As artillery shells landed in the village of Qara Qosh, which is largely Christian, and plumes of smoke from the explosions drifted across the dry Nineveh plain just 25 miles from the Kurdish capital, Erbil, panicked residents fled in cars and pickups piled with their belongings, creating long lines at checkpoints guarded by the Kurdish pesh merga.
“We heard the sound of artillery,” said Ahmed, a father of three. “It was very close to us; the windows were shaking, and when I looked at my family’s faces, I had to leave.”
He said he had fled a village near Sinjar, where there was fighting over the weekend, for Qara Qosh, but now was forced to flee again. “Everyone in my family was afraid to stay,” said Ahmed, who declined to give his last name.
The Caliphate has paused in its efforts to take Baghdad, in order to secure more oil fields and the massive dam at Mosul. Ownership of the dam would allow them to hold much of the rest of Iraq hostage to severe flooding.
UPDATE: IS/Caliphate now holds the Mosul Dam.