Tag Archives: Baghdad

“I Create Highly Realistic Miniature Worlds”

When a budding artist has a burning desire to create a vignette, they don’t let the lack of building materials stop them.

This was exactly what happened to me when I started to make miniatures.

I used any resources I could scrounge: aluminum foil, paper clips, plastic rods, foam board, coffee for weathering; anything that held possibilities.

Born in Karbala, about 100km from Baghdad, I spent my childhood with my mother and aunt.

My father had been imprisoned as a dissident by the Saddam Hussein regime, so I retreated to my love for art and reading for solace.

As the tales I read seemingly came to life, I envisioned each scene in my head as it unfolded.

I bought my first computer when I was sixteen and began my search for 3D software.

When I started making miniatures, I knew nothing about them. I was searching the web for resources and stumbled upon the word ‘miniatures’ and got surprised to discover how many miniature makers were out there.

miniature-art-ali-alamedy-1

I started looking for tutorials and posted the results of my work on Facebook.

My work attracted many people from around the world and in a very short time I got more than 2,000 friends and followers.

More info: Facebook

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The War Photo No One Would Publish

When Kenneth Jarecke photographed an Iraqi man burned alive, he thought it would change the way Americans saw the Gulf War. But the media wouldn’t run the picture.

The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest.The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.

On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.

Jarecke took the picture just before a ceasefire officially ended Operation Desert Storm—the U.S.-led military action that drove Saddam Hussein and his troops out of Kuwait, which they had annexed and occupied the previous August. The image and its anonymous subject might have come to symbolize the Gulf War. Instead, it went unpublished in the United States, not because of military obstruction but because of editorial choices.

It’s hard to calculate the consequences of a photograph’s absence. But sanitized images of warfare, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf argues, make it “easier … to accept bloodless language” such as 1991 references to “surgical strikes” or modern-day terminology like “kinetic warfare.”

The Vietnam War was notable for its catalog of chilling and iconic war photography; Some images, like Ron Haeberle’s pictures of the My Lai massacre, were initially kept from the public. But other violent images—Nick Ut’s scene of child napalm victims and Eddie Adams’s photo of a Vietcong man’s execution—won Pulitzer Prizes and had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the war.

Not every gruesome photo reveals an important truth about conflict and combat. Last month, The New York Times decided—for valid ethical reasons—to remove images of dead passengers from an online story about Flight MH-17 in Ukraine and replace them with photos of mechanical wreckage. Sometimes though, omitting an image means shielding the public from the messy, imprecise consequences of a war—making the coverage incomplete, and even deceptive.

In the case of the charred Iraqi soldier, the hypnotizing and awful photograph ran against the popular myth of the Gulf War as a “video-game war”—a conflict made humane through precision bombing and night-vision equipment. By deciding not to publish it, TIME magazine and the Associated Press denied the public the opportunity to confront this unknown enemy and consider his excruciating final moments.

The image was not entirely lost. The Observer in the United Kingdom and Libération in France both published it after the American media refused. Many months later, the photo also appeared in American Photo, where it stoked some controversy, but came too late to have a significant impact.

All of this surprised the photographer, who had assumed the media would be only too happy to challenge the popular narrative of a clean, uncomplicated war. “When you have an image that disproves that myth,” he says today, “then you think it’s going to be widely published.”

“He was fighting to save his life to the very end, till he was completely burned up,” Jarecke says of the man he photographed. “He was trying to get out of that truck.”

“Let me say up front that I don’t like the press,” one Air Force officer declared, starting a January 1991 press briefing on a blunt note. The military’s bitterness toward the media was in no small part a legacy of the Vietnam coverage decades before. By the time the Gulf War started, the Pentagon had developed access policies that drew on press restrictions used in the U.S. wars in Grenada and Panama in the 1980s.

Under this so-called “pool” system, the military grouped print, TV, and radio reporters together with cameramen and photojournalists and sent these small teams on orchestrated press junkets, supervised by Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) who kept a close watch on their charges.

By the time Operation Desert Storm began in mid-January 1991, Kenneth Jarecke had decided he no longer wanted to be a combat photographer—a profession, he says, that “dominates your life.” But after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Jarecke developed a low opinion of the photojournalism coming out of Desert Shield, the pre-war operation to build up troops and equipment in the Gulf. “It was one picture after another of a sunset with camels and a tank,” he says. War was approaching and Jarecke says he saw a clear need for a different kind of coverage. He felt he could fill that void.

