a budget deficit caused by lower oil prices.

S/SH 11

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