After Iraqi bat­tles, res­i­dents choose dis­place­ment

The Covington News - - WORLD -

GWER, Iraq (AP) — Mis­spelled graf­fiti on walls pock­marked by bul­lets and torn up pro­pa­ganda stick­ers make up the few re­main­ing traces of the Is­lamic State group in this north­ern Iraqi ghost town after Kur­dish forces fi­nally man­aged to free it from mil­i­tant con­trol.

Also miss­ing are as many as 20,000 res­i­dents who once lived in the town and are now too scared to re­turn after Kur­dish pesh­merga forces re­claimed Gwer from mil­i­tants last month with the help of Amer­i­can airstrikes.

All that’s left are empty build­ings with the phrase “Is­lamic State” painted on walls. In many in­stances it is mis­spelled to read “Salam State” — or state of peace — a sign that many of the mil­i­tants hold­ing the town were prob­a­bly for­eign fight­ers. Torn-up stick­ers with the group’s black flag logo lit­ter the streets. Much of the graf­fiti has since been painted over with “long live Kur­dis­tan.”

Res­i­dents of this mod­est town have not been cel­e­brat­ing its lib­er­a­tion. The streets, which buzzed with cars and pedes­tri­ans as re­cently as two months ago, are de­serted. Since Au­gust 10, when pesh­merga forces were able to re­take the towns of Gwer and neigh­bor­ing Makhmour, hardly any­one has re­turned home.

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