SINUNI: A massage belt, a PlayStation controller, a gold ring it sounds like a gift list, but the items the Islamic State group left in Iraq are rigged with explosives to kill.
The jihadists still sow death long after they depart, and as Iraqi Kurdish forces regain ground, they and the civilians returning to their homes face the threat of unexploded bombs and booby traps.
“These people were very imaginative, like devils,” said Marwan Sydo Hisn, a Kurdish bomb disposal expert currently based in Sinuni, a town in the northwestern Sinjar area that was recaptured from IS fighters in late December.
“Look at this one,” he said, thumbing through pictures on his smart phone. “We found this massage belt that they had stuffed with a small quantity of explosives, perfectly put back together and set up to explode on the next person to turn it on.”
One consisted of TNT concealed inside a TV set triggered by the use of a PlayStation controller. Another contraption was a gold ring conspicuously left lying on the floor and rigged to kill its finder.
Some houses were webbed with trip wires and lines connecting bombs to doorknobs.
“We have a list of 24 different types of devices they used in this area,” said Darwish Mussa Ali, another explosives expert.
He and his colleague Sydo are both from the Kurdish “asayesh” security service and are the only two experts tasked with clearing explosives from the entire northern side of Mount Sinjar, a 60-kilometre-long (40-mile) ridge near the Syrian border.
They were dispatched from their base in Jalawla, at the southeastern end of the Kurds’ 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) frontline with the jihadists.
“In 24 days, we found 410 devices amounting to more than five tonnes, mostly IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Mussa said, referring to the homemade bombs laid on roadsides to target vehicles and hamper any military advance.
They received specialised training from American explosive ordnance disposal units before the 2011 US pullout from Iraq, but have very little equipment to perform their dangerous task.
“We have no special armour, no robots, no scramblers for mobile communications — just our eyes, our experience and a pair of pliers,” Sydo said.
Most of his equipment fits in a blue cooler bag, where he also keeps a bundle of detonators, a box-cutter and tape.