After the U.N.’s January 15, 1991 deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait came and went, Jarecke, now certain he should go, convinced TIMEmagazine to send him to Saudi Arabia. He packed up his cameras and shipped out from Andrews Air Force Base on January 17—the first day of the aerial bombing campaign against Iraq.

Out in the field with the troops, Jarecke recalls, “anybody could challenge you,” however absurdly and without reason. He remembers straying 30 feet away from his PAO and having a soldier bark at him, “What are you doing?” Jarecke retorted, “What do you mean what am I doing?”

Recounting the scene two decades later, Jarecke still sounds exasperated. “Some first lieutenant telling me, you know, where I’m gonna stand. In the middle of the desert.”

As the war picked up in early February, PAOs accompanied Jarecke and several other journalists as they attached to the Army XVIII Airborne Corps and spent two weeks at the Saudi-Iraqi border doing next to nothing. That didn’t mean nothing was happening—just that they lacked access to the action.

During the same period, military photojournalist Lee Corkran was embedding with the U.S. Air Force’s 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Doha, Qatar, and capturing their aerial bombing campaigns. He was there to take pictures for the Pentagon to use as it saw fit—not primarily for media use. In his images, pilots look over their shoulders to check on other planes.

Bombs hang off the jets’ wings, their sharp-edged darkness contrasting with the soft colors of the clouds and desert below. In the distance, the curvature of the earth is visible. On missions, Corkran’s plane would often flip upside down at high speed as the pilots dodged missiles, leaving silvery streaks in the sky. Gravitational forces multiplied the weight of his cameras—so much so that if he had ever needed to eject from the plane, his equipment could have snapped his neck. This was the air war that comprised most of the combat mission in the Gulf that winter.

The scenes Corkran witnessed weren’t just off-limits to Jarecke; they were also invisible to viewers in the United States, despite the rise of 24-hour reporting during the conflict. Gulf War television coverage, as Ken Burns wrote at the time, felt cinematic and often sensational, with “distracting theatrics” and “pounding new theme music,” as if “the war itself might be a wholly owned subsidiary of television.”

Some of the most widely seen images of the air war were shot not by photographers, but rather by unmanned cameras attached to planes and laser-guided bombs. Grainy shots and video footage of the roofs of targeted buildings, moments before impact, became a visual signature of a war that was deeply associated with phrases like “smart bombs” and “surgical strike.”

The images were taken at an altitude that erased the human presence on the ground. They were black-and-white shots, some with bluish or greenish casts. One from February 1991, published in the photo book In The Eye of Desert Storm by the now-defunct Sygma photo agency, showed a bridge that was being used as an Iraqi supply route. In another, black plumes of smoke from French bombs blanketed an Iraqi Republican Guard base like ink blots. None of them looked especially violent.

The hardware-focused coverage of the war removed the empathy that Jarecke says is crucial in photography, particularly photography that’s meant to document death and violence. “A photographer without empathy,” he remarks, “is just taking up space that could be better used.”

The burned-out truck, surrounded by corpses, on the “Highway of Death”

In late February, during the war’s final hours, Jarecke and the rest of his press pool drove across the desert, each of them taking turns behind the wheel. They had been awake for several days straight. “We had no idea where we were. We were in a convoy,” Jarecke recalls. He dozed off.

When he woke up, they had parked and the sun was about to rise. It was almost 6 o’clock in the morning. The group received word that a ceasefire was a few hours away, and Jarecke remembers another member of his pool cajoling the press officer into abandoning the convoy and heading toward Kuwait City.       

The group figured they were in southern Iraq, somewhere in the desert about 70 miles away from Kuwait City. They began driving toward Kuwait, hitting Highway 8 and stopping to take pictures and record video footage. They came upon a jarring scene: burned-out Iraqi military convoys and incinerated corpses. Jarecke sat in the truck, alone with Patrick Hermanson, a public affairs officer. He moved to get out of the vehicle with his cameras.

Hermanson found the idea of photographing the scene distasteful. When I asked him about the conversation, he recalled asking Jarecke, “What do you need to take a picture of that for?” Implicit in his question was a judgment: There was something dishonorable about photographing the dead.

