Syrian refugee camp. AP Photo
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The Asayish (security) forces of Sulaimani have arrested 30 Arab refugees in recent months for allegedly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, or ISIS, and a number of those detained were recruited as fighters for the extremist group.
With the advance of ISIS fighters, thousands of Arab families fled from Anbar and Tikrit and took refuge in the cities of the Kurdistan region. Many of those refugee families were settled in camps, while others rented houses.
Brigadier Ahmed Nadir, chief of the western branch of the Sulaimani Asayish in Chamchamal town, told Rudaw his forces had arrested 30 Arab refugees in the last six months. The arrests, which were carried out according to Article No.4 of the Terrorism Law, took place in Chamchamal and the districts of Bazyan, Takyia, and Shorish. All the arrested individuals were originally residents of Anbar province, Nadir said.
According to the information given by the Asayish, a number of the arrested individuals formerly pledged allegiance to ISIS, some were ISIS recruits, and those remaining face charges and are being interrogated.
“The arrested individuals were not planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Kurdistan, but were arrested for their ties to ISIS,” said Nadir.
Regarding the potential threat from other Arab refugees, the Asayish chief said: “The directives we receive from the Kurdistan region’s Asayish require the Arab refugee families to fill out an information form. Some of them are required to give insurance and leave their IDs with the security forces. A number of them are under constant surveillance. Not all of them are bad people.”
Nadir said the Arab detainees were planning to hide in Chamchamal and surrounding areas.
“During the interrogations they have admitted whether they were still in touch with ISIS or not, but we know they were secretly communicating with ISIS,” he added.
According to official records, there are 250,00 people living in Chamchamal and more than 25,000 Arab live in the area.
Amanj Muhammad, mayor of Chamchamal, said that he did not support settling so many Arabs in their region. He said that in addition to creating housing problems, many of the Kurds in Chamchamal had lost family members to former dictator Saddam Hussein's various oppression campaigns and they see some Sunni Arabs as former supporters of the central government.
The district of Bazyan, which is administratively tied to Sulaimani, has a population of 55,000 people and they have received 5,000 Arab refugees.
“A noticeable number of Sunni Arabs support ISIS,” said Luqman Rauf, mayor of Bazyan.
“In addition to those arrested, a number of Arab families from Allayi Camp left to join ISIS.”