ISHM: April 14 – 20, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • ISIS Grows More Brutal Against Civilians Trapped in Mosul; Flooding Slows IDPs Struggling to Flee the City – Flooding along the Tigris River temporarily slowed the outflow of IDPs from western Mosul earlier this week. According to UN estimates, as many as 500,000 IDPs remain trapped in that half of the city, approximately 200,000 of which are children. Critical shortages of food, water, and medical care, coupled with the ISIS tactic of using innocent civilians as human shields, is making the likelihood of a sharp increase in casualties more and more likely. Speaking to the number of children in harm’s way, Derek Coleman, an American volunteer with Global Response Management who has been in Mosul treating trauma victims, said “When we started…we had one little box labeled ‘pediatric.’ But when we entered Mosul, [it] ran out almost immediately.” The World Health Organization cites the need for primary health services in newly accessible areas of western Mosul and in newly established displacement camps as a top priority. (For more on healthcare in Mosul, read EPIC’s recent trip report.) more…
  • Prime Minister Abadi Visits Mosul; Federal Police Progress Cautiously into Old City and ISIS May Have Used Chemical Weapons Again – On April 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited western Mosul to receive on-the-ground briefings on the progress of ISF efforts to clear ISIS from the city. The same day, Majid al-Gharawi, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Committee on Security and Defense criticized the use of Federal Police in clearing operations, suggesting they do not have experience in military operations. Earlier in the week, the Federal Police reportedly took control of southern portions of fortified tunnels in the Old City of western Mosul, where fighting is at its most intense. The tunnel networks have been used by ISIS to move militants and munitions. On April 15, ISIS militants allegedly used mortar shells packed with toxic chemicals to target Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. advisors. U.S. Major General Joseph Martin said that the U.S. is testing the residue from those weapons, and acknowledged that their use did not result in any casualties at the time. more…
  • ISIS Continues to Execute Innocent Civilians in Hawija – ISIS militants in Hawija publicly executed 17 civilians charged with “facilitating the escape of civilians” from the ISIS-controlled city in Kirkuk Province. Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes targeted ISIS convoys nearby, killing at least eight members of ISIS leadership. (For more on Hawija’s needs and neglect, read EPIC’s analysis.) more…
  • Diyala, Salah ad-Din Security Remains Tenuous – Uday Khaddran, Mayor of Khalis (15 kilometers north of Baquba in Diyala Province), reported that over the past few weeks, over 50 ISIS militants have fled into the Mutibija area on the boarder of Diyala and Salah ad-Din from Hawija in neighboring Kirkuk Province. Khaddran and other local officials have been calling for greater security assistance from the Iraqi government for fear that the area will become a permanent haven for ISIS militants. Nearby schools and markets have closed out of security concerns after a security patrol was attacked on April 20. more…
  • VP Allawi Speculates ISIS and al-Qaeda Reunite; New Iranian Ambassador Arrives in Baghdad; U.S. Recommits to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga – On April 17, Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi suggested a growing relationship between ISIS and al-Qaeda, a result of international coalition forces closing in on the last “caliphate” strongholds. On April 19, Iran’s new ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masiedi, arrived in Baghdad, and announced that Iran is prepared to help Iraq in its quest for stability and peace. Masjedi is a former Brigadier General with Iran’s Quds Force. On the same day, Secretary-General of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Ministry of Peshmerga Jabbar Yawar, revealed in a news conference that the U.S. has approved a US$ 295.6 million sale of equipment to the Peshmerga, part of a strategic agreement of security cooperation begun during the Obama Administration. more…
  • Update on Captured Yazidis, Christian Minorities – On the occasion of the Yazidi New Year on April 19-20, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, reiterated calls for the release of all Yazidis held in ISIS captivity. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Directorate of Yazidi Affairs reports that 3,454 Iraqi Yazidis are still held in ISIS captivity. Separately, on April 17, The New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi described a sparsely attended Easter service she attended in Qaraqosh, a predominantly Assyrian city 32 kilometers southeast of Mosul. Although the city was cleared of ISIS militants five months ago, most civilians have not returned citing a lack of public services, and fears of insecurity. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country was home to approximately 1.5 million Christians; however, only an estimated 400,000 remain today. 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.


