ISHM: March 10 – 16, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • Fighting Slows in Western Mosul as Security Forces Struggle to Hold Cleared Areas – Iraqi Security Forces have slowed operations to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants this week in order to more firmly hold already-cleared territory and to more carefully protect civilian populations. Last week, Iraqi Army units ostensibly cleared a key government building in western Mosul, which the Federal Police were then responsible for holding. But an ISIS counterattack later that day led to blame shifting between the Iraqi Army (who accused the Federal Police of failing to hold the building) and the Federal Police (who accused the Iraqi Army of inadequately clearing it in the first place). Iraqi Security Forces, including Rapid Response teams, Federal Police, and the Iraqi Army’s elite Counterterrorism Service (CTS) cleared several neighborhoods, including Bab al-Tob, portions of New Mosul and al-Aguwat, and are nearing Mosul’s Grand Mosque. U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes have continued to target IED factories, munitions depots, and ISIS leadership positions, and conducting “terrain denial” strikes to make key roads impassable by vehicle-based IEDs. more…
  • Displacement Estimates from Western Mosul Soar; Prime Minister Abadi Announces IDP Assistance Efforts – The Iraqi government has revised its estimate of the number of individuals expected to be displaced from western Mosul from 250,000 to 400,000, and expects the rate of displacement to exceed 10,000 IDPs per day. Currently, an estimated 118,000 individuals have been displaced as a result of the western Mosul operations which began on February 19, with 40,000 residents displaced this week alone. The increasing density of ISIS militants, security forces, and civilians has led to a sharp rise in civilian casualties, according to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights. The increasingly close combat coupled with an utter lack of access to drinking water have made families desperate enough to ignore government recommendations of sheltering-in-place and instead attempt to flee. A breakdown in communication between security forces assisting fleeing families has led to thousands of IDPs being sent to IDP camps well over capacity. On March 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced his government’s ratification of eight initiatives to respond to the IDP crisis, including increases in personnel, transportation availability, ambulances, camp support, aid to cleared areas, and funding for the Iraqi Red Crescent. The rationale for putting forth the initiatives this late in the crisis was not immediately clear. more…
  • Trump Announces Conference for Defeating ISIS – President Donald Trump announced that a 68-nation conference will take place March 22-23 in Washington, DC, and will focus on how to decisively defeat ISIS and confirm the next steps for the U.S.-led international coalition’s humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Syria. While no concrete specifics or agenda for the conference are available, this does promise to be the largest international gathering to discuss the conflict since 2014. more…
  • Syria’s Assad Allows Iraq to Conduct Airstrikes in Syria as ISIS Remains Scattered in Anbar – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will permit the Iraqi Air Force to participate in anti-ISIS operations in Syria, and may expect reciprocal permissions for Syria. The announcement came a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi outlined Iraq’s willingness to pursue ISIS militants outside of Iraq’s borders, especially across the border from Qa’im in far western Anbar. On March 16, the Iraqi Defense Ministry accepted the first delivery of South Korean-made T50 fighter jets which will be used in operations similar to those currently conducted by the U.S.-led international coalition. more…
  • Atrocities Continue in Hawija, Tribal Leaders Call for Peshmerga Support – A group of Sunni Arab tribal leaders have called on Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to authorize the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga to assist in clearing ISIS militants from Hawija, approximately 65 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City in Kirkuk Province. Several Shia mobilization units have prepared brigades in anticipation of clearing the ISIS-held city, but have not received clearance to begin those operations. Hawija has been under ISIS control for more than two years and the city’s civilians report ongoing atrocities. On March 15, for example, ISIS militants burned alive nine civilians, including children, for attempting to flee. Video of the executions was posted to ISIS’s social media platforms. Iraqi Security Forces are expected to coordinate operations to free the city after operations in Mosul are near-complete. more…
  • Salah ad-Din, Diyala Provinces Receive Some Support Amid Continued Violence – With most security forces typically assigned to Salah ad-Din and Diyala Provinces currently redeployed to operations in Mosul, violence continues to persist in those provinces. This week, ISIS-led mortar attacks killed at least four women and six children near Khalis, 15 kilometers north of Baquba. Responding to demands for increased security protections, Governor of Salah ad-Din Province Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri confirmed an agreement with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to train and recruit a new police force for the region. Additionally, Tigris Operations Commander Lt. General Mezzher al-Azzawi announced the start of an operation to target ISIS sleeper cells in the Muqdadiyah region of Diyala, near Baquba. Federal Police and Iraqi Army units will be supported in that operation by PMUs and tribal fighters. more…
  • Secretary of State Tillerson Talks Iraqi Oil – On March 11, Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a closed-door meeting to discuss investment in Iraq’s oil industry and other forms of foreign direct investment that would influence the oil sector. Several days later, Hayad Abdul Ghani, head of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company, announced a new joint venture with ExxonMobil and PetroChina to develop some of the smaller oil fields in Iraq’s south, a multibillion venture reportedly under negotiation since early 2015. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Fighting Slows in Western Mosul as Security Forces Struggle to Hold Cleared Areas