“I’m not interested in it either,” Jarecke recalls replying. He told the officer that he didn’t want his mother to see his name next to photographs of corpses. “But if I don’t take pictures like these, people like my mom will think war is what they see in movies.” As Hermanson remembers, Jarecke added, “It’s what I came here to do. It’s what I have to do.”

“He let me go,” Jarecke recounts. “He didn’t try to stop me. He could have stopped me because it was technically not allowed under the rules of the pool. But he didn’t stop me and I walked over there.”

More than two decades later, Hermanson notes that Jarecke’s resulting picture was “pretty special.” He doesn’t need to see the photograph to resurrect the scene in his mind. “It’s seared into my memory,” he says, “as if it happened yesterday.”

The incinerated man stared back at Jarecke through the camera’s viewfinder, his blackened arm reaching over the edge of the truck’s windshield. Jarecke recalls that he could “see clearly how precious life was to this guy, because he was fighting for it. He was fighting to save his life to the very end, till he was completely burned up. He was trying to get out of that truck.”

He wrote later that year in American Photo magazine that he “wasn’t thinking at all about what was there; if I had thought about how horrific the guy looked I wouldn’t have been able to make the picture.” Instead, he maintained his emotional remove by attending to the more prosaic and technical elements of photography.

He kept himself steady; he concentrated on the focus. The sun shone in through the rear of the destroyed truck and backlit his subject. Another burned body lay directly in front of the vehicle, blocking a close-up shot, so Jarecke used the full 200mm zoom lens on his Canon EOS-1.

In his other shots of the same scene, it is apparent that the soldier could never have survived, even if he had pulled himself up out of the driver’s seat and through the window. The desert sand around the truck is scorched. Bodies are piled behind the vehicle, indistinguishable from one another. A lone, burned man lies face down in front of the truck, everything incinerated except the soles of his bare feet. In another photograph, a man lies spread-eagle on the sand, his body burned to the point of disintegration, but his face mostly intact and oddly serene. A dress shoe lies next to his body.

The group continued on across the desert, passing through more stretches of highway littered with the same fire-ravaged bodies and vehicles. Jarecke and his pool were possibly the first members of the Western media to come across these scenes, which appeared along what eventually became known as the Highway of Death, sometimes referred to as the Road to Hell.

The retreating Iraqi soldiers had been trapped. They were frozen in a traffic jam, blocked off by the Americans, by Mutla Ridge, by a minefield. Some fled on foot; the rest were strafed by American planes that swooped overhead, passing again and again to destroy all the vehicles. Milk vans, fire trucks, limousines, and one bulldozer appeared in the wreckage alongside armored cars and trucks, and T-55 and T-72 tanks. Most vehicles held fully loaded, but rusting, Kalashnikov variants.

According to descriptions from reporters like The New York Times’ R.W. Apple and theObserver’s Colin Smith, amid the plastic mines, grenades, ammunition, and gas masks, a quadruple-barreled anti-aircraft gun stood crewless and still pointing skyward. Personal items, like a photograph of a child’s birthday party and broken crayons, littered the ground beside weapons and body parts. The body count never seems to have been determined, although the BBC puts it in the “thousands.”

“In one truck,” wrote Colin Smith in a March 3 dispatch for the Observer, “the radio had been knocked out of the dashboard but was still wired up and faintly picking up some plaintive Arabic air which sounded so utterly forlorn I thought at first it must be a cry for help.”

Iraqi prisoners of war, captured by the U.S. military on their way to Baghdad

Following the February 28 ceasefire that ended Desert Storm, Jarecke’s film roll with the image of the incinerated soldier reached the Joint Information Bureau in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where the military coordinated and corralled the press, and where pool editors received and filed stories and photographs.

At that point, with the operation over, the photograph would not have needed to pass through a security screening, says Maryanne Golon, who was the on-site photo editor for TIME in Saudi Arabia and is now director of photography for TheWashington Post. Despite the obviously shocking content, she tells me she reacted like an editor in work mode. She selected it, without debate or controversy among the pool editors, to be scanned and transmitted. The image made its way back to the editors’ offices in New York City.

Jarecke also made his way from Saudi Arabia to New York. Passing through Heathrow Airport on a layover, he bought a copy of the March 3 edition of the Observer. He opened it to find his photograph on page 9, printed at the top across eight columns under the heading, “The real face of war.”

