About a thousand Islamic State fighters have voluntarily surrendered to Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq after the terror group lost control of its last major territory in the war-torn country.
According to a report from The New York Times, more than a thousand ISIS fighters passed through the waiting room in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq last week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija.
The prisoners were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it and hands bound behind their backs. Some have reportedly soiled themselves as they await interrogation and trial by Kurdish authorities.
The mass surrender of the militants has been particularly unusual for the terror group, which has pledged to fight to the very last man. The militants have ensured that the last days of battle would be painful for their opponents by deploying waves of suicide bombers.
One militant claimed that the order to surrender in mass was issued by the ISIS governor of Hawija himself. "I believe if the governors are telling us to surrender, it really means that this is the end," the militant said.
The battle to liberate Hawija took 15 days, but the Iraqi military said that it only took three days of actual heavy fighting before ISIS fighters grabbed their families and ran. Kurdish officials said that the militants put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps.
Many of the fighters claimed that they were just cooks or clerks, and so many others said they had been members of the terror group for only a month or two, prompting the interrogators to suspect that they had been coached to say that.
One militant who identified himself as Maytham Muhammed Mohemin said that the governor of Hawija told them to surrender to the Kurdish forces, also known as the pesh merga. They were told to flee from the advancing Iraqi Army and its Shiite militia allies, the Iranian-trained Hashed al-Shaabi, which is notorious for killing not only ISIS militants but also their entire families.
"The governor told us each to 'solve your own problem and find your own solution for yourself.' He said, 'Go to the pesh merga, not to the Hashed,'" Mohemin recounted.
When other fighters were asked why they surrendered to the pesh merga, they said they were certain that the Hashed al-Shaabi militias would kill them, but that the Kurds would not.
"They are more civilized than we are. They know who is good and who is bad," said a fighter named Raad Abdullah Ahmad, referring to the Kurds.
Although the last stronghold of ISIS in Iraq has been liberated, the battle against the extremist group is still ongoing.
On Thursday, Operation Inherent Resolve announced that the Iraqi Security Forces "are concurrently conducting operations in Western Anbar province and have already secured the towns of Anah, Rayhanah, and Akashat."