On March 10, Operations Commander Lt. Gen Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the neighborhoods of Nabi Sheet and al-Akeedat near Old Mosul. The Nabi Sheet neighborhood houses the large Nabi Sheet Mosque.

On March 11, a Washington Post article reported that competition among different branches of the ISF has created unsecure holds on areas cleared of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in western Mosul. Soldiers reported that attempts to clear as much ground as possible in a day, may mean not properly securing those areas as they progress. In the case of the main government compound, not securing the premises well enough resulted in chaos when an ISIS counterattack was launched at the compound less than a day after it was cleared. First Lt. Ashraf Hussein of the emergency response division said that the government compound essentially became a no-man’s land.

On March 11, the 16th Brigade of the Iraqi Army cleared an important water plant 30 kilometers northwest of Mosul. The plant is the main source of water for eastern Mosul.

On March 11, the U.S.-led international coalition carried out airstrikes on an improvised explosive device (IED) plant in western Mosul, destroying three vehicle based IEDs (VBIEDs) in the process. The factory was located in the agricultural area around Badosh, 15 kilometers northwest of western Mosul.

On March 12, Rapid Response teams and Federal Police stormed the western Mosul neighborhood of Bab al-Tob, clearing a park and a market near Old Mosul. The same day, Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) began clearing the neighborhoods of New Mosul and al-Aguwat.

On March 13, Ninewa Operations Commander Lt. Gen Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that the ISF cleared the al-Neft neighborhood of western Mosul. The same day, a local source reported that a coalition airstrike killed the leader of the ISIS “Uzbek Battalion” in Mosul.

On March 13, the 16th Brigade of the Iraqi Army cleared the villages of al-Jafal and Sheikh Muhammad, across the Tigris from the Badush area, 17 kilometers northwest of Mosul. The same day, the Military Defense Directorate arrested the ISIS official in charge of the Badush plant, 30 kilometers northwest of Mosul, along with his assistant.

On March 14, Pentagon Spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis provided an update on the U.S.-led international coalition’s progress combatting ISIS in Mosul, helping the ISF retake around 4,000 square kilometers of land since the beginning of the operation in October 2016. Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, reported that coalition airstrikes also contribute by performing “terrain denial” strikes, creating craters in roads in order to restrict ISIS use of VBIEDS.

On March 14, protests by supporters of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) against the presence of Rojava Peshmerga units in Sinjar turned violent, resulting in the death of one protester and the wounding of at least four others. The protests follow last week’s clashes between PKK-trained Yazidi forces and Rojava units.

On March 14, the ISF killed ISIS military commander, Abu Abdul Rahmen Ansari, in the Bab al-Tob neighborhood of Old Mosul. The development comes as Rapid Response teams slowly fight their way across the Old Bridge, the third bridge targeted in the Iraqi effort to clear Mosul of ISIS. This map shows the neighborhoods of Mosul controlled by the ISF as of Tuesday, March 14.

On March 15, ISF components closed in on the Nouri Mosque in Old Mosul. The mosque is significant as it was location where ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the formation of the so-called Islamic State in June 2014.


