Displaced Iraqis, who fled the fight between Iraqi forces and ISIS in Tal Afar, arrive at the Badush camp, 150 kilometres southeast of Tal Afar, on August 25, 2017. Photo: AFP/ Ahmad al-Rubaye
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A Kurdish official has said in the eight-day-long Tal Afar operation a large number of ISIS militants including a Chinese and a German family have fled the city and turned themselves over to Peshmerga forces.
"Until now, 100 ISIS militants have fled Tal Afar and surrendered to the Peshmerga," a Peshmerga official, who did not want to be named, told Rudaw that number included a Chinese and a German family.
He recounted the story of the Chinese family turning themselves in to the Peshmerga. "At dawn on August 21, a family approached the Peshmerga frontlines. It became clear that they were not of Arab origin. Only a woman [among them] spoke a little Arabic. It turned out they were Chinese."
After surrendering, a man calling himself Abu Turkistani Chini recalled to the Peshmerga official their journey to Iraq to join ISIS.
“They said they were sent to Iraq through ISIS sleeper cells two years ago," the Peshmerga stated. "They said once here they were asked to go to the battlefield and fight until martyrdom to go Paradise.”
The Peshmerga also said that the family from China had explained that their economic condition was poor, so when joining ISIS, they were told by the group's militants that they would get a monthly salary of $300.
The ISIS member said, "Therefore, we decided to travel to Iraq," according to the Peshmerga.
Abu Turkistani told the Peshmerga he had initially regretted the journey and avoided the battlefields, saving his family from the fighting.
Abu Turkistani had said that he would defect wherever there was fighting. He had gone to Tal Afar from Mosul, and from here to there to keep his family from being victimized, the Peshmerga said.
Turkistani's wife translated between her husband and the Peshmerga.
The Peshmerga commander recounted the woman from China’s conversation: "In China we are not allowed to have many children. When I realized it was allowed to have as many children as you like according to Islam, we decided with my husband to come to Iraq to have kids."
China’s Consulate General in Erbil did not respond to Rudaw English’s request for a comment.
Iraqi forces declared that they were in full control of Tal Afar on Sunday just more than a week after an estimated 50,000 soldiers and paramilitary forces began operations against some 2,000 ISIS militants in the city west of Mosul.
Another family from Germany fleeing from Tal Afar had surrendered to the Peshmerga in the region while the operation to retake the city was underway, the Peshmerga official told Rudaw.
"Last week a German family consisting of a wife and a husband turned themselves in to the Peshmerga," he said, without elaborating.
Germany later confirmed with Rudaw English that it was aware of the detentions and is providing assistance.
“The German Consulate in Erbil knows about these cases of detention and provides consular assistance," Rudaw English heard from German officials.
The official added that according to their information some 300 families whose husbands were ISIS members, have hidden in al-A’yaziyah, a town 11 kilometers northwest of Tel Afar city that is yet to be retaken from the militants by Iraqi security forces.
Concerning those ISIS militants surrendering to the Peshmerga, Ashti Kochar, the Peshmerga's head of East Tigris Asayesh (security) told Rudaw, "They are very afraid of Hashd al-Shaabi militants, and therefore turning themselves over to the Peshmerga."
Kochar earlier told Rudaw that they had freed seven Yezidi women and one Christian woman who were fleeing clashes between Iraqi forces and ISIS militants.
Updated to reflect the German officials' response to Rudaw English.