ISHM: September 8 – 14, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • Kurdish Parliament to Reconvene as Tension Mounts Over Referendum Participation – On September 10, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan agreed to reactivate the Kurdistan Parliament on September 14. The Kurdistan Parliament has not met in over two years following a clash among the KDP, PUK and the Gorran Party. The reactivation of the Kurdistan Parliament was a prerequisite for Gorran’s participation in the upcoming Kurdistan Region of Iraq independence referendum (as previously reported in ISHM). In Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi affirmed that the federal government will not recognize the results of the referendum, scheduled for September 25, and non-Kurdish Members of the Iraqi Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the referendum and oblige Abadi to “take all necessary action to preserve Iraq’s unity…” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on September 13, voicing concern about the potential for violent conflict between pro- and anti-independence camps. The provincial councils of Diyala, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din voted to refuse to hold the referendum in their provinces, although enforcement at the local level may not be guaranteed in predominantly Kurdish regions, adding to the instability. more…
  • ISIS Militants Surrender in Sharqat, Flee Hawija Ahead of Operations – On September 9, 50 ISIS militants reportedly surrendered to Iraqi Federal Police in Sharqat, 75 kilometers northwest of Hawija in Salah ad-Din Province. The same day, U.S. forces deployed artillery outside of Hawija intended to target ISIS positions and support Iraqi Security Forces inside the city during impending operations. The same equipment and coordination strategy was employed in previous operations in Ninewa Province. However, Major General Hiwa Abdullah of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, said on September 10 that there had been no formal coordination thus far with the ISF on Hawija operations, despite the nearby positioning of Peshmerga forces. more…
  • Iraq Considers Options for Foreign ISIS Fighters, Families – Iraqi security officials announced that they captured 1,333 family members of foreign ISIS militants during operations to clear the city of Tal Afar in August, and were holding the family members at a camp for displaced persons in northern Iraq. The families, mostly from Turkey, Russia, and central Asia, are expected to be repatriated to their home countries. As for ISIS militants themselves, on September 13, an Iraqi federal court sentenced a Russian ISIS fighter to death, following his surrender to Iraqi forces in western Mosul earlier this year. Iraqi forces are detaining an estimated 3,000 suspected ISIS militants, though the government does not release official counts. more…
  • Village Near Tal Afar Cleared Again; Commission Releases Mosul Report – For the second time in as many weeks, Iraqi Security Forces declared the village of Ayadiaya, just outside of Tal Afar in Ninewa Province, cleared of ISIS militants. The ISF first declared the town cleared on September 6, but at least 30 more militants were killed during operations this past week. On September 10, Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights announced that over 2,000 civilians were killed by Iraqi and coalition forces in the fight to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants. The Commission said that the estimate is likely to rise as civil defense units continue to clear rubble, and blamed Iraqi forces for being overly destructive and for relying too heavily on airstrikes and explosives to take out ISIS positions. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to make an appeal to the UN General Assembly next week for assistance with reconstruction and demining in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq. more…
  • Security in Western Anbar Remains Tenuous – The Saudi government may be considering reclosing the Trebil border crossing with Iraq due to the Iraqi government’s alleged failure to adequately secure the road from Trebil to Baghdad. The crossing was reopened just two weeks ago on August 30, following two years of closure due to ISIS activity in the region. Despite the potential setback, Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes continued to target ISIS vehicles, artillery depots, IED manufacturing sites, and meeting places in western Anbar. Reinforcements from the Iraqi Army arrived in the area on September 11, in preparation for operations to clear Ana – one of the border towns (along with Rawa and Qa’im) that has been under ISIS control since 2014. 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.


Kurdish Parliament to Reconvene as Tension Mounts Over Referendum Participation

On September 8, Mahmoud Sinakawi, member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), warned that Iraqi forces will launch an attack on Kirkuk on September 25, the referendum day for independence of the Kurdish region, under the guise of an offensive on Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Hawija. “Iraqi forces set September 23 as the starting date for liberation of the Hawija district,” he said in a speech in Erbil. Hawija, located near Kirkuk, is the next district Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are expected to clear of ISIS militants, after their recent successes to clear Mosul and Tal Afar. The oil-rich and ethnically diverse Kirkuk province, in which the cities of Kirkuk and Hawija are located, is expected to be the central area of territorial dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, should Kurdistan vote in favor of independence on September 25.