Displacement Estimates from Western Mosul Soar; Prime Minister Abadi Announces IDP Assistance Efforts

March 10 March 11 March 12 March 13 March 14 March 15 March 16
Total IDPs No data No data  224,286 No data  238,236 No data  254,880
Daily Net Change No data No data +9,144 No data +13,950 No data +16,664

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Displaced from Mosul and Surrounding Areas Since Military Operations Began on October 17.

On March 10, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) installed a new LMS emergency water treatment system at Qayyarah Airstrip Emergency Site, located 60 kilometers south of Mosul. The new treatment system will provide IDPs with up to 60,000 liters of clean drinking water per day. The DRC has also employed “hygiene promoters” to educate camp residents about staying healthy and monitor the 16 drinking water stations across the camp.

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 15 cases of possible exposure to toxic chemicals have been recorded at the West Erbil Emergency Hospital, located 83 kilometers east of Mosul, and six of those cases have been discharged. Between March 1 and March 11, WHO supported Mobile Medical Units and primary health facilities in Ninewa Province conducted 15,792 consultations, of which 2,700 were consultations for children under the age of five. In addition, since February 5, the WHO and the Erbil Blood Transfusion Center facilitated the “mobilization, screening,and transportation of 475 units of blood” to the Bartalla Field Hospital, located 21 kilometers east of Mosul. Limited access to recently-cleared areas of Mosul due to security challenges, and insufficient human resources to handle the high trauma rates are two major obstacles for the WHO and its partners as they operate in Mosul.  

On March 11, a Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) discovered a mass grave containing the remains of 500 individuals executed by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in the Badush prison, 21 kilometers east of Mosul. According to Human Rights Watch, in June 2014, ISIS militants attacked the Badush prison, executing 670 Shia prisoners and “separating out” the Sunni prisoners. Allegedly, ISIS militants held “hundreds” of kidnapped Yazidi women at the prison. On March 12, the PMU arrested two perpetrators of the Badush massacre.

On March 11, Iraq’s ambassador to the UN Mohammed Ali Hakim revealed in a statement that there was no evidence of an ISIS chemical weapons attack in Mosul. Since March 1, the WHO recorded 15 cases of possible exposure to toxic chemicals; however, the cause of exposure is still unknown. UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, commented that the UN Security Council was “concerned” about the possible use of chemical weapons attacks in Mosul, adding that he expected an investigation into the alleged attacks.

On March 12, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that in the week of March 6 to March 12, nearly 18,100 individuals were displaced from western Mosul, with a total of 69,000 individuals displaced from western Mosul since operations began on February 19. However, government figures estimate that a total of 92,035 individuals are displaced from western Mosul. Since February 19, more than 744 individuals were treated at Trauma Stabilization Points on the outskirts of western Mosul. UNOCHA cites the lack of access to drinking water as a major humanitarian concern in both eastern and western Mosul. For several weeks, access to drinking water in western Mosul has been on the decline, and UNOCHA reports that civilians in both parts of the city could be accessing potentially untreated drinking water.

On March 12, International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney urged the Iraqi government to allow a UN investigation into ISIS’s crimes against Yazidis in Iraq, emphasizing that it would be best to conduct an investigation with the cooperation of the Iraqi government. She noted that there are other ways in which to implement an “accountability mechanism” without Iraq’s consent; however, she also stated that, “none of this has happened.” She continued, “Instead, mass graves in Iraq lie unprotected and un-exhumed, witnesses are fleeing and not one ISIS militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world.” Clooney currently represents Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman and goodwill ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, who was abducted by ISIS militants and imprisoned in Mosul for three months in 2014.

On March 12, reports surfaced that Iraqi judges have been holding mobile, “pop-up” courts in IDP camps to offer legal resolutions to an increasingly transient population. Although it has not been heavily advertised, the program began toward the end of December 2016. The original, and main, aim of this program is to offer legal assistance to Iraqis that immediately need it. This mostly includes those Iraqis that wish to re-enter their homes after ISIS had been cleared and require new identification to return home, or need marriage, birth, or death certificates.

