On September 1, 2014 photojournalist Erin Trieb was on assignment documenting the liberation of the Kurdish-Iraqi village Yangega by the Kurdish border police for The Washington Post. Throughout her time in Iraqi-Kurdistan, Trieb was embedded with several different Peshmerga units and one Kurdish border police unit for a total of 8 days during the months of July and August based near Khanaqin Northeast Iraq, Kirkuk, and Fishkhabour in Western Iraq near the border of Syria. In early September Trieb was embedded near Kirkuk in Yangega with General Fakhraden Hawramy under Major General Wasta Rasul, the supervisor of Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk.

It is with this group where she was able to document a rarely-seen first-hand encounter of Kurdish troops taking back an IS-controlled village.

On this particular mission in September the goal was to penetrate, take control of, and liberate the village of Yangega, which at that time was under ISIS control. When asked about how much sleep he and his men received each night, Kurdish border police General Fakhraden Hawramy replied, “We don’t sleep. We haven’t slept in days. You can see it in their eyes, how tired they are. We can’t afford to sleep because the fighting doesn’t stop at night; it’s 24 hours a day.”

The Kurdish Border Police used preliminary tactics before advancing into the village. They took a fighting position near an abandoned football stadium and fired mortars and heavy artillery from tanks. After they believed ISIS had retreated from their fighting position, they advanced to occupy the building or “strongpoint” from where Islamic State was firing. Around the buildings the Kurdish border police uncovered many booby traps and cases of dynamite. Many of the buildings had been occupied by ISIS fighters not more than an hour before. There were scraps of food, garments, shell casings and other items that the militants had left behind when fleeing. Finally, the Kurdish border police reached the center of Yangega. At one point as they advanced toward a large house ISIS militants opened fire, forcing Trieb to duck quickly behind a wall from potential flying bullets, all the while continuing to photograph as General Fakhraden Hawramy stayed on his phone, giving and receiving orders. When the troops arrived at the center of Yangega the town was totally abandoned with the exception of dozens of stray cats and dogs. Border police immediately tore down several black ISIS flags that were mounted and began stomping on them as a symbolic gesture of victory. The border police, elated and simultaneously delirious, patrolled the village center until dark and continued celebrating. That night they were able to sleep for the first time in several days.

All photos by Erin Trieb for The Washington Post

Erin Trieb is a photojournalist and contributed text to this blog post