On September 8, the Information Office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the federal government will not recognize the results of the referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region, which is scheduled to be held on September 25. The spokesman explained that Baghdad does not want to engage in “internal conflict” and added that a unilateral decision to secede from Iraq is unconstitutional; such a decision requires the consent of Iraq as a whole.

On September 9, the Turkmen Front party declared that it will not acknowledge the results of the referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region and it called on all Turkmen people to boycott the referendum. “Determining the fate of Kirkuk will only be achieved by consensus and dialogue among its components, and imposing the will of one component will not succeed and will be doomed to failure,” said Sami Abdul Aziz al-Bayati, a leader in the Turkmen Front. He also referenced the Iraqi constitution to argue for the preservation of Iraqi unity. Turkmen are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq, after Arabs and Kurds. The referendum for Kurdish independence threatens to divide Turks in Iraq between a majority Kurdish state and a majority Arab one.

On September 9, an anonymous source revealed tentative plans to postpone the referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region in Mandali, a town in the Diyala Province. The source mentioned that the atmosphere for referendum is not appropriate as the opposition to it is substantive. Five other cities in the Diyala Province are expected to participate in the referendum. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Mandali on Saturday in a peaceful demonstration against the upcoming referendum. In the center of the demonstration, they took down three Kurdish flags and raised three Iraqi flags in their place.

On September 9, Arab League Secretary, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, flew to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to stress the importance of Iraqi unity and stability. He then continued to Erbil to discuss the referendum for independence of the Kurdish region with local officials.

On September 10, Kurdish parties held an emergency meeting to discuss the recent events in Mandali, in Diyala, following Saturday’s demonstration against the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions and a decision to postpone it locally. Diyala lies outside of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s borders, but Mandali is one of several towns where Kurds have expressed a desire to hold the referendum.

On September 10, Mayor of the Sinjar District in Ninewa Province, Mahma Khalil, announced that his district is ready to actively participate in the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions. He encouraged people to vote in the referendum and argued that “the independence of Kurdistan will end the suffering of the Yazidis and the persecution they have suffered.” Sinjar is home to a large Yazidi population. The Yazidis suffered a genocide by ISIS militants when the District of Sinjar was captured in 2014.

On September 10, Arab parties in Kirkuk said that any delay in the process of clearing Hawija of ISIS militants is a conspiracy and called on all people in Kirkuk to boycott the upcoming independence referendum. The long-delayed operations to retake Hawija from ISIS militants risks being sidelined by the referendum, with some Kurdish politicians voicing fears that the military buildup around Hawija is a pretext to move troops into the province.

On September 10, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) agreed, after a meeting between the parties’ leaders, to reactivate the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament on September 14. The Parliament has not convened since October 2015, after tensions between two major Kurdish parties, KDP and Gorran, erupted into violent protests. The near two years of closed Parliament created a lack in legal and political response to address pressing issues in Iraqi Kurdistan, including the status of salaries of government employees, the role of the president, and a law on a referendum for independence.

On September 10, the Supreme Council for the Referendum in the Kurdistan Region confirmed that the referendum will take place as scheduled, on September 25, rejecting rumors of postponement. They also announced that the parties participating in the council agreed to set September 14 as the date to reactivate the Kurdish Parliament and start its regular meetings.

September 11, a local anonymous source said that the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions is a failure in Mandali, Diyala Province. According to the source, local political parties implicitly agreed to cancel the referendum in Mandali. Demonstrators in Mandali have continued with a sit-in for the second day in a row in protest of the referendum. They demand the dismissal of the district director and the chairman of the municipal council.

September 11, Mandali district council voted unanimously to cancel the referendum for independence. The decision was preceded by two days of demonstrations and sit-ins by local residents, which were followed by an emergency meeting of the council. Mandali is the first district to cancel the referendum.

On September 11, Vice President of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki claimed that the insistence of the provinces of Kurdistan to hold a referendum will oblige Iraq to act accordingly to preserve Iraq’s unity and sovereignty. “What is taken by force is restored by force,” he said. He added that the Iraqi House of Representatives will issue a binding resolutions this week to reject the referendum and any measures taken during it, explaining that it was contrary to the constitution.