On March 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the ratification of eight initiatives for alleviating Iraq’s internally displaced person (IDP) crisis. First, the amount of auditors with security clearance will be increased by 100, allowing for a more robust bureaucracy capable of handling the IDP crisis. Second, the Ministry of Transport will increase its fleet of buses by 50. Third, four administrators handling IDP transport were fired for inadequate performance. Fourth, the Ministry of Oil will allocate up to 200,000 liters of oil per month for bus transport. Fifth, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration will work with local governments in Ninewa to complete development of IDP camps and identify areas for further improvement. Sixth, the Iraqi government will assist the Iraqi Red Crescent society with the distribution of aid in areas newly cleared of ISIS. Seventh, the Iraqi government will pursue further coordination with the United Nations. Eighth, the Iraqi government will increase the amount of available ambulances in areas with large IDP populations.  

On March 13, Human Rights Watch reported that the Iraqi Interior Ministry unlawfully detained 1,269 individuals in two detention centers in Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, and at a local police station in Hamam al-Alil, 30 kilometers south of Mosul. According to police officials in Qayyarah, at least 80 detainees are under the age of 18 and as young as 13. Human Rights Watch researchers visited the police station in Hamam al-Alil, which currently holds 225 detainees in four rooms. Iraq Criminal Procedure Code requires that all detainees face a judge within 24 hours of their arrest; however, prison staff claim that some detainees have been held for as long as four months before seeing a judge. Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili noted that detainees are not permitted to make contact with their families during the investigation period, and that detainees in Qayyarah are not permitted to contact their families at all. Human Rights Watch also reported that none of the detainees were provided lawyers during interrogations and that many were not provided lawyers in court, despite that the Iraqi constitution and Criminal Procedure Code guarantee detainees the right to a lawyer. In addition, detainees have minimal or no time outside, no access to health services, no access to showers, and limited access to bathrooms. In the prisons in Hamam al-Alil, children as young as 13 share cells with adults and are not permitted outside of their cells, and have no opportunities for exercise, education, or contact with their families. Staff at both Qayyarah prisons and at the prisons in Hamam al-Alil claim that they have sent multiple requests to Baghdad to provide medical services to detainees; however, these requests have not been met. In November 2016, a detainee with diabetes was not properly fed for 11 days and died shortly after he was transferred to a local clinic for treatment. Another detainee arrived at the prison with gangrene in both of his legs. His legs were amputated, after which he “returned to the unsanitary conditions of the prison cell.” Human Rights Watch researchers claim, during their visits to the prisons, detainees begged them to crack doors and windows open because they could not breathe due to the heat and overwhelming stench. On March 15, Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior responded to a Human Rights Watch report claiming that hundreds of civilians, including children, had been arrested and detained in the Ninewa province. In the Ministry of the Interior’s statement, they claimed that they are responsible for carrying out the orders of the governing cabinet, who had demanded a crackdown on those suspected of ISIS affiliations or sympathies. The Ministry continued, saying that it was ensuring access to food, water and shelter for the detainees, and that they were being treated humanely.

On March 13, residents in western Mosul claimed that U.S.-led coalition forces were not being precise in their use of targeted bombing, citing recent incidents of civilian casualties as a result of coalition airstrikes. Ibrahim Rfaee, a resident in western Mosul, reported that ISIS militants station themselves on the rooftops of civilian infrastructure without the knowledge of the building owner. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes target the building, unintentionally killing the civilians housed inside. Witnesses in the Samoud neighborhood reported that an airstrike, which targeted a single ISIS militant, killed “dozens” of civilians instead. Resident Hashem Abdullah described the incident stating, “The planes waited until one of the Daesh walked out into the street and then they struck. The fighter was only injured, but 11 members of one family in the house next door were instantly killed.”

On March 13, Terres De Hommes (TDH), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Switzerland, reported that they are the first humanitarian organization to bring aid to informal camp of Tal Jarabia, located in a recently cleared area one hour west of Mosul. TDH teams distributed food, hygiene kits, gas cylinders, clothing, and rehydration salts to the 661 IDP families living in the informal camp. Francis Hughes, TDH Emergency Coordinator in Iraq, stated that it was his goal is to “get as close as possible to the frontline to distribute basic help there.”

