This is not a movie, a TV series, a novel or a comedy. It is a new tactic, a new military strategy practiced by the militant groups in Diyala province, east of Baghdad, to attack Kurdish populated areas discreetly away from the eyes of the security forces.
Armed groups in Jalawla, and Saadiya districts of Diyala where only a handful of Kurdish families still live – the majority fled for their lives – militants poison dogs of the Kurdish families which are being used as their nigh time alarm system.
Because the dogs usually bark at the sight of foreigners approaching the Kurdish areas, or in particular while trying to place something suspicious. The use of dogs by the Kurdish families was an attempt to counter attacks by Arab militants who have actively targeted Kurds since the fall of Saddam Hussein in those areas.
To disable the alarm system, the militants have also developed the “Kill The Dogs First” strategy. The militants usually do so at night when there are no security forces around the neighborhoods. They give the dogs poisoned food to kill them. Why poisoning them and not just shoot them and run? Because if they shoot the dogs the owners, or security forces might show up with their guns. But the poison strategy silently kills the dogs without anyone knowing about it, and also the poison takes some time to kill the dog which again gives the insurgents time to prepare before they carry out the attack. If they just shoot the dog, not only the owners or the security forces might appear, but also people will be alarmed that attacks might follow.
A Kurdish citizen in Jalawla who declined to be named for security reasons says that “this is an expected scenario by the terrorists. A while ago, you wouldn’t stand the smell of rotten dogs that had been poisoned and died in the Kurdish neighborhoods”. Kurdish families in the disputed areas of Diyala province have complained of attacks by insurgents groups and also accuse the Iraqi police in the province of not protecting the Kurdish families.
In August 2011, Kurdish Peshmarga (security) forces were deployed to the disputed areas of Diyala province in response to complaints from Kurds living there saying they are under attack from armed groups of Arab insurgents. A Kurdish parliamentary delegation to Diyala in August 2011, found that since the end of 2010, some 500 Kurds had been killed in the province by armed groups and over 1,400 families forced into exile fearing for their lives.
According to reports by Kurdish officials in Diyala, the series of bombings across the country, including disputed areas in Kirkuk and Diyala, in late February this year, caused another wave of displacements for the Kurdish families in Jalawla. “Since the bombings on February 23, some 170 Kurdish families have left Jalawla and left for either Kalar or Khanaqin districts [mainly Kurdish populated districts] and they are currently living in poor conditions” KDP’s Jalawla official told AKnews.
The official said since the fall of the former Iraqi regime in 2003, over 1,300 Kurds had been killed by the insurgent groups in the disputed areas of Diyala and over 1,700 families had been displaced.
In 2003, Arab families made up 49% of the overall population whereas today, that figure has jumped to 77%. In the meantime, the number of Kurds in the region has fallen from 33% in 2003 to just 18% today. In nearby Saadiyah the Arab population rose from 37% to 82% in the same period while the Kurdish population plummeted from 31% to 0.07%.
The Arab militants groups are not only attacking the Kurdish families in the disputed areas of Diyla, but also attacking any Arab tribal leader who has friendly relations with the Kurdish parties. On March 3, militants had place two bombs in front of the house of Talab Abdulkarim, a dignitary who heads the Nada tribe, in the multi-ethnic town of Mandali in an attempt to kill him. But eh bombs were disarmed.
Police said: “Abdulkarim is close to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) [a major Kurdish party led by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani] and therefore they wanted to kill him”
A second Arab ethnic tribal leader has fled his hometown of Saadiya to Khanaqin because he had attended a welcome part for the Kurdistan Region’s President Massoud Barzani who visited Khanqin district – a mainly Kurdish populated district in Diyala.
He is now in Khanaqin and being protected by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) officials.