On September 11, Governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim stated that the expected referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions will not affect the coexistence and genuine peace between the different people of Kirkuk. He explained that the coexistence and peace in Kirkuk are vital to support stability and the security forces, so they will not be affected by “those who try to exploit the referendum” and “disturb the spirit of brotherhood.”

On September 11, head of the Kurdistan Region Authority outside the Kurdistan Regional Administration, Nasruddin Sindi, said that voting centers for the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions will be established in places that are safe for voters to participate freely. He noted that in some areas outside the Kurdish Administration citizens are pressured not to participate. People in “unstable” areas will  have to go to “alternative” polling stations in order to vote.

On September 11, an anonymous source reported that rejection to the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions in Mandali has prompted residents of Jalawla to follow suit. The source said the Arab tribes in Jalawla are collaborating to formulate a statement of demands to reject the referendum in Jalawla, accelerate the return of over 7000 IDPs, and restore security in the region. Jalawla is a town located in the Diyala Province, northeast of Baquba and northwest of Mandali. It’s population is 80% Arab, but it is currently controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. On the same day of this report, and following two days of protest, the council of the Mandali district cancelled the referendum in their jurisdiction.

On September 11, Iraqi Member of Parliament Haider Mawla announced that 120 signatures to reject the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions were collected from Members of Parliament. He expects to collect more signatures before submitting them to the presidency of the Parliament tomorrow with a request to vote on a decision to reject the referendum. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on September 8 that the federal government will not abide by the result of the referendum.

On September 11, Nasruddin Sindi, the head of the KRG’s department for Kurdish areas outside the KRG, announced that the KRG would take steps to secure voting booths in contested areas during the September 25 independent referendum. Sindi expressed concern that PMUs might try to suppress the vote in areas that they control, and said that the additional security was intended to ensure that this did not happen.

On September 12, the Iraqi Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the independence referendum. Kurdish deputies did not participate in the vote. The Parliament obliged the Prime Minister to take all necessary actions to preserve Iraq’s unity and begin a dialogue with the Kurdish regions to address outstanding issues.

On September 12, three members of Parliament, Abdul Salam al-Maliki, Mohammed Chihod, and Ammar al-Shibli, filed a lawsuit to the Federal Court to reject the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions. The defendant, Maliki pointed out, is Massoud Barzani. Earlier that day, Parliament voted to reject the referendum and oblige the Prime Minister to take all necessary action to preserve Iraq’s unity.

On September 12, Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region arrived to Kirkuk to meet with its Governor, Najmaddin Karim, and discuss security and political issues pertaining to the upcoming referendum and its aftermath. Kirkuk’s location is not in the territory under the Kurdish administration, but Kurds have claimed a historical connection to Kirkuk, whose ethnic composition is now a mixture of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other minority groups. Because of that, and because of Kirkuk’s proximity to desirable oil fields, Kirkuk is expected to become a central point of contention between the KRG and the Iraqi Government in the time leading to and after the referendum.

On September 12, the Kurdish Alliance (KA) electoral coalition threatened to “take a stand” unless the Parliament’s decision — to reject the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions and oblige the Prime Minister to take all necessary action to preserve Iraq’s unity — is cancelled. Member of Parliament Muthanna Amin of the KA explained in a press conference that Parliament’s decision, voted earlier that day, was “contrary to the Constitution and the rules of procedure,” partially because it was voted for without a quorum. Kurdish representatives did not turn out to the vote.

On September 12, Member of Parliament Abdul Rahim al-Shammari of Ninewa Province announced: “Ninewa deputies are refusing to hold a referendum in the province because it threatens the unity of the country and may lead to a conflict between the various components.” He called on the federal government and the people in Ninewa to “take the necessary steps” to prevent the referendum, which he said is unconstitutional. In addition, Shammari warned about the deployment of Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk’s province ahead of the referendum.

On September 12, six unions decided to sue the KRG for its decision to hold a referendum. The lawyers’, engineers’, journalists’, doctors’, teachers’, and trade unions’ lawsuit against the referendum follows a similar lawsuit by Maliki and two other Members of Parliament, and an earlier vote by the Parliament to reject the referendum.