On March 14, Iraqi activist Muhannad Mahmud announced that a mass grave containing the remains of 40 civilians and law enforcement personnel was discovered just east of Mosul. Little information regarding the identification of the victims has been release; however, at least one of the victims was a colonel.

On March 14, Iraqi Security Forces cleared a textile factory in western Mosul, located between the al-Mansour and Wadi al-Hajar neighborhoods. According to the speaker for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party in Mosul, ISIS militants used the textile as a women’s prison and imprisoned nearly 300 women there. While the identities of the rescued women remain undisclosed, officials believe that many of the women are Yazidis. The Iraqi Kurdistan’s Directorate of Yazidi Affairs estimates that as many as 2,500 Yazidi women and children are still under ISIS control in Syria and Iraq. The women rescued from the textile factory will be transferred to refugee camps in northern Iraq once the security situation in the neighboring areas stabilizes.

On March 14, the WHO announced that the al-Qayyarah Hospital south of Mosul has reopened five months after it was forced to close due to “extensive damages.” The WHO and its partners equipped the hospital with “two operation theaters, a blood bank, laboratory, and X-ray, ultrasound, and sterilization units.” Forty-five medical staff, including six surgeons and four anesthetists, currently serve at the hospital. Since the hospital reopened on March 7, medical staff performed “540 surgical consultations, 1014 obstetric consultations, 532 normal deliveries, and 32 cesarean deliveries.”

On March 14, UNOCHA reported that, since February 25, nearly 5,000 people have fled western Mosul each day. The Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported that at least 89,000 IDPs fled western Mosul since operations to clear that part of the city began on February 19, 2017. According to UNOCHA, there is a communication breakdown between the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and IDPs fleeing Mosul. IDPs report that ISF are taking them to camps that are at full capacity, rather than camps east and northeast of Mosul, which are ready to house nearly 27,000 IDPs. Once IDPs are screened and approved for transport, they can choose between seeking shelter in an IDP camp or host community. However, IDPs also report that they are not provided with adequate information regarding which camps are at or near capacity. As a result, UNOCHA estimates that at least 6,000 IDPs from western Mosul are living in “substandard conditions” in camps south of Mosul that are at full capacity. In addition, nearly 80% of Mosul’s infrastructure has been destroyed, and for this reason, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari claimed that Iraq would need a “project similar to the Marshall Plan” in order for the country to recover post-ISIS. Finally, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that it will need at least US$ 37 million for the next two-and-a-half months alone to maintain humanitarian assistance operations for IDPs from Mosul.

On March 14, PMU spokesperson Ahmed al-Asadi claimed in a news conference that the efforts to meet the needs of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area “are not sufficient.” In response to the “exodus of tens of thousands of people” from Mosul, the PMU launched an initiative entitled “For You” that advocates for greater assistance for IDPs including housing assistance and emergency aid. Asadi stated that the initiative aims to demonstrate that the PMU “stands with our people who are displaced from Mosul.” Asadi’s statement comes after recent reports claiming there is a communication breakdown between the IFS and IDPs, causing some IDPs to flee to camps that are already at full capacity.

On March 15, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 439 civilians were killed in western Mosul since operations to clear that part of the city began on February 19, 2017, with reports of 700 other civilians deaths that could not be verified. The Observatory also reported a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike killed 29 civilians in the al-Faruq neighborhood of western Mosul. Casualty rates are expected to climb as the ISF move further into the more densely populated Old City in western Mosul.

On March 15, the UNHCR reported that 97,000 individuals have been displaced from western Mosul since operations to clear that part of the city began on February 19, 2017. Of those, approximately one third (32,000) were displaced in the last three days alone. UNHCR also reported that nearly 10,000 IDPs from western Mosul fled to eastern Mosul rather than to an IDP camps. These IDPs are housed with friends or relatives, with a small number seeking shelter in abandoned houses or buildings. In anticipation for larger population movement, the UNHCR has doubled capacity at the Hamam al-Alil Transit/Reception Center, and can now assist 40,000 IDPs there. The ISF has also expedited the security clearance process so IDPs will now wait no more than 24 hours before they are granted clearance to move to an IDP camp. Finally, the UNHCR started construction of a new IDP camp, as-Salamiyah 2 located 10 kilometers south of Hamam al-Alil, which will host up to 60,000 IDPs once completed.

