(Reuters) Iraqi-Kurdish trader Kasim Dilbrin lost everything when ISIS seized his warehouses in Mosul. Now the militants are retreating, he is back in business, bringing everything from baby food to flour over the border from Turkey.
Fighting is still raging in Iraq’s second largest city where ISIS suicide bombers and snipers are facing off against advancing Iraqi troops and U.S.-led air strikes.
But just a few blocks from the frontline, on the government-controlled, eastern side of the Tigris river, shops and restaurants are springing back into life, alongside a market filled with goods from Dilbrin and his competitors.
“We are selling 50 tonnes of flour to Mosul every week,” he said, sitting in his offices in the town of Zakho, 100km (60 miles) further north on the border with Turkey.
That is still a fraction of the 300 tonnes he used to sell to Mosul until ISIS arrived in June 2014 and shut down his business because he was a Christian.
But things are changing fast. Months after Iraq’s government and its allies started an offensive against the militants, Kurdish merchants are pushing on behind them, bringing their Turkish produce back along reinvigorated trade routes.
“Sales have gone up by 30 to 40 percent,” since the offensive started in October, said Mosleh Ismail, a dealer in Turkish honey and jam, also based in Zakho.
He sends a truck to Mosul four times a week, and has secured contracts to supply the nearby Khazer camp, home to about 40,000 displaced people.