On September 12, Member of Parliament Niyazi Mammar Oglu confirmed the results of the vote to reject the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions. 204 deputies attended the vote; 173 voted in favor of rejecting the referendum.

On September 12, the Diyala Council decided to refuse to hold within the borders of its province the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions, planned to take place on September 25. In addition, they called for the immediate return of IDPs Diyala, which is cleared of ISIS militants, and for the deployment of more official security forces in Diyala. Diyala was the second province, after Ninewa, that day that decided to refuse holding the Kurdish referendum within its borders.

On September 12, representatives of two Kurdish parties, Gorran and Kurdish Islamic Group, demanded that the Iraqi Parliament correct their decision earlier that day to reject the referendum; they called that decision a “mistake” because it did not follow rules and procedure requirements.

On September 12, an anonymous source reported that Saidia (located in Diyala Province, 60 km northeast of Baquba) decided to cancel the referendum in its district. The decision reportedly pointed to the existence of local popular and tribal efforts to reject the referendum. It is the second district in Diyala to decide to opt-out of the referendum process, following Mandali just one day earlier.

On September 12, Member of the Diyala Provincial Council Omar al-Karawi reported that tribal leaders and elders of Jalawla district began preparations to launch a demonstration for the return of 7000 IDPs to Jalawla. The demonstration is expected to take place in Baquba Thursday.

On September 12, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party member Mullah Bakhtiar expressed regret at the Parliament’s decision earlier that day to oblige the Prime Minister to use any means necessary to maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity. He said that using force to solve problems is “very dangerous” for Iraq’s democracy, and reminded that Kurdistan has an agreement with the Iraqi Government, which is sponsored by the United States, that prohibits Iraq to use its military for such a cause.

On September 12, Sheikh Mohammed Baqir al-Suhail al-Tamimi announced that the Bani Tamim tribes refuse to participate in the referendum in the Province of Kirkuk. The announcement followed Massoud Barzani’s visit to Kirkuk to speak with Kirkuk’s Governor, provincial council members, and local leaders.

On September 12, KRG President Masoud Barzani declared that the Kurdish Peshmerga were prepared to “protect” the province of Kirkuk if necessary from any outside attackers, while affirming that Kirkuk will participate in the September 25 referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. Kirkuk is part of the disputed areas that are claimed by the KRG but lie outside its territory. The Iraqi military is currently moving forces into the province in preparation for operations to clear Hawija, a city in southwest Kirkuk that has been under ISIS control since 2014. Barzani and other supporters of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence have voiced concerns that the Iraqi military or anti-independence PMUs may attempt to suppress the vote in areas that they have a strong military presence.

On September 12, Mohammad al-Bayati, the Turkmen leader of the Badr Organization, voiced concerns that the Peshmerga were using the independence referendum as a pretext to move forces into Kirkuk and neighboring Salah ad-Din province, alleging that Peshmerga forces were moving into Daquq, Tuz Khurmatu, and other towns with mixed ethnicities in order to force the referendum to take place and potentially suppress Arab and Turkmen resistance to the vote. Bayati called for greater action by the Arab tribes to push back against this perceived overreach.

On September 12, Nazim al-Sadi, an Iraqi Parliament member for Kirkuk, called on the people of Kirkuk to “defend themselves” from the Peshmerga forces that he alleged were coming to “occupy” and “overtake” the province. His rhetoric raises the stakes in an increasingly tense standoff over the fate of Kirkuk province, with KRG and Iraqi officials alleging that the other side is seeking to occupy or attack the province in advance of the September 25 independence referendum.

On September 13, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for the efforts of the Iraqi Kurds to establish a state. In a tweet, Netanyahu said: “While Israel rejects terrorism in all its forms, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to obtain their own state.”

On September 13, Member of Parliament Ali al-Badri announced that he and several other members parliament began collecting signatures to impeach Iraqi President Fuad Masum for lack of confidence. Badri explained in an interview with Alsumaria News that the lack of confidence in the President stems from his silence on the topic of the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions. In his silence, Badri argued that the President violated his constitutional vow to protect the security and integrity of Iraq. Impeaching the President requires a vote by two-thirds of the Members of Parliament; Badri believes that even more than two thirds of the parliament would agree to vote against Masum.