On March 15, according to unofficial notes, the NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq (NCCI) reported that an estimated 118,000 individuals have been displaced as a result of the western Mosul operation which began on February 19, 2017, noting that the rate of displacement has been faster than that of eastern Mosul. In addition, the Iraqi government has revised its estimates of the number of individuals expected to be displaced from western Mosul from 250,000 to 400,000, and expects the rate of displacement to exceed 10,000 individuals per day. These revisions were made in part due to reports of Iraqi troops using improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAM), “inherently indiscriminate” heavy artillery, against ISIS targets in western Mosul. While it is unclear if these weapons caused civilian deaths, their use accelerates the rate of displacement due to the amount of destruction they cause. To mitigate these issues and encourage civilians to shelter-in-place, the ISF will slow its advance to enable a greater humanitarian response. The operation to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants could continue for several more weeks, if not months.

On March 15, Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior responded to a Human Rights Watch report claiming that hundreds of civilians, including children, had been arrested and detained in the Ninewa province. In the Ministry of the Interior’s statement, they claimed that they are responsible for carrying out the orders of the governing cabinet, who had demanded a crackdown on those suspected of ISIS affiliations or sympathies. The Ministry continued, saying that it was ensuring access to food, water and shelter for the detainees, and that they were being treated humanely.

On March 16, Theirworld, an NGO that assists vulnerable children in the United Kingdom and around the world, reported that 258,000 Iraqi children have returned to school in eastern Mosul, many of whom are back to school for the first time in two years. The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) cited lack of furniture, teaching supplies, and teachers as major obstacles to reopening schools. In addition, the threat of possible unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in and around schools is a major concern for students and teachers returning to schools in eastern Mosul and the surrounding area. Paul St. John Frisoli, a senior education technical adviser for the International Rescue Committee stated that maintaining access to education in conflict zones is crucial. He stated, “Education can help children cope with the consequences of conflict by providing a secure, predictable and nurturing environment,” offering children “hope for and a sense of control over their future during crisis.” However, the organization Theirworld estimates that as many as 3.5 million Iraqi children across the country are still out of school.

On March 16, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has initiated more efforts to support reproductive health for IDPs in camps south and northeast of Mosul. At the camps in Qayyarah and in Jeddah camp, located 72 kilometers south of Mosul, the UNFPA is supporting a 24-hour delivery room, mobile reproductive health clinic, and a women’s “safe space” where women and gender-based violence survivors can receive psychological support. At the Hamam al-Alil camp, 30 kilometers south of Mosul, UNFPA established a reproductive health clinic and a 20-bed maternity hospital. At the Hassan Sham camp and Khazar camp, 32 and 47 kilometers northeast of Mosul, UNFPA established a static delivery room, a 24-hour mobile delivery unit, and women’s safe spaces.

On March 16, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 254,880 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area since operations to clear the city of ISIS militants began on October 17, 2016, a net increase of 39,733 IPDs since March 9. Sixty-five percent of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area are housed in emergency camps, 24% live in private settings, 10% live in emergency sites, and 1% live in critical shelter arrangements. Cumulatively, 326,754 IDPs have been impacted by the crisis in Mosul since it began in October 2016. However, to date 71,874 IDPs have returned to their homes.


Trump Announces Conference for Defeating ISIS

On March 10, United States President Donald Trump’s administration announced a 68-country conference on defeating ISIS. The conference will occur on March 22-23, and will focus on how to decisively beat ISIS as well as to confirm the next steps for the U.S.-led international coalition’s humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Syria. While no concrete specifics on the conference were provided, this does promise to be the largest international gathering discussing the conflict since 2014.

On March 15, Malaysia’s Defense Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, announced that Australia and Malaysia will share intelligence on militants, anticipating the potential return of ISIS fighters as the situation deteriorates for the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria. Hussein said on Tuesday that, “If the offensive in Mosul is successful, we will see a lot of hardened returnees and sympathisers to the region (Southeast Asia),” a major concern for a country that already arrested 250 citizens for suspected links to ISIS or its affiliates.


