Iraqi Kurd families are returning to the town of Makhmur near Arbil, after Peshmerga fighters retook the town from Islamic State militants threatening to split Iraq in their quest for territory. Mana Rabiee reports.
A Kurdish family returns to their home near Arbil. They're among dozens of families in the mostly Kurdish town of Makhmur to COME home. Two days of heavy clashes between Islamic State militants and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have put the town BACK in the hands of Kurds. The logos of the Islamic State covered up now with new graffiti. (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) MAKHMUR RESIDENT, SAMI ABDULRAHMAN, SAYING: "The situation is very good now after the defeat of militants. People have started returning gradually, in particular over the past two days, the number of families that have returned has increased. " Slowly, the town is coming back to life. Shops and restaurants reopen, even as the midday heat keeps some customers away, and Peshmerga fighters patrol the streets. (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) PESHMERGA OFFICER, MAJOR ISMAEL MURAD, SAYING: "We have imposed control over the outskirts of city, the whole city is under the control of Peshmerga, there is no problem and everybody is doing his normal business." But things are far from normal. Tens of thousands of other minorities who fled have taken refuge in mountains or Iraq's Kurdistan region. One resident who DID return doesn't think the militants, who want to set up a caliphate along the Syria-Iraq border, will regain this territory. (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) MAKHMUR RESIDENT, ISMAEL JAWHAR, SAYING: "We didn't have weapons to fight them before. Now we have very good weapons and we are confident of ourselves." Confident, perhaps, because a number of European countries say they've armed the Kurds or that they WILL arm them. As a trickle of families come back, the Kurdish government is asking Western allies including the U.S. to arm their men -- forces fighting to turn the tide against the Islamic State.