That weekend in March, when the Observer’s editors made the final decision to print the image, every magazine in North America made the opposite choice. Jarecke’s photograph did not even appear on the desks of most U.S. newspaper editors (the exception being The New York Times, which had a photo wire service subscription but nonetheless declined to publish the image).

The photograph was entirely absent from American media until far past the time when it was relevant to ground reporting from Iraq and Kuwait. Golon says she wasn’t surprised by this, even though she’d chosen to transmit it to the American press. “I didn’t think there was any chance they’d publish it,” she says.

Apart from the Observer, the only major news outlet to run the Iraqi soldier’s photograph at the time was the Parisian news daily Libération,which ran it on March 4. Both newspapers refrained from putting the image on the front page, though they ran it prominently inside.

But Aidan Sullivan, the pictures editor for the British Sunday Times, told the British Journal of Photography on March 14 that he had opted instead for a wide shot of the carnage: a desert highway littered with rubble. He challenged the Observer: “We would have thought our readers could work out that a lot of people had died in those vehicles. Do you have to show it to them?”

“There were 1,400 [Iraqi soldiers] in that convoy, and every picture transmitted until that one came, two days after the event, was of debris, bits of equipment,” Tony McGrath, the Observer’s pictures editor, was quoted as saying in the same article. “No human involvement in it at all; it could have been a scrapyard. That was some dreadful censorship.”

The media took it upon themselves to “do what the military censorship did not do,” says Robert Pledge, the head of the Contact Press Images photojournalism agency that has represented Jarecke since the 1980s. The night they received the image,

Pledge tells me, editors at the Associated Press’ New York City offices pulled the photo entirely from the wire service, keeping it off the desks of virtually all of America’s newspaper editors. It is unknown precisely how, why, or by whom the AP’s decision was handed down.

Vincent Alabiso, who at the time was the executive photo editor for the AP, later distanced himself from the wire service’s decision. In 2003, he admitted to American Journalism Review that the photograph ought to have gone out on the wire and argued that such a photo would today.

Yet the AP’s reaction was repeated at TIME and LIFE. Both magazines briefly considered the photo, unofficially referred to as “Crispy,” for publication. The photo departments even drew up layout plans. TIME, which had sent Jarecke to the Gulf in the first place, planned for the image to accompany a story about the Highway of Death.

“We fought like crazy to get our editors to let us publish that picture,” former photo director Michele Stephenson tells me. As she recalls, Henry Muller, the managing editor, told her, “TIME is a family magazine.” And the image was, when it came down to it, just too disturbing for the outlet to publish. It was, to her recollection, the only instance during the Gulf War where the photo department fought but failed to get an image into print.

James Gaines, the managing editor of LIFE, took responsibility for the ultimate decision not to run Jarecke’s image in his own magazine’s pages, despite photo director Peter Howe’s push to give it a double-page spread.

“We thought that this was the stuff of nightmares,” Gaines told Ian Buchanan of the British Journal of Photography in March 1991. “We have a fairly substantial number of children who read LIFE magazine,” he added. Even so, the photograph was published later that month in one of LIFE’s special issues devoted to the Gulf War—not typical reading material for the elementary-school set.

Stella Kramer, who worked as a freelance photo editor for LIFE on four special-edition issues on the Gulf War, tells me that the decision to not publish Jarecke’s photo was less about protecting readers than preserving the dominant narrative of the good, clean war. Flipping through 23-year-old issues, Kramer expresses clear distaste at the editorial quality of what she helped to create. The magazines “were very sanitized,” she says.

“So, that’s why these issues are all basically just propaganda.” She points out the picture on the cover of the February 25 issue: a young blond boy dwarfed by the American flag he’s holding. “As far as Americans were concerned,” she remarks, “nobody ever died.”

“If pictures tell stories,” Lee Corkran tells me, “the story should have a point. So if the point is the utter annihilation of people who were in retreat and all the charred bodies … if that’s your point, then that’s true. And so be it. I mean, war is ugly.

It’s hideous.” To Corkran, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his Gulf War combat photography, pictures like Jarecke’s tell important stories about the effects of American and allied airpower. Even Patrick Hermanson, the public affairs officer who originally protested the idea of taking pictures of the scene, now says the media should not have censored the photo.