Syria’s Assad Allows Iraq to Conduct Airstrikes in Syria as ISIS Remains Scattered in Anbar

On March 10, Saji Taama, Member of the Commission of Arab and International Affairs in the Syrian Parliament, confirmed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has permitted Iraqi forces to participate in anti-ISIS operations in Syria. Taama elaborated on the initial statement in an interview with Russian news organization Isvestia, claiming that Iraq will be allowed to conduct airstrikes on Syria’s side of the border, and that he expects Iraqi Prime Minister will reciprocate and allow Syria to conduct airstrikes on Iraq’s side. The statement follows Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s comments last week, which outlined Iraq’s willingness to pursue ISIS militants outside of Iraq’s borders.

On March 10, Iraqi border guards and Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) forces repelled an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attack on a security headquarters in the Rutba area, 310 kilometers west of Ramadi. The ISF killed an unknown number of militants, and shot down an ISIS drone carrying explosives.

On March 11, Anbar Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Mahmoud al-Filahi announced that the Iraqi Air Force, with air support from the U.S.-led international coalition, repelled an ISIS attack on an Army headquarters 130 kilometers west of Ramadi. Filahi reported that the counterattack killed 11 militants and destroyed three vehicles.

On March 11, an anonymous source in Ninewa Province reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the de-facto leader of ISIS, was spotted briefly near Albu Kamal in Syria, 37 kilometers northwest of Qa’im in Iraq. The source stated that Baghdadi was weak from previous wounds and could hardly speak.

On March 12, Defense Minister Irfan Hayali ordered the al-Suqur PMU Brigade to open four lanes of traffic between Anbar and Baghdad. Areas of highway under the group’s control have experienced kilometer-long back ups, making it difficult for civilians and goods to move between western Anbar and the capital.

On March 12, Anbar Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Filahi reported that the ISF discovered and destroyed an ISIS camp 100 kilometers south of Ramadi. The operation killed four militants and destroyed three vehicles, including one motorcycle VBIED.

On March 12, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) handed over 489 rehabilitated housing units to returnees in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, with funding from the Japanese government. The rehabilitation project, entitled, “Promoting Urban Recovery in Newly Liberated Areas in Iraq,” focused on the Tameem and Kilo neighborhoods, which experienced extensive damage due to ISIS violence. A total of 723 families benefited from the housing project, including 150 returnees who worked as laborers. Returnees were also given basic training in plumbing, electricity, and carpentry so that they can maintain their new homes. The Mayor of Ramadi, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Aosaj, noted that UN-Habitat was one of the first UN agencies to engage in activities in Ramadi.

On March 15, Brigadier Abdul – Razzaq Rashid Mekhlef, commander of the First Brigade of the Anbar tribal militias, announced that his organization is opening their official headquarters in Ramadi. The Brigade is composed of four regiments comprised of local fighters, and cooperates with the ISF to clear and secure portions of Anbar Province.  

On March 15, the U.S.-led international coalition conducted airstrikes on four ISIS locations, killing seven militants and destroying a fuel truck. The airstrikes were in the Rawa area, 230 kilometers west of Ramadi.

On March 16, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced that the first batch of Korean T50 fighter jets had arrived in Baghdad, along with pilots and technicians to train the ISF on the use and maintenance of planes. The official statement noted that “the commander of the Air Force confirmed that the aircraft will enter service in the very near future.”

On March 16, Major General Neuman Abdul al-Zubai, Commander of the Seventh Brigade of the Iraqi Army, reported that the Iraqi Air Force carried out airstrikes on an ISIS camp and IED plant, killing an unknown number of militants in the process. The operation was in the Anah area, 200 kilometers northwest of Ramadi, as Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition planes continue to bomb militant positions in western Anbar in preparation for clearing the region of ISIS.