On September 13, the Council of Salah ad-Din voted unanimously to refuse to hold the referendum on Kurdistan within the administrative borders of the province. The Diyala Provincial Council made a similar decision a day earlier.

On September 13, deputy of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Najeeb Najib responded in an interview to the recent decision by the Iraqi Parliament to reject the referendum on Kurdistan. She argued that the Parliament’s decision is not binding to the representatives of the Kurdish regions, and added that the Parliament did not follow the a decision making procedures appropriately. She compared the recent Parliamentary vote to another vote this summer, demanding that government buildings in Kirkuk cease flying Kurdish flags. She recalled that then, the Kurds ignored the Parliament’s decision, and the Kurdish flags remained.

On September 13, the Council of Diyala issued an emergency summons to members of local councils in its province, asking them to arrive at its offices in Baquba within 24 hours. Their purpose is to assert pressure on the local councils to reject the referendum on Kurdistan. Member of the Council of Diyala Abdul Khaliq al-Azzawi stated that “participation in the referendum is an illegal decision that leads to serious internal tensions.” A day earlier, the Council of Diyala decided to reject the referendum within its provincial boundaries.

On September 13, Deputy Governor of the Diyala Province, Raad Almas, announced that 20 political parties in Diyala decided to reject the referendum on Kurdistan after an “extraordinary” meeting in Baquba. The parties agreed that holding the referendum threatens stability and civil peace. They called on the central government to address the outstanding issues of the referendum with peaceful dialogue in order to maintain a united Iraq.

On September 14, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) expressed concern of “possible military confrontations” over the subject of the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions. UNHCR spokesman Ali al-Bayati noted a high frequency of mobilization of security forces in disputed and ethnically-mixed areas. To avoid further escalation, he called on all parties to adhere to the Iraqi Constitution to resolve differences, which he argued could spare a possible civilian and humanitarian “disaster.” He also called on Iraqis who are in opposition to holding the referendum to reject it by peaceful means.

On September 14, the Iraqi Parliament voted to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim from office, after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi requested the Parliament vote on the issue. The Parliament did not cite a reason for the vote, but Karim is a PUK member and vocal advocate in favor the independence referendum, which has drawn the ire of officials in Baghdad. He has pushed hard to ensure the referendum happens in Kirkuk, and refused to remove Kurdish flags from government buildings in the province following orders to do so from Baghdad earlier this summer. Karim responded by announcing he would not step down, and the KRG views the decision as inflammatory and unenforceable, although Kirkuk lies outside the KRG’s legal boundaries.

On September 14, KRG President Masoud Barzani floated the possibility of postponing the referendum for the first time, saying “if there is a better alternative, we will postpone the referendum.” In the same statement, however, he said that “recent actions” by the Iraqi Parliament had removed the possibility for direct dialogue between the KRG and the government in Baghdad. Barzani did not cite specific actions, but the Iraqi Parliament recently voted to remove the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim from his post, in a move that many Kurds viewed as retaliation for his pro-independence stance.


ISIS Militants Surrender in Sharqat, Flee Hawija Ahead of Operations

On September 9, 50 members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) reportedly surrendered to security forces in the district of Sharqat, in the north of Salah ad-Din province. Their surrender comes as the Iraqi Federal Police prepare for operations to retake the portions of Sharqat still under ISIS control.

On September 9, U.S. forces deployed artillery outside Hawija, in the latest sign that operations to retake the city were imminent. The “smart” cannons are meant to target ISIS positions and support ISF operations in the city. The same equipment and coordination strategy was employed in previous fights against ISIS in the Ninewa province.

On September 9, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga repelled an ISIS attack on the road from Hawija to Daquq, in the southwest of the province. ISIS militants opened fire on the Peshmerga, who then forced the ISIS militants to flee. No casualties were reported. Civilians have been fleeing Hawija along that road in advance of Iraqi operations to clear the city, and the attack appeared intended to dislodge the Peshmerga to allow ISIS members to kill fleeing civilians with greater impunity.