The U.S. military has now abandoned the pool system it used in 1990 and 1991, and the Internet has changed the way photos reach the public. Even if the AP did refuse to send out a photo, online outlets would certainly run it, and no managing editor would be able to prevent it from being shared across various social platforms, or being the subject of extensive op-ed and blog commentary.

If anything, today’s controversies often center on the vast abundance of disturbing photographs, and the difficulty of putting them in a meaningful context.

Some have argued that showing bloodshed and trauma repeatedly and sensationally can dull emotional understanding. But never showing these images in the first place guarantees that such an understanding will never develop.

“Try to imagine, if only for a moment, what your intellectual, political, and ethical world would be like if you had never seen a photograph,” author Susie Linfield asks in The Cruel Radiance, her book on photography and political violence.

Photos like Jarecke’s not only show that bombs drop on real people; they also make the public feel accountable. As David Carr wrote in The New York Times in 2003, war photography has “an ability not just to offend the viewer, but to implicate him or her as well.”

As an angry 28-year-old Jarecke wrote in American Photo in 1991: “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.”

Isis captured 2,300 Humvee armoured vehicles from Iraqi forces in Mosul

Iraq’s prime minister reveals extent of equipment loss when Isis overran the army last year in the country’s second-largest city

Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armoured vehicles when the Islamic State jihadist group overran the northern city of Mosul, the prime minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday.

“In the collapse of Mosul, we lost a lot of weapons,” Abadi said in an interview with Iraqiya state TV. “We lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul alone.”

While the exact price of the vehicles varies depending on how they are armoured and equipped, it is clearly a hugely expensive loss that has boosted Isis’s capabilities.

Last year, the US State Department approved a possible sale to Iraq of 1,000 Humvees with increased armour, machine-guns, grenade launchers, other gear and support, which was estimated to cost $579 million.

Clashes began in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, late on June 9, 2014, and Iraqi forces lost it the following day to Isis, which spearheaded an offensive that overran much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland.

The militants gained ample arms, ammunition and other equipment when multiple Iraqi divisions fell apart in the country’s north, abandoning gear and shedding uniforms in their haste to flee.

Isis has used captured Humvees, which were provided to Iraq by the United States, in subsequent fighting, rigging some with explosives for suicide bombings.

Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias have regained significant ground from Isis in Diyala and Salaheddin provinces north of Baghdad.

But that momentum was slashed in mid-May when Isis overran Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where Iraqi forces had held out against militants for more than a year.

British hate preacher BACKS the Paris massacres and tells his followers ‘Britain is the enemy of Islam’

Mizanur Rahman defended the  Charlie Hebdo massacre and said ‘insulting Islam…they can’t expect a different result'

 

  • Mizanur Rahman defended murders of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo offices
  • Hate cleric said: ‘Insulting Islam…they can’t expect a different result’
  • Rahman also praised Al Qaeda and said ‘Britain is the enemy of Islam’ 
  • Experts have warned the sermon could incite further terror killings
  • He is currently on bail after he was arrested on suspicion of terror offences last year

 

A British hate preacher backed the Paris massacres just hours after the bloody events unfolded and told his followers ‘Britain is the enemy of Islam’.

Cleric Mizanur Rahman, of Palmers Green, north London, defended the brutal murder of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices, saying ‘insulting Islam…they can’t expect a different result.’

Experts have warned the sermon, which backed the jihadists who killed 17 people over three days in the French capital, could incite further killings.

Speaking to an audience in London which was streamed online to thousands of his followers, Rahman praised Al Qaeda and said ‘Britain is the enemy of Islam.’

Sam Westrop, director of counter-extremism group Stand for Peace told the Sunday Mirror: ‘His kind of rhetoric is not an echo of Islamist terror and extremism – it is a driving force behind it.

‘It is truly reprehensible for him to speak like this, especially so soon after Paris.’

His speech on Friday night came to light after reporters from the Sunday Mirror gained access to an online live stream – they then notified the Metropolitan Police.

The newspaper reported that in the video Rahman claimed France was carrying out ‘ethnic cleansing’, and told his followers what happened in France was ‘war.’

Members of the public light candles in tribute to the 17 dead in Paris following three days of terror attacks

He said: ‘These cartoons is part of their own war, is part of the psychological warfare…you know what happens when you insult Mohammed.’

Rahman, who also goes by the name of Abu Baraa, is currently on police bail after he and others were arrested last year on suspicion of terror offences.

