The Washington Post reports: This town near the Iranian border has long been a symbol of Kurdish resistance, and it is best known as the site of a gruesome chemical-weapons attack by Saddam Hussein in 1988.
These days, residents say, it is increasingly known for something else — although few want to talk about it.
Kurdish authorities say a small contingent of Kurdish youths — around 150 in all, about a third of whom are from Halabja — has in recent months joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has seized a vast swath of Iraqi territory.
The young men’s allegiance to the extremist militant group represents a potential danger for the Kurds, who share the jihadists’ resentment of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government but are wary of the extremists now massed on the edge of their territory. The Kurds have hoped to keep their largely autonomous region in northern Iraq from being entangled in the country’s increasingly bloody conflict.
Some Kurdish intelligence officials fear that with ISIS’s gains, more local youths will join the jihadists and that the radical ideology could creep beyond Arab Iraq and into Iraqi Kurdistan, which has so far remained an oasis of calm and order. [Continue reading…]