Shingal, Kurdistan (KurdPress) – The tunnels were complete with sleeping quarters, wired with electricity and fortified with sandbags and had boxes of U.S.-made ammunition, medicines and copies of the Quran stashed on shelves.
The Associated Press obtained extensive video footage of the tunnels, which were uncovered by the Kurdish forces that took the city in northwestern Iraq earlier this month after more than a year of IS rule.
“We found between 30 and 40 tunnels inside Sinjar (Arabic name of Shingal),” said Shamo Eado, a Peshmerga commander from Shingal. “It was like a network inside the city.”
“Daesh (IS) dug these trenches in order to hide from airstrikes and have free movement underground as well as to store weapons and explosives,” Eado said using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “This was their military arsenal.”
The video, shot by a freelancer touring the town with Kurdish fighters, showed two tunnels running several hundred meters, each starting and ending from houses, through holes knocked in walls or floors.
The narrow tunnels, carved in the rock apparently with jackhammers or other handheld equipment, are just tall enough for a man to stand in. Rows of sandbags line sections of the walls, electrical wires power fans and lights and metal braces reinforce the ceilings. One section of the tunnel resembled a bunker. Dusty copies of the Quran sit above piles of blankets and pillows. Prescription drugs, painkillers and antibiotics, lie scattered along the floor.
In another section of the tunnel, the footage shows stocks of ammunition, including American-made cartridges and bomb-making tools.
“This has been part of IS’ strategy from the very beginning,” said Lina Khatib a senior research associate at the Arab Reform initiative, a Paris-based think-tank. “IS has been well prepared for this kind of intervention.”
The Islamic State group took control of Shingal in August 2014, killing and capturing thousands of the town’s mostly Yazidi residents.
After pushing IS out of Shingal, Peshmerga officials and local residents have uncovered two mass graves in the area. One, not far from the city center is estimated to hold 78 elderly women’s bodies. The second grave uncovered about 9 miles (15 kilometers) west of the city contained between 50 and 60 bodies of men, women and children.
Eado, the Peshmerga commander, said that as Kurdish forces clear Shingal of explosives, he expects to find more tunnels and evidence of atrocities.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.
This report was prepared by KurdPress.