NORTHERN IRAQ— The extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seized control of the western half of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city on June 6. Three days later, Iraqi security forces retreated, leaving the entire city in the hands of the jihadis. According to the U.N., up to half a million people have fled the city, raising concerns over a new humanitarian crisis.
At 8:00 in the morning the crowds have already formed. At the Kelek checkpoint, about 50 kilometers outside of Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, some families arrive before dawn.
Two days earlier the Jihadi group ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, sending hundreds of thousands of frightened residents fleeing for safety.
College student Abdulrahman Yaseen, fled with his family.
“I see everything is destroyed," Yaseen said. "Everything. Cars and homes and city. The whole city is destroyed. All the city."
Further up the road outside the village of Shaquli, it’s easy to see what a destructive force the jihadis are. Two days earlier, ISIS attacked an Iraqi Army checkpoint with car bombs so powerful the blast pushed the cars into a nearby graveyard.
Aqil, a resident of the village saw the attack.
“There was a unit of the Iraqi Army as well as the Peshmerga [Kurdish fighters]. At 8pm the car bombs came and exploded. Nine people died.”
But, for some, like Mohammed, who fled with his daughter Dima, it’s not fear of the jihadis that’s making them leave. It’s the Iraqi Army. They are worried that the Iraqi military will retaliate as they have in Fallujah by bombing the city with artillery and mortars.
“Two days ago the fighters came to the city, and the Iraqi army retreated without fighting," he said. "There’s no fighting now, but there was a speech from Maliki saying that he’ll come and retake the city. We fled because we’re afraid for our children and families.”
Back at the Kalek checkpoint, Kurdish security forces keep a controlling eye on those trying to come into the relative security of their autonomous region. As most of the rest of the country slips into chaos, the possibility of the Kurds extending that control is growing.
Who will eventually control Mosul is still not clear, but as the lines of refugees continue to grow, one thing is for certain: a new wave of violence has returned to Iraq.