The 800 people who call the village of Kabarouk home have just become Iraq’s latest refugees – and they are ecstatic because it means they are free.
For two years, Kabarouk was part of the so-called Islamic State. Last week it was liberated by the Iraqi Army. The village is the most northerly position held by the Iraqis since the summer of 2014.
The residents have had to move out because it is too dangerous to stay. Not only have IS planted booby-traps around the village, they regularly open fire on the Iraqi troops who have taken over there.
“I may be homeless, but anywhere is better than living under IS," a young man Yousef, told me.
He described a hellish existence. He said his uncle was a shepherd who took his flock to pastures just outside the village only to be killed by a booby-trap. The man’s body was brought back and IS pumped bullets into it telling the villagers that this is what happens if they try to escape.
Yousef said anyone caught using a mobile phone was accused of being a collaborator with the Iraqi Army and either shot or crucified.
Kabarouk is one of few gains made since March 24, when the Iraqi Army announced the start of the operation to liberate this country’s second biggest city, Mosul.
In comparison with the blitzkrieg seizure of territory by IS in June 2014, the process of pushing them back is painfully slow.
Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga, have been the best at combating IS, but Mosul is not their turf, and they are unlikely to spearhead any assault on the city.
Daily coalition airstrikes have made it difficult for IS to move and mount attacks. Nonetheless they remain a determined enemy and ousting them from the towns and villages under their control is proving difficult and time-consuming.
It is not clear which forces will attack Mosul when the time comes. Doubts remain about the competence of the Iraqi Army. Also, the risk to civilians in Mosul will have to be factored in. There are at least half a million of them.
All things considered, the much-talked about attempt to liberate Mosul is not going to happen for the foreseeable future.