ISIS Grows More Brutal Against Civilians Trapped in Mosul; Flooding Slows IDPs Struggling to Flee the City

Since military operations began on October 17, 2016, 331,140 civilians have been displaced from Mosul – including 3,708 from April 13 to April 18. These figures are net displacements, less returnees.

On April 15, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a total of 20 new trauma cases were recorded in five hospitals around Mosul including Athba and Bartalla Field Hospitals, West Emergency, and Shikhan hospitals from March 27 to April 15. Since February 18, a total of 1,881 trauma cases from western Mosul were treated at the five hospitals. Of those, 73% were civilians, 27% were children under the age of 15, and 27% were female. Since the Mosul operation began on October 17, 2016, more than 6,400 patients have been referred to hospitals in and around Mosul. Of those 60% were civilians, 28% were children under the age of 15, and 22% were female. The vast majority of patients were treated for injuries caused by shrapnel or gunshots. The WHO cites the need for primary health services in newly accessible areas of western Mosul and in newly established camps as a priority.

On April 16, Minster for Displacement and Migration, Jassim Mohammed, reported that 115,133 internally displaced persons (IDP) have returned to their places of origin throughout Ninewa Province since the operation to clear Mosul of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants began on October 16, 2017. Of those who have returned, over 2,000 IDPs returned in the last two days alone. In addition, Mohammed reported that, cumulatively, over 526,000 individuals have been displaced from Ninewa Province, Hawija in Kirkuk Province, and Shirqat in Salah ad-Din Province.

On April 16, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) reported that the remaining civilians in western Mosul are still under the threat of airstrikes. IOHR reported that an airstrike from an unidentified source skilled at least “five families” in the al-Yarmouk neighborhood in western Mosul on April 10. Laith Al Rashidy, an IDP from western Mosul stated, “The incident which occurred in the streets opposite to Al Yarmouk Bridge, next to Maysaloon Preparatory School for Girls, took the life of one of my cousins, Imad Abdul Ghani Al Rashidy, along with his mother, his wife, his four daughters, his niece, and those of five other families who had taken refuge in Imad’s home, who was their neighbor,” adding “The house was targeted one hour after the escape of an ISIS target who was present on its rooftop. I expect that the number of victims has reached at least 30 in the same house whose bodies remain under the rubble.” IOHR also reported that an unidentified airstrike leveled a two story home on April 15 in the al-Islah al-Zera’y neighborhood. An eyewitness described the incident stating, “ISIS members had previously sent a drone from the rooftop of the family’s home, before they escaped. The home was then hit with two successive rockets, killing at least 8 civilians – a father and his children, whose bodies are still under the rubble.”

On April 16, Reuters reported that flooding along the Tigris River has disrupted supply and escape routes, preventing people from fleeing across the Tigris, and preventing aid convoys from reaching Hamam al-Alil, the main transit point for IDPs fleeing Mosul. ISIS militants previously destroyed all bridges connecting western and eastern Mosul; however, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) built two temporary pontoon bridges to allow civilians to flee and aid convoys to cross the Tigris. Civilians reported that the roads leading to the bridges have been closed since Friday due to flooding, preventing aid from reaching vulnerable Iraqis at the Hamam al-Alil camps, 25 kilometers south of Mosul. An official at Hammam al-Alil transit center reported, “The flooding has had a big impact. All road traffic has stopped,” adding “We have limited supplies left.”

On April 17, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that displacement to the Hamam al-Alil camps, 25 kilometers south of Mosul, has slowed down due to flooding along the Tigris River. Over 7,000 individuals arrived to the site on Friday, 4,500 individuals arrived on Saturday, and only 4,230 individuals arrived on Sunday. An additional 786 individuals fled from Ninewa Province to Baghdad Province, bringing the total number of IDPs from Ninewa in Baghdad to 15,732 individuals since October 17, 2016. In addition, over 1,000 individuals displaced from eastern Mosul returned to the city since April 12. To support the steady flow of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area, the UNHCR is continuing to construct additional plots at the Hamam al-Alil 2 camp and As-Salamiya 2 camp. The combined capacity of the additional plots at both camps will be 75,000 individuals.

