Video newly obtained by the AP sheds light on ISIS strategy under the Iraqi town of Sinjar: Militants from the Islamic State built a network of tunnels, complete with sleeping quarters, electricity, boxes of US-made ammunition, antibiotics, and sandbag fortifications. The video footage of the tunnels was uncovered by Kurdish forces that took the city in northwestern Iraq earlier in November after more than a year of ISIS rule. "We found between 30 and 40 tunnels inside Sinjar," says Shamo Eado, a Sinjar commander with the Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. "It was like a network inside the city. [ISIS] dug these trenches ... to hide from airstrikes and have free movement underground, as well as to store weapons and explosives." The freelancer-shot video shows two tunnels running several hundred yards, each starting and ending from houses, through holes knocked in walls or floors.
The narrow tunnels, apparently carved in the rock with jackhammers or other hand-held gear, are just tall enough for a man to stand in. Rows of sandbags line sections of the walls and electrical wires power fans and lights. ISIS took control of Sinjar in August 2014, capturing and killing thousands of the town's mostly Yazidi residents. ISIS has been digging tunnels for protection and movement throughout the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, even before the US-led coalition launched its campaign of airstrikes against the group more than a year ago. After pushing ISIS out of Sinjar, peshmerga officials and locals uncovered two mass graves in the area: one not far from the city center with about 78 elderly women's bodies, the second grave about 9 miles west of Sinjar with between 50 and 60 bodies of men, women, and children. Eado says as Kurdish forces clear Sinjar of explosives, he expects to find more tunnels and evidence of atrocities. "It's just a matter of time."