Atrocities Continue in Hawija, Tribal Leaders Call for Peshmerga Support

On March 12, a group of Sunni Arab tribal leaders called on Masoud Barzani to authorize the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga to assist in their efforts to clear Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from Hawija, which has been under ISIS control for over two years. The Iraqi government has trained nearly 1,200 tribal fighters in anticipation for operations to clear Hawija; however, Masrour Naji, chief of the al-Jabouri tribe, stated that this is not enough. He stated, “We do have the Peshmerga and [Kirkuk] suburban police to ask [to assist] in re-controlling Hawija,” adding, “Therefore, we call upon the president of Kurdistan to try to attempt and engage in serious work to liberate it as soon as possible.” According to Rudaw, several Shia PMUs have prepared three brigades dedicated to the much-anticipated Hawija operation.

On March 12, a security source reported that an unidentified assailant attempted to blow up an underground oil pipeline in the Dibis area, 45 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk City. The anonymous source did not identify the perpetrator, but stated that he was an explosives expert.

On March 13, ISIS militants executed three civilians in Hawija, located 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk city. The civilians were charged with collaborating with security forces three months ago and sentenced to death.  

On March 15, ISIS militants burned to death nine civilians including children fleeing from Hawija, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk city, on charges of “abandoning the land of the caliphate.” The civilians were arrested between al-Riyadh and the Hamrin mountains, and burned to death in front of another group of civilians. Video of the executions was posted to ISIS’s social media platforms. Reports coming out of Kirkuk Province like this are becoming increasingly common. While there are no definitive plans to clear ISIS militants from Kirkuk Province, the Iraqi government is expected to coordinate these operations after the Mosul operations are complete.


Salah ad-Din, Diyala Provinces Receive Some Support Amid Continued Violence

On March 10, Uday Khaddran, Mayor of Khalis (15 kilometers north of Baquba) reported that a mortar attack wounded six civilians in the village of Mabruk al-Farhan on the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces. Three women and three children were killed.

On March 12, Karim al-Jabouri, a Diyala Province Council Member, announced that Jabour tribal fighters repelled an ISIS attack on the Sharwain area, 47 kilometers northeast of Baquba. Jabouri reported that one militant was killed and another injured, and called for the provision of more weapons and other materials to the Jabour fighters.

On March 13, Tigris Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Mezzher al-Azzawi, announced the beginning of an operation targeting ISIS sleeper cells in the Muqdadiyah region of Diyala, 35 kilometers northwest of Baquba. Federal Police and Iraqi Army forces will head the operation, supported by PMUs and tribal fighters.

On March 13, Uday Khaddran, Mayor of Khalis, reported the further shelling of areas north of Baquba, resulting in the deaths of one woman and three elementary school students. Five mortar shells were launched at different locations in the Adhaim region, approximately  30 kilometers north of Khalis on the Salah ad-Din border.

On March 15, Sala ad-Din Governor Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri confirmed an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi regarding  a new police training and recruitment program for the  province. The new police force will be internationally trained, and although specifics on who would be doing the training itself are scarce, it is speculated that the United States will offer advisers to the program.


Secretary of State Tillerson Talks Iraqi Oil

On March 11, Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi met with United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The two officials discussed American investment in the Iraqi oil industry, as well as other forms of foreign direct investment that would influence the sector. After the private meeting, both Luaibi and Tillerson fielded questions from reporters, mostly focusing on the relationship between Iraq and the United States in the aftermath of the travel ban.

On March 15, Hayad Abdul Ghani, the head of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company announced a new joint venture with ExxonMobil and PetroChina to develop some of the smaller oil fields in Iraq’s south. The project is anticipated to generate several billion dollars and to boost production in the Allhis and Nasiriyah oil fields.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
03/16/17Sabah al-Bour, Northwest of Baghdad14
03/15/17Tikrit743
03/15/17Lake Haditha, 160 kilometers Northwest of Ramadi12
03/14/17Radwaniyah, Southwest of Baghdad
01
03/13/17Dora, South Baghdad14
03/12/17Diyala Bridge, Southeast of Baghdad03
03/12/17Muhammadiyah, South of Baghdad03
03/12/17Madain, South of Baghdad13
03/11/17Dora, South Baghdad02
03/10/17al-Ubaidi Baghdad03
03/10/17Al-Shaab, North Baghdad0?
03/10/17Madain, South of Baghdad02
03/10/17Suwaib, South of Baghdad13

 

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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