On September 9, Iraqi Security Forces killed 14 ISIS militants wearing suicide vests in the northern Imam Weiss region of Diyala. The area is near the Hamrin mountains, where ISIS militants are believed to control a network of safe houses and hideouts that they use to stage attacks in the Province of Diyala.

On September 9, Iraqi forces destroyed ISIS’s headquarters in the Hamrin basin, in northeast Diyala, killing seven militants and seizing a supply of explosives, ammunition, and small arms weapons. The operation was conducted by the Iraqi Army, Federal Police, and a local PMU, with support from the Iraqi Air Force (IAF).

On September 10, Major General Hiwa Abdullah, a deputy commander of the Kurdish Peshmerga, announced that there had been no formal coordination thus far with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in advance of operations to clear Hawija in southwest Kirkuk. Both the Peshmerga and the ISF are expected to play a role in the fighting, and Abdullah emphasized that he was ready to work with the ISF when the time came.

On September 13, an airstrike on the ISIS-held city of Hawija killed a senior “Investigation Officer” of the militant organization, Abu Omar al-Iraqi, along with four more ISIS members. According to a local source, their deaths prompted a number of ISIS members to abandon their posts and flee the city.

On September 13, the head of the District Council of Atheem, 60 kilometers north of Baquba, warned that ISIS members escaping from Hawija are infiltrating Diyala. Mohammad al-Obeidi said that an influx of fighters moved into the border area between Salah ad-Din and Diyala as the ISF and coalition forces closed in on Hawija.

On September 13, a PUK official confirmed that the U.S. had established a military base in Makhmur, 80 kilometers south of Erbil, in order to help coordinate and assist in the fight against ISIS in Hawija. Rashad Kulaly, who is the senior PUK figure in Makhmur, said that the base occupied eight acres of land, and included tanks, artillery, and other heavy weaponry. He said that the future of the base post-ISIS was uncertain.


Iraq Considers Options for Foreign ISIS Fighters, Families

On September 9, a Turkish newspaper reported that 174 Turkish ISIS fighters had surrendered to Iraqi forces in the fight for Tal Afar. It was unclear if the fighters would be tried in Iraq or repatriated to Turkey. The Iraqi government has indicated a desire to repatriate foreign civilians with ISIS ties, but does not necessarily have the same intentions for militants.

On September 10, Iraqi security officials announced that they had captured 1,333 foreign family members of ISIS fighters during the offensive to retake Tal Afar in August, and were holding them at a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq. The officials, who requested to remain anonymous, said that the family members would not be charged with any crimes, and that they would “likely” be repatriated to their home countries. Most of the families members came from central Asia, Russia, and Turkey, although a few came from places as far away as Japan and South Korea.

On September 13, an Iraqi Federal Court sentenced a Russian ISIS fighter to death, following his surrender to Iraqi forces in west Mosul earlier this year. The fighter, who was not named, admitted to serving in a militant capacity in ISIS after joining the organization 2014, and is one of hundreds of militants captured by Iraqi forces during the battle for Mosul. While Iraqi officials have indicated a desire to repatriate foreign family members of ISIS fighters, the fighters themselves are not necessarily granted the same treatment. According to a judicial source, it is the first death sentence dealt to a Russian ISIS fighter. Iraqi forces are currently detaining an estimated 3000 suspected ISIS fighters, though the government does not release any official statistics on fighters in captivity.


Village Near Tal Afar Cleared Again; Commission Releases Mosul Report

On September 8, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces killed five ISIS militants equipped with suicide belts that were attempting to infiltrate Peshmerga-controlled areas in the town of al-’Ayadiya, outside Tal Afar. ISIS militants regrouped there after fleeing Tal Afar, and Iraqi-aligned forces have struggled to dislodge them for the past several weeks.

On September 10, Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights announced that in their assessment, over 2,000 civilians were killed by Iraqi and coalition forces in the fight to retake western Mosul. Wahda al-Jumaili, a member of Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights, said that the total was likely to rise, as civil defense units are still finding more bodies in the rubble. The commission blamed the Iraqi-aligned forces for being overly destructive in the fight in western Mosul, where they had previously received criticism for relying too heavily on airstrikes and explosives to take out ISIS positions.

