ISIS militants have been burning the crops of farmers to the south and west of Kirkuk. This time, they have deliberately attacked as Iftar approaches, knowing that farmers are less able to respond after long hours of fasting.
Two weeks have passed since the first farmland fire, which is believed to have been caused by ISIS, erupted in Iraq. Amidst ongoing efforts by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to curb this recent phenomenon, ISIS sleeper cells continue to destroy the livelihoods of farmers in Kirkuk and other Iraqi provinces by burning down agricultural lands.
Security officers say that in addition to the farm burning, the militant group is ambushing and killing farmers attempting to put off the fires. “After failing to confront the security forces, we noticed that the terrorist group began to pursue other methods – targeting citizens and targeting their livelihood,” said an official in Kirkuk. “These groups [ISIS] began to burn these crops to harm the farmers and create a kind of problem within the province.”
According to the Directorate of Civil Defence in Kirkuk, ISIS militants are taking advantage of the hours in which the farmers and security forces break their fasts in order to plant bombs and set fire to the farms.
“Several fires occurred during the month of Ramadan exactly at Iftar [breaking the fast] because everyone is exhausted,” said Brigadier General Saleh Mohammed Ali, the director of the Civil Defence forces in Kirkuk. “However, we managed to control these fires in the Rashad area and the Abbasid neighbourhood of Hawija.”
While there was initial confusion over the perpetrators of these fires, ISIS recently issued a statement claiming the fires in both Iraq and Syria. Security experts say that despite the militant group’s defeat in Iraq in December 2017, ISIS sleeper cells are exploiting security breaches to target citizens and their means of income. In response, the analysts propose that more security forces be sent to those areas to prevent ISIS from attacking civilians.
“We must not leave any single point without protection, and protection should not be limited because our men will fall victim,” said an Iraqi security analyst. “Yesterday, they killed a group of youngsters in agricultural lands.”
With these fires continuing to take place throughout different provinces in Iraq, the ISF and the officials in Kirkuk should take more intensive measures to prevent ISIS from carrying out attacks on citizens.