Ghost villages of northern Iraq ripped apart by Isil jihadists

Barzanke_burnt_out_3062715bThe village of Barzanke in Iraq was destroyed in the battle against Isil Photo: Richard Spencer/The Telegraph

Of the two Sunni Arab villages on the Kurdish front lines, one has children playing in the street and families inviting passers-by in for tea. The other lies in ruins, crushed and blackened houses, row after row razed to rubble.

This is the present of northern Iraq, and seemingly its future. The war has divided the country not only between sects and races but also among them. A fragile jigsaw of communities has been torn apart and seems unlikely ever to be rebuilt.

Both villages were seized in August by the jeep-led armies of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), but only in the now-devastated village of Barzanke were the Sunni jihadists welcomed. The number of black flags that sprouted immediately, according to Kurdish troops, suggested most of the inhabitants were already supporters.

In the assault by the Kurdish Peshmerga to reclaim it locals joined the jihadists, who were pummelled from the air and by tanks until they fled. They booby-trapped the buildings as they left, leading to even greater destruction, the Kurds said.

“Seventy-five per cent of the village was Isil,” said Sgt Major Hazem Zedu, a Kurdish soldier. “They stabbed us in the back”…