Rahman, was jailed for six years in 2007 after calling for British soldiers to be brought back from Iraq in bodybags.

He manages the Siddeeq Academy in Tower Hamlets, an Islamic tuition centre in East London.

In May last year Rahman was investigated by police after a video showed him praising the Boko Haram militants who kidnapped more than 300 Nigerian schoolgirls.

He said at the time: ‘People want to make it out as though history began on the day these girls were taken from – sorry I should say these women – were taken from this high school in Nigeria.

‘They didn’t do to these girls what the Nigerian government had been doing to the Muslims all these years.

‘They didn’t rape anybody. They didn’t torture. They didn’t murder any of these girls.’

On another occasion a court heard he told a crowd of around 300 people near the Danish Embassy in central London that British and American troops should return in body bags.

The Old Bailey saw film of Rahman in which he said: ‘We want to see them coming home in body bags.

‘We want to see their blood running in the streets of Baghdad.’

He added: ‘We want to see the Mujahideen shoot down their planes the way we shoot down birds, we want to see their tanks burn in the way we burn their flags.’

Rahman also had placards calling for the annihilation and beheading of those who insulted Islam.

Tensions Between Kurds And Iran-Backed Militias Are Starting To Show In Iraq

Members of the Kurdish security forces take part in an intensive security deployment after clashes with Islamic State militants in Jalawla, Diyala province November 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

JALAWLA, Iraq (Reuters) – The blood of two militants killed during Islamic State’s rout in the Iraqi town of Jalawla has yet to be washed away, but a turf war is already brewing between Kurdish and Shi’ite forces that jointly drove the insurgents out.

The recapture of disputed territory and towns such as Jalawla is reopening rivalries over the boundary between areas of Kurdish control and those administered by the Shi’ite-led Baghdad government.

Local Sunni Arabs displaced in the fighting have little choice but to align themselves with one side or the other.

Not long after Islamic State began its offensive across Iraq this summer, Kurdish commanders in the eastern province of Diyala invited the head of the largest Sunni Arab tribe in Jalawla to discuss jointly resisting the insurgents.

“We sat with them here in this very building,” said Brigadier General Barzan Ali Shawas, describing the meeting with Sheikh Faisal al-Karwi in a Kurdish peshmerga barracks on the banks of the Diyala river, lined with date palms.

“We said: What do you want? True, you are Arabs and we are Kurds, but the unity of Iraq is in our interest.” The sheikh had replied he would consider the Kurds’ offer to set up a unit for local Sunnis under peshmerga command, but he never came back with an answer.

Since that June day, Jalawla changed hands several times, until the peshmerga and Shi’ite militia drove the militants out on Nov. 23. According to Shawas, they agreed before the offensive that the Shi’ite militia would withdraw as soon as it was over and hand full control to the Kurds, but that has yet to happen.

Jalawla, which lies about 150 km (90 miles) northeast of Baghdad, is overwhelmingly Arab and was under the central government’s jurisdiction until Islamic State overran it. However, the Kurds say it was theirs until the 1970s, when Saddam Hussein brought in Sheikh Faisal’s Karwiya tribe to “Arabise” the area.

Now it is deserted except for stray animals, Shi’ite militiamen and peshmerga, marking their territory with flags and graffiti. The atmosphere is tense.

“Jalawla is Kurdistani,” is spray-painted on the front of a bakery. Fridges dragged into the road as barricades are beginning to rust.

ISIS iraq

Shi’ite fighters drive a pick-up truck with a picture of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the bonnet. One gets out and approaches the Kurds, finger on the trigger of his rifle, to ask if they have permission to be there from the head of the Shi’ite Khorasani Brigades militia.

“If they retain a fanatic stance about the areas they have taken, there’s no way we will allow them,” said Jawad al-Hosnawi, the Khorasani Brigades’ field commander.

Iraqi Kurds have controlled an autonomous region since the early 1990s and their fighters moved into other disputed areas this year to combat Islamic State.

But Hosnawi rejects any further Kurdish ambitions. “Our problem is if they want to separate from Iraq or form an ethnic state – no way,” he said.

RESIDENTS FEAR MILITIAS

Cats pick through uncollected rubbish in Jalawla and a cow strolls down the street, oblivious to the danger of thousands of mines planted by the militants. A burst of gunfire and the occasional thud of an explosion can be heard.