On April 17, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that nearly half a million civilians have fled Mosul since the operation to clear the city of ISIS militants began on October 17, 2016. Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, stated “Our worst case scenario when the fighting started was that up to one million civilians may flee Mosul. Already, more than 493,000 people have left, leaving almost everything behind,” adding that the volume of civilians still fleeing the city is “staggering.” The UN estimates that as many as 500,000 civilians remain trapped in western Mosul, with 80% of them trapped in the densely-populated Old City. Grande noted that the Mosul operation has been “much tougher” than that in the east Mosul adding, “There are more trauma injuries, homes are being destroyed, food stocks are dwindling quickly and families are at serious risk because there isn’t enough drinking water.” She concluded stating, “Civilians in Mosul face incredible, terrifying risks. They are being shot at, there are artillery barrages, families are running out of supplies, medicines are scarce and water is cut-off. Nothing is more important than protecting civilians—nothing.”

On April 18, an anonymous source reported than 20 women and children were killed or injured in a vehicle-based improvised explosive device (VBIED) explosion in western Ninewa Province. The source reported that the VBIED, parked on the side of the road in the al-Thawrat neighborhood in western Ninewa Province, killed six civilians and wounded 14 others.

On April 18, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande reported that the humanitarian situation in western Mosul continues to deteriorate, adding “We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict.” Western Mosul residents who have escaped the city continue to report that ISIS militants target fleeing civilians and that food stocks continue to dwindle. Most residents in the Old City of western Mosul, where there is “almost nothing to eat,” report that they live off of “flour mixed with water and boiled wheat grain.” Shafaaq News reported that the price of a kilo of dates rose to US$ 69 per kilo, too costly for most western Mosul residents. The UN estimates that 400,000 civilians are still trapped in the Old City in western Mosul. Grande warned, “If there is a siege and hundreds of thousands of people don’t have water and don’t have food, they will be at enormous risk.”

On April 18, the UNHCR reported that, despite flooding along the Tigris River that temporarily slowed displacement from western Mosul, 9,300 IDPs from the city arrived to the Hamam al-Alil transit center on April 17. Families report that they were able to cross the Tigris River by boat. In the past four days, 182 families from Hassan Sham camp, Khazar camp, and Chamakor camp, received sponsorship to permanently resettle in Erbil, Dohuk, Kirkuk, and Sulaimania Provinces. Since January, more than 900 families received sponsorships and have moved from IDP camps and have resettled in those provinces. Hamam al-Alil 2 camp, 25 kilometers south of Mosul, now hosts 8,025 individuals (1,598 families). Upon completion of phase two construction on April 20, the camp will open 1,664 family plots. The third and final phase of construction will include an additional 1,328 family plots, with a total camp capacity of over 25,000 individuals.

On April 18, documentary photographer and photojournalist Cengiz Yar published the photo essay, “The Lost Children of Mosul” featuring harrowing stories of the civilian costs of the Mosul operation which began on October 17, 2016. Yar tells the story of four year old Awra Ali who was injured in the March 17 airstrike in the al-Jadida neighborhood of western Mosul. Awra was hit with shrapnel and trapped in the rubble for three days before she was rescued. Her grandmother Alia Ali added, “Three days we were stuck…We ran towards the army, but they were shooting and the airstrikes were hitting us and [the Islamic State] was shooting at us. It was like we were in a grinder.” Derek Coleman, an American volunteer with Global Response Management at stabilization points in Mosul, noted that children make up roughly 25% of trauma patients, adding “I never expected to have to treat so many children…When we started with the Peshmerga, we had one little box labeled ‘pediatric.’ But when we entered Mosul, [it] ran out almost immediately.” Local hospitals in and around Mosul estimate that 1,600 civilians were killed during the first half of the Mosul operation alone. The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that half of civilians fleeing Mosul are children and that nearly 200,000 children are still trapped in western Mosul.

On April 19, the Iraqi Army built a new pontoon bridge south of Mosul after flooding on Friday along the Tigris River rendered two existing pontoon bridges inaccessible and unusable. The new bridge will allow western Mosul residents to cross the Tigris and allow aid convoys to cross and transport aid to the Hamam al-Alil camps and transit center, 25 kilometers south of Mosul.

On April 19, the UNOCHA reported that civilians in Mosul continue to have significant humanitarian needs. Nearly 500,000 civilians are inaccessible in western Mosul, 80% of whom are trapped in the Old City. They face food and water shortages, intermittent electricity, and the threat of airstrikes and being caught in the crossfire. From the beginning of the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016 to April 12, 2017 nearly 6,400 trauma cases from Mosul have been referred to hospitals in the area, including at least 1,800 cases from western Mosul. In eastern Mosul, access to clean drinking water remains sporadic. The UN and its partners are trucking in 2,300 m3 of water into the city each day to mitigate the problem. Ninety-seven percent of the US$ 284 million Mosul Flash Appeal launched in July 2016 has been funded; however, only 14% of the US$ 985 million 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq has been funded.

