Iraq News

ISIS targets IDPs to avenge its losses

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

Wounded civilians at a camp in Rajm al-Salibi area receive medical attention after the camp was targeted by 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' suicide bombers on May 2nd. [Photo courtesy of Ammar Saleh]

Wounded civilians at a camp in Rajm al-Salibi area receive medical attention after the camp was targeted by 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' suicide bombers on May 2nd. [Photo courtesy of Ammar Saleh]

The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has been targeting civilians at refugee assembly points and camps, including Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing the battles in their countries.

Experts who spoke with Diyaruna said ISIS seeks to retaliate against civilians after the mounting losses it has suffered recently, and to keep them in the areas under its control by threatening to attack their families and relatives who escaped.

A May 2nd attack on a camp in the Rajm al-Salibi area just inside Syrian territory left at least 46 people dead, including 31 civilians.

At least five suicide bombers blew themselves up inside and outside the camp in al-Hasakeh province, AFP reported.

ISIS claimed the attack on the makeshift camp near the border with Iraq where some 300 families were waiting to cross into territory held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"It should come as no surprise that the group would target civilians in Syria or anywhere else in the world," al-Hasakeh's National Peace Council member Ammar Saleh told Diyaruna.

Since its inception, the group has considered civilians a primary and legitimate target, and has directed most of its attacks and operations against them, he said.

The group has recently stepped up its attacks on civilians in Syria in an attempt to "pressure and silence the populace even in the areas to which they escape to convey to them that it can reach them wherever they flee", he said.

"These massacres may also be messages directed at civilians in the areas still under its control that it would target their relatives and families if they rebel against it or put up any kind of resistance," he added.

Targeting civilian gatherings

The attack on the Rajm al-Salibi camp, which is an assembly point for civilians fleeing from Deir Ezzor and other areas controlled by ISIS, underscores the extent of the group's criminality, said Haval Abbas, a nurse with the Kurdish Red Crescent.

A number of ISIS elements snuck up to a security checkpoint near the camp, where one of them blew himself up and the rest opened fire indiscriminately, causing a large number of civilian casualties, he told Diyaruna.

"Their criminality did not end there, as four suicide bombers infiltrated into the camp and one of them was able to blow himself up," he said.

The others were killed by the SDF before they could detonate their explosives, he added.

The attack came in conjunction with a suicide attack on an Asayesh force centre in the city of al-Shaddadi where a terrorist blew himself up inside the building.

The centre provides services to civilians, Abbas said. "Hence, many of the area's residents were gathered there at the time of the attack and a large number of them was killed or wounded."

Other attacks against civilians include a January 21st car bomb explosion claimed by ISIS inside al-Rukban camp in the no-man's land between Jordan and Syria.

The attack killed nine people and wounded dozens, including women and children.

On April 16th, a car bomb left at least 13 people dead at al-Mabroukat camp near the town of al-Hasakeh, where civilians fleeing from the al-Raqa battles have been gathering, Abbas said.

Turning civilians into human shields

"In addition to attacking IDP camps, ISIS has also been opening fire indiscriminately on civilians who try to escape from areas under its control," said Kurdish Red Crescent administrative staff member Akeed Ibrahim.

The group reached the "height of criminality by putting the lives of civilians in direct danger in the city of al-Tabqa by deploying its elements between and inside homes to protect them from SDF gunfire, thus turning civilians into human shields", he told Diyaruna.

"The targeting of civilians has always been done in the same way since the group’s inception," he said. "There is no difference between the direct targeting of the people of Kobani [in 2014] or the people of the al-Jazira [canton] today."

"Even the planting of improvised explosive devices is being done in the same indiscriminate way that aims only to claim the largest number of lives possible," Ibrahim said.

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