“We are not good,” said Rizgar Jalal, a villager from Zanqari. “There is no government force in this region… From here all the way down to Hamrin, I do not believe there is a government force.”
Out of fear of ISIS “we do not sleep at night," said Jalal, calling for the deployment of security forces.
Last week, his uncle, who is a shepherd, had seen 10 to 12 ISIS militants approaching him outside the village while he was grazing his sheep. He fled the area, leaving his sheep behind.
A Kakei brigade operating under the command of the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi is in the area, but they acknowledge they don’t have the capability to fill the security vacuum left when the Peshmerga pulled out.
Officials from the brigade say they have asked Baghdad numerous times to supply arms so they can defend themselves, but the Iraqi government has not responded.
“The region is very wide and there is only this battalion which has filled the places of three large Peshmerga brigades,” Saed Omed, commander of the Kakei Battalion in the Babylon Brigade of the Hashd al-Shaabi, told Rudaw.
“No force has been able to reach these villages,” he said. “ISIS had been present there in the past and the group’s remnants are still there.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS militarily defeated in Iraq last December. But the group remains a serious security threat, largely in the Kirkuk area and in Anbar. Recently they have carried out several hit-and-run operations against Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries. ISIS killed 27 Hashd fighters in mid-February.
Iraqi forces have launched a number of military operations against the group in the Kirkuk area.
Related: ISIS militants raid by night, hide during the day in Kirkuk.