Shawas promised civilians would be allowed to return, except those who sided with Islamic State, once a bomb disposal team finishes its work, and water and electricity are restored.

Hosnawi said the Kurds were bulldozing Sunni homes to discourage them from coming back.

Many Jalawla residents are camping a few kilometers away on a football pitch, its perimeter fence draped with laundry. They celebrated the news that Islamic State had been forced from Jalawla and the adjacent town of Saadiya.

Most said they had fled not the militants, but air strikes targeting them. Now they fear the Shi’ite forces, who have killed Sunnis and destroyed their homes in other towns they recaptured from Islamic States.

“We want to go back but the militias will slaughter us,” said a 40-year-old farmer from Saadiya who was too afraid to give his name. “We ask the peshmerga to annex Jalawla and Saadiya to the (Kurdistan) region so we can live in peace.”

To slow enemy advances, Islamic State blew up bridges across the milky waters of the Diyala river, into which some militants flung themselves to escape when the game was up.

The blood of two insurgents who did not get away stains the entrance to a shop that used to sell roofing. Its shutters are down now and daubed with Shi’ite slogans.

Sheikh Faisal confirmed rejecting the Kurds’ proposal, and says his tribe had fought the peshmerga to prevent them taking over a base abandoned by the Iraqi army.

“They won’t let Arabs return, mostly the Karwiya. They want to take Jalawla. It’s an Arab area,” he said by telephone from the nearby town of Baquba.

He denies collaborating with Islamic State, as the Kurds allege, and says the militants blew up his house in Jalawla because he refused to join them.

Unlike the displaced residents, Sheikh Faisal’s nephew Zumhar Jamal al-Karwi said Jalawla should remain under the Baghdad government, not the Kurds.

“We won’t accept Jalawla remaining in Kurdish clutches. If they cling to it by force, it will be retaken by force,” Zumhar said. “We are prepared to fight against the Kurds alongside the militias unless the peshmerga leave Jalawla.”

Bodies of 150 Sunni Tribesmen Found in Anbar Province Mass Grave

Hit Anbar Province Iraq ISIS

Iraqi security officials have reported that the bodies of 150 members of an Iraqi Sunni tribe fighting the Islamic State (Isis) alongside the military have been found in a mass grave in Iraq’s restive Anbar province.

The development came one day after Islamic State reportedly lined up and shot dead 30 Sunni men in the same area.

Anbar provincial chairman Sabah Karhout said the Sunni tribesmen, allied with the government and members of the security forces, were captured when jihadists conquered the town of Hit, which is 140km (85 miles) west of the capital, Baghdad.

Earlier in October, Iraqi troops helped by Sunni fighters from the Albu Nimir tribe were forced out from the town, Anbar’s fifth-largest city, after heavy clashes with IS.

During its advance, in September IS seized the Iraqi military base of Camp Saqlawiyah, 45 miles (70km) west of Baghdad, amid claims the government failed to provide adequate support to its troops stationed there.

The Obama administration and Iraq have teamed up with some Sunni tribesmen to fight against IS in the hope of rekindling the same Sunni uprising that shattered an al-Qaida-linked group at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil strife between 2005 and 2007.

At the time, the US military recruited and paid Sunni tribes to lead the struggle against the jihadists. But the Shi’ite-dominated government of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki fuelled sectarianism and disenfranchised the Sunni community from power, driving them to support IS in the first instance.

The US believe Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s newly formed government can be more inclusive of Sunni Muslims and Kurds, helping the American-led coalition to stop IS.

Isis Crisis: Marine Becomes First US Casualty of War

Iraq crisis and first US casualty announced

A US marine has been killed in Baghdad, during the ongoing military offensive against Isis militants in Iraq, marking the first US casualty during the battle against the militants.

The US Department of Defense said Marine Lance Corporal Sean P Neal, 19, died of a “non-combat” injury.

Authorities have not revealed exact details of his death, as it is currently under investigation.

Neal, a mortarman, was one of the 1,600-strong US troops engaged in Operation Inherent Resolve, the codename for the military campaign against Isis Islamists in Iraq and Syria.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command.

Neal is said to be the first member of US personnel to die in Iraq since US troops pulled out from the strife-torn country three years ago.

However, US naval forces had earlier acknowledged that a marine had gone missing on 3 October.

Neal joined the Marine Corps in July 2013 and was promoted to lance corporal 1 September.

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