ISIS is accused of burning fields near Makhmour in the shadow of Mount Qarachogh (Qara Chokh) in an area between Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces lines. This is one of several areas ISIS has continued to operate in since its defeat in 2017 in Iraq. Using existing networks of villages its men are able to infiltrate and travel at night, and have become increasingly brazen in attacks and influence.
In March ISIS used this area to ambush a bus of Hashd al-Shaabi (PMU) members who were transiting on the Iraqi side of the line. This is an area of Iraq that has been contested between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad, so relations between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces are not always perfect. This enabled ISIS to find its “niche” here, but it is not the only reason ISIS has been successful. These marginal areas between large cities is where the extremist groups that became ISIS have operated for more than a decade. In areas in Hamreen mountains or near Haawija, and up into the Makhmour area beneath Qarachogh mountain.
“ISIS set our fields on fire today and the fire hasn’t been brought under control yet,” Ismael Sadiq Siyan, whose family owns land in Ali Rash village at the base of Mount Qarachogh, told Rudaw. Rudaw says 27 villages are now threatened.
Mahmoud Sheikh Ibrahim writes “Re-expanding of ISIS in some parts of Iraq. Makhmour is one of disputed areas between Erbil and Baghdad.Taxes are very important income for them. Before 2014 they were regularly collecting taxes from Sunni areas like Mosul and so.”
It is one of many revelations about ISIS crimes and ISIS activity. For instance the KRG published new statistics on missing, rescued Yezidis Islamic State had kidnapped 6,284 Ezidis, among them 3,467 females, and 2,717 males. 3371 has been rescued so far.
A new mass grave was also found in Sinjar.
Another report says that there may still be between 5,000 and 7,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq.
AP notes: “A year and a half after the Islamic State group was declared defeated in Iraq, the militants still evoke fear in the lands of their former so-called caliphate across northern Iraq. The fighters, hiding in caves and mountains, emerge at night to carry out kidnappings, killings and roadside ambushes, aimed at intimidating locals, silencing informants and restoring the extortion rackets that financed Islamic State’s rise to power six years ago.”
According to the March 31 quarterly inspector general report from the US Department of Defense of Inherent Resolve, “CJTF-OIR reported that ISF clearance operations marginally diminished ISIS’s ability to operate, mainly by restricting its freedom of maneuver, and the group maintains the ability to hide in rural and mountainous terrain.”
Also: “USCENTCOM assessed that ISIS likely reinforces its units in Diyala by moving fighters and equipment from Kirkuk through the Hamrin Mountains, and that it was able to sustain low-level attacks against the ISF and PMF to improve freedom of movement and expand ISIS influence”