On April 19, the Iraqi government authorized the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) to “initiate 202 more projects to accelerate the immediate stabilization” of Mosul and Ninewa Province. The projects will focus on repairing civilian infrastructure including water, sewage, and electrical systems, schools, and health facilities. The projects also aim to revitalize local economies by employing Iraqi youth. Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq stated, “This authorization comes at just the right moment. A lot of work is already underway, but so much more needs to be done. We’re ready, and now we have the green light to go.” Mahdi Muhsin Al-Alaq, acting Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, noted that the projects will “pave the way for the return of displaced people” to their places of origin. Once the Mosul operation is completed, the task of stabilizing and reconstructing Mosul and the surrounding area will be one of the “biggest stabilization initiatives since World War II.” Since June 2015, more than 500 FFS projects have been implemented in Anbar, Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, and Diyala Provinces.


Prime Minister Abadi Visits Mosul; Federal Police Progress Cautiously into Old City and ISIS May Have Used Chemical Weapons Again

On April 15, Federal Police took control of southern portions of fortified tunnels in Old Mosul, underground networks which Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) uses to move militants and munitions. Federal Police Captain Raed Shakir Jawdat also reported that his troops killed “terrorist leader Mahmoud Ali Mahmoud Matar,” but did not specify which position in ISIS Matar held.

On April 15, ISIS militants attacked Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) using mortar shells packed with toxic chemicals, injuring at least seven soldiers in the al-Abar neighborhood of western Mosul. Operations Command emphasized in an official statement that this ISIS attempt to slow ISF progress did not kill any soldiers, and strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons around civilians. ISIS admitted to using chemical weapons in Mosul, and threatened further use as they continue to lose territory. On April 19, Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin stated that U.S. forces are testing the chemicals to determine what type ISIS used in the attack.

On April 17, an anonymous local source reported that ISIS leaders in Raqqa, Syria, have executed militants fleeing from Mosul. The source stated that the leaders accused the fleeing militants of breaking their vows to the organization and to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On April 17, Iraqi airstrikes in western Mosul destroyed an ISIS drone center, killing a Chechen drone expert known as Abu Omar al-Chechen. The strike reportedly destroyed all the drones stored at the location.

On April 19, Majid al-Gharawi, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Security and Defense, urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to rethink the current strategies to retake western Mosul. Gharawi expressed concern that Federal Police do not have experience planning military operations. He suggested that police forces focus on making plans for civilian security in areas cleared by other branches of ISF. The Federal Police are the main portion of the ISF currently focused on retaking the al-Nouri Mosque, an operation that has not seen significant movement in weeks.

On April 19, an anonymous source in western Mosul reported that ISIS officials are allegedly killing wounded militants due to a lack of supplies and medication to treat them. The source stated that the organization’s lack of funding is preventing it from providing even basic medications to its fighters.

On April 19, Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin stated that ISIS in Mosul has used over 7,000 mortars and rockets, many of them fired a civilian targets. Martin also stated that hundreds of those projectiles have been launched at the cleared east side of Mosul since the operation to clear west Mosul began.

On April 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Mosul to receive on the ground briefings on the progress of Iraqi security force’s efforts to clear ISIS from the city. Abadi toured several neighborhoods in the west side of Mosul to hold discussions with civilians who are in desperate need of aid.

On April 20, Special Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah reported that ISF troops cleared the al-Thura neighborhood in western Mosul, slightly northwest of Old Mosul. ISF also cleared the Nasser neighborhood on the west edge of the city on Thursday.

On April 20, Ninewa Police opened police headquarters in the east side of Mosul, in anticipation of transitioning back to local police securing the area. A local source stated that the goal is for local police to take over everyday security concerns in the city.

On April 20, Federal Police Chief Raed Jawdat announced that his forces killed ISIS chemical expert Abu Ahmed Ghazi using a guided missile in the Zanjili area of western Mosul. Jawdat also reported that Iraqi air strikes in Tal Afar destroyed at least two IEDs and VBIEDs, and killed multiple militants.   

