Iraq crisis: Villagers sprayed with bullets as they fled black flags of Isis

As Iraqis bury the dead in mass graves, survivors tell of a sectarian massacre

Taza

Villagers lowered the bodies into a mass grave. Two of the 15 dead were young girls, the rest were men.

All had been executed at point-blank range by al-Qa’ida-inspired rebels and their allies, during what witnesses say was an attack aimed at destroying four Shia Turkmen communities in Iraq.

In the villages south of Kirkuk, residents say a massacre was carried out last week by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Amid a rising tide of sectarian violence – including reports of beheadings and executions of religious leaders, civilians and security forces – residents of the string of Shia villages detailed Isis fighters’ brutality since the capture of Mosul, in the north, two weeks ago. As the insurgents swept toward the south and west, among those caught in their crosshairs were Iraq’s Turkmens, a minority in a mostly Arab nation, speaking a language that derives from Turkish. It was not yet clear how many people were killed in the attack on the four farming villages.

General Turhan Abdel-Rahman, Kirkuk’s deputy police chief, said he knew of at least 40 residents – 25 from three villages who were buried on Sunday, plus 15 interred on Monday, who were from the fourth town, Bashir. “There are other bodies still inside Bashir,” he said. Scores of people remain missing and thousands have fled to nearby Shia communities. Among those who have stayed, survivors told of civilians being shot dead without reason. Askar Hassan of the Shia Turkmen village of Brawawchli said the first attack had occurred on 17 June, when many of the town’s residents were sleeping in the midday heat.

First, shells began to crash into the village. Then he heard gunfire. Mr Hassan and his family ran into a nearby field of date palms. As they ran, a group of men sprayed the fleeing villagers with bullets.

Mr Hassan said he saw his cousin drop from a gunshot before he felt a bullet pierce his own side, sending him to the ground. “Pretend to be dead,” he told his wife and four children as they fell around him. Two of the children had also been shot, he added.

 

Within moments, the militants had reached them. “God is great!” they shouted, but they moved past his family members, who were lying still, Mr Hassan said. The family remained on the ground for hours, he said. After nightfall, the militants appeared to have withdrawn, so he and his wife gathered the children and made it back into the town, where they found a car and drove to a nearby hospital.

Hundreds of families who escaped the villages of Brawawchli, Karanaz, Chardaghli and Bashir have arrived at the Shia Turkmen neighbourhood in Kirkuk, which is under the control of Iraqi Kurdish security forces. About 400 families, numbering thousands of people, have been “registered” in the neighbourhood of Wasiti, a self-appointed organiser for the displaced said. But there are thought to be around 4,000 families in all affected by the violence.

Ali, an 18-year-old from Brawawchli, recalled the shelling that signalled the start of the attack. He said he and other  villagers grabbed guns and scrambled on to roofs to fire back at the militants. “But we didn’t see the snipers,” Ali said. When the bullets started flying amid the shelling, his friend was shot in the neck and Ali ran.

Residents described seeing Humvees and trucks mounted with machine guns and bearing black flags descend on their towns. Isis rebels have seized the vehicles and other equipment from the Iraqi army as they have overrun military positions in the past two weeks.

A few hundred residents of Bashir, most of them men, gathered on Monday morning at a cemetery in the neighbouring Shia Turkmen village of Taza. At the cemetery, the mourners gathered around a huge hole, where 15 bodies were lowered into the ground, side by side. The sound of exploding mortar shells reverberated in the distance as a bulldozer shovelled dirt into the grave. A local Sunni tribal leader had persuaded the Isis jihadists now occupying Bashir to dump the 15 bodies on a road outside the village after they had begun to decompose in the hot sun.

A small group of women cloaked in black, their faces clouded by tears, stood to one side. The dead girls were sisters, Nargis and Massouma Qassim Ibrahim, aged 10 and 13. “My brother’s girls,” one woman said. Their father escaped, she added. Their mother and a third sister are still missing. “Please tell the world,” one man said. “It was a savage massacre.”

© Washington Post

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there