The mayor of Tel Kepe, Mr. Basim Bello, tells us from Alqosh about the situation after Tel Kepe, the last town of the Nineveh Plains, was liberated from IS on Thursday January 19, 2017. During the 2,5 years of IS-occupation, Tel Kepe was emptied of its Assyrian inhabitants, numbering around 30 000 people. Only a handful elderly did not managed to escape in August 2014 when IS attacked the town. The remaining part is about 2-3 000 Sunni Arabs, some of them cooperating with IS, looting or occupying Assyrian homes. These collaborators are going to face lawsuits or be driven out of Tel Kepe, according to Mr. Bello.
The security is now kept by militias like Haras Ninawa (belongs to former Mosul Mayor Athil Nujaifi) and The Babylon Brigade (led by Rayan al-Kaldani), while the local Assyrian forces of NPU are denied entrance to Tel Kepe. NPU needs to pass through Kurdish Peshmerga or Asayish checkpoints, while the others do not when they come from Mosul in the south. Mr. Bello says Assyrian leaders have been in touch with the Kurds but did not get permission for NPU to enter Tel Kepe. “Our wish is that our own youth must keep the security in Tel Kepe and elsewhere in the Nineveh Plains. We do not trust Baghdad or Arbil when it comes to our security and need international protection”, he says.
On January 26, 2017 the Iraqi Parliament decided to consider the entire Nineveh Plains as a disastrous area, which means the state must fund the rebuilding and give compensation to the affected citizens. However, the Sunni group tried to stop the decision, claiming there is nothing called by the name Nineveh Plains. If the political conflict between Bagdad and Arbil continues, there is a risk that the Assyrians, Yezidiz and other small groups in the Nineveh Plains end up in the hands of terrorists again, Mr. Bello warns.