On April 20, Iraqi Air Force airstrikes near Baaj (160 kilometers west of Mosul) destroyed an ISIS headquarters. The air strikes also destroyed a factory producing VBIEDs, killing at least 5 militants in the process.


ISIS Continues to Execute Innocent Civilians in Hawija

On April 14, an anonymous source reported that 129 internally displaced persons (IDP) from villages surrounding Hawija have been stranded at the Maktab Khalid checkpoint in Kirkuk Province for over two weeks. The source added that the civilians have not been permitted to move beyond the checkpoint. On April 16, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that security screenings are underway for the stranded IDPs. The 38 women and 72 children in the group have been transferred to the Laylan C camp in western Kirkuk Province, while the men are undergoing additional screenings before they are transferred to the camp.

On April 16, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants executed 17 civilians in Hawija, located 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City. An anonymous source reported that the civilians were charged with “facilitating the escape of families” from Hawija, and were executed in public in front of a crowd.

On April 16, airstrikes killed an ISIS official and three of his aides near the town of Gaida, 60 kilometers south of Kirkuk City. The official, Abu Bakr Iraqi, was a leader in the suicide branch of ISIS.

On April 18, U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes killed four ISIS leaders in Kirkuk Province. The strikes targeted a three-car convoy on the Riyadh-Hawija road, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City. Kurdish Counter-terrorism forces reported that 10 militants died in the strikes.


Diyala, Salah ad-Din Security Remains Tenuous

On April 14, Mohammad Davan al-Obeidi, head of the District Council in the area of Camp Ashraf (40 kilometers north of Baquba), reported that his council has supplied 10% of local Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) fighters with weapons. Obeidi stated that PMU fighters have been forced to sell their belongings in order to buy weapons, as the government has not followed through on promises of armament and protection against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militant forces.

On April 14, the Diyala Security Council reported that ISIS documents revealed the terrorist organization’s struggles with recruiting women to be suicide bombers. Between 2006-2008, at least 20 al-Qaeda trained female suicide bombers attacked various locations in Diyala. The government subsequently promoted awareness of recruitment tactics and provided counter-terrorism training for its intelligence forces, efforts which seem to have paid off against ISIS efforts to use local women as proxies.

On April 15, Iraqi airstrikes killed at least three ISIS militants in the al-Mutibija region on the border of Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces. The area is a key transit point for militants moving from ISIS-held Hawija to Diyala, Salah ad-Din, or other parts of southern Iraq.

On April 16, unknown assailants shot and killed an ISIS official known as Abu Adnan in Sharqat (300 kilometers north of Baghdad) and wounded another militant. According to a local source, ISIS security forces quickly closed in on the area, attempting to locate the shooters.

On April 17, the families of 10 ISIS militants left Sharqat, headed to unknown locations. While the families fled for unknown reasons, an anonymous local source suggested that there was prior approval from the ISIS leadership structure for the move.  

On April 18, Uday Khaddran, Mayor of Khalis (15 kilometers north of Baquba), reported that over the past few weeks, over 50 militants have infiltrated from Hawija down into the Mutibija area on the border of Salah ad-Din and Diyala. Khaddran called for a high level of security coordination to help prevent the area from becoming a permanent haven for militants.

On April 19, one soldier died and another was injured in a gun battle with ISIS militants in the Bzeiz area, 30 kilometers east of Baquba. The firefight went on for over an hour, and reportedly injured an unknown number of militants.

On April 20, a policeman died in a gunfight between a security patrol and an armed group outside of Abu Saida, 30 kilometers northeast of Baquba. Another policeman was injured in the fighting, and one of the gunmen was killed.

On April 20, a local source reported that schools and markets in Abu Sayda, 30 kilometers northeast of Baquba, have closed due to security concerns. The source reported that a security patrol was attacked by unnamed assailants within the last 24 hours, prompting tribal and government forces to increase their security presence in the area.


VP Allawi Speculates ISIS and al-Qaeda Reunite; New Iranian Ambassador Arrives in Baghdad; U.S. Recommits to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga

On April 17, Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi commented on the growing political relationship between the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, suggesting that ISIS was seeking an alliance as U.S.-led international coalition forces close in on ISIS’s last strongholds in Iraq. Allawi added that despite al-Qaeda’s criticism of ISIS’s methods, particularly their focus on brutally shocking killings and attacks against civilians, they might be amenable to an agreement to battle a common enemy such as the United States. Allawi concluded by providing his view on ISIS’s role after the physical caliphate is destroyed, stating that rather than disappearing, we are more likely to find small, individual cells across the world and in the region.

On April 19, Iran’s new ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, arrived in Baghdad to begin his work. Masjedi was formerly a Brigadier General with Iran’s Quds Force, a special forces division within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Masjedi commented that both Iran and Iraq should work together for a stable future, embrace the historical similarities between the Iranian and Iraqi people, and begin a new stage in bilateral relations. Masjedi also stated that Iran is prepared to help Iraq in its quest for stability and peace.

On April 19, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki and American Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Siliman commented, that ISIS will soon be defeated. These comments also included assertions that attempts to divide Iraq politically in the future will fail because the current government is heavily involving itself in unification efforts.

On April 19, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Peshmerga Jabbar Yawar stated in a news conference that the U.S. plans to arm two more Peshmerga Brigades, as well as “develop the transportation system of the Ministry of Peshmerga.” The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the US$ 295.6 million sale had been approved, that Congress had been notified, and that the proposed sale would not alter the balance of power in the region. In 2016, Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter signed a deal with the Peshmerga, providing up to US$ 415 million in funding for payroll, armament, and other costs, financing those on the frontline against ISIS. Yawar explained, “the United States currently provides food and fuel supplies to more than 26,000 Peshmerga elements,” and supports the salaries of a further 36,000 Peshmerga fighters.


Update on Captured Yazidis, Christian Minorities

On April 14, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) General Directorate of Yazidi Affairs reported that 3,454 Iraqi Yazidis are still held in Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captivity. In August 2014, ISIS militants invaded Mount Sinjar, 128 kilometers west of Mosul, killing at least 5,000 Yazidi men and boys and abducting nearly 7,000 Yazidi women and girls. Those who could escape fled higher in the mountains only to be faced with severe food and water scarcity and exposure to the elements.

On April 17, The New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi described the Easter service she attended in Qaraqosh, an Assyrian city located 32 kilometers southeast of Mosul. In 2014, ISIS militants overran Qaraqosh, destroying its churches and providing Christians with the ultimatum of converting, paying taxes, or being executed, prompting many to flee the city. Unlike in eastern Mosul, when Qaraqosh was cleared of ISIS militants five months ago, most civilians did not return. Christians who refuse to return to Qaraqosh cite the lack of electricity and running water as a major obstacle to returning to the city. However, the greatest concern is still safety. Callimachi reported that many Christians do not feel safe enough to return, and that they do not trust the Iraqi government to keep them safe. Callimachi visited the sanctuary of St. George where the marble columns are still stained with ISIS graffiti and the damage that the church sustained has not been repaired. Before ISIS overran Qaraqosh, St. George’s would be filled to capacity for the Easter service. However, for the first Easter service held at the church since 2014, only the first few rows of pews were filled. Before the 2003 Iraq War, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; however, only about 400,000 remain in the country.

On April 19, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, called for the release of all Yazidis held in ISIS captivity on the occasion of the Yazidi New Year. He stated, “As you celebrate this important occasion for your community, we remember the victims who perished in Daesh’s atrocities. We also reiterate our call for sparing no effort to secure the release of the women and children who are still held captive and enslaved by the terrorist group,” adding “On this occasion of peace and renewal of life, we express hope that the Yazidi community’s unimaginable suffering will come to an end with the demise of Daesh and with a fully liberated Iraq embracing all its communities in peace and harmony.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
04/20/17Sadiyah, South Baghdad04
04/19/17Ibrahim bin Ali, West of Baghdad03
04/19/17South of Fallujah05
04//18/17Al-Dulab, Anbar10
04/18/17al-Thura neighborhood, West Mosul612
04/18/17Shula, North Baghdad14
04/17/17Diyala Bridge, Southeast Baghdad03
04/16/17Sheikh Hamad, North of Baghdad14
04/16/17Basateen, North Baghdad02
04/15/17Sadr al-Yousifah, Southwest of Baghdad10
04/15/17Abu Saida, Northeast of Baquba 11
04/14/17Khadimiyah, North Baghdad04
04/14/17Taji, North of Baghdad03
04/14/17Madain, South of Baghdad13
04/14/17Malef, South Baghdad15

 

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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