On September 11, heavy fighting broke out again between ISIS and the ISF in the town of al-’Ayadiya, outside of Tal Afar. ISIS militants regrouped there after the ISF cleared Tal Afar, but the fighting was declared finished last week when the ISF announced that they had complete control over al-’Ayadiya.

On September 12, the Iraqi military again declared the town of al-’Ayadiya, located 10 kilometers outside of Tal Afar, to be completely retaken, after security operations killed 30 more militants there. The military first declared the town retaken on September 6, when they killed 17 ISIS fighters. Over 1000 militants have reportedly been killed in the town, where they regrouped after being ousted from Tal Afar.

On September 12, ISIS killed two children and wounded two more in the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, in a rocket explosion. The rocket was likely launched from the nearby town of Imam Gharbi, where Iraqi forces have struggled to dislodge ISIS militants when they regrouped there after the end of the battle for Mosul in July.

On September 12, an unidentified gunman killed three people and injured at least one more in a targeted attack on the family of an alleged ISIS militant responsible for the death of an Iraqi soldier in the battle for Mosul. The attacker stormed the family’s house in northwest Mosul and opened fire, killing a mother and two of her children, injuring one more woman who was not a member of the family.

On September 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that he would travel to New York next week to discuss Iraqi reconstruction work at the UN. Demining and rebuilding infrastructure in areas that have been retaken from ISIS is likely to take years — UN estimates have suggested that it may take over a decade to remove mines from Mosul alone — and Iraqi officials have in the past been quick to emphasize that the need for international support and investment will last long after ISIS is defeated on the battlefield.

On September 13, Iraqi Member of Parliament Jamila Obedi, representative for Ninewa province, voiced concerns that Mosul has not seen “any move by the government towards rebuilding” the city, despite the allocation of significant funds to do so. She blamed the government for failing to ensure basic security of residents in the city, and alleged that kidnappings and theft are rampant even as the city’s infrastructure remains devastated from the grueling nine month campaign to retake the city from ISIS militants that ended in July.

On September 13, the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) released an update on the status of internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to the UNHCR, 8,000 people returned to Mosul and the surrounding areas during the first ten days of September, although over 820,000 Iraqis remain displaced from that area since the operation to retake the city began in October 2016.


Security in Western Anbar Remains Tenuous

On September 8, the U.S.-led international coalition bombed an ISIS convoy in western Anbar, destroying three vehicles near the city of Ana. Ana is one of several towns near the Iraqi-Syrian border in the Province of Anbar still controlled by ISIS.he town and surrounding area have been subject to an extensive air campaign by the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) in advance of eventual ground operations to retake the area.

On September 10, the IAF killed “dozens” of ISIS militants in a series of strikes on ISIS weapons stockpiles, IED manufacturing sites, and gathering places. ISIS still controls several towns in western Anbar, and the IAF has been working to weaken the militants’ grip on the area in advance of eventual ISF operations to retake the towns still under ISIS rule.

On September 11, reinforcements from the Iraqi Army arrived in western Anbar, in preparation for operations to retake Ana, near the Iraqi-Syrian border, that has been under ISIS control since 2014. A timeline for those operations was not announced, but the new troops indicate that operations that Ana is a priority for Baghdad even as the Iraqi military prepares to retake Hawija in Kirkuk.

On September 12, a Saudi newspaper reported that the Saudi government was considering reclosing the Trebil border crossing with Iraq, due to the Iraqi government’s alleged failure to adequately secure the road from Trebil to Baghdad. The border crossing was reopened on August 30 following a two year closure during ISIS’s control of the surrounding area.

On September 13, the Mayor of Rutba, in western Anbar, announced that Rutba’s military airport would be reopened for the first time since 2003, in order to support the IAF’s air strikes against ISIS militants in western Anbar. Imad al-Dulaimi said that the first plane had already landed for that purpose on September 13, and said that the airport would also be used to support Iraq’s border guards in Anbar.

On September 13, the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) warned that displacements from western Anbar were increasing in the beginning of September, particularly from Qa’im, one of the border towns still controlled by ISIS that the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) has been bombing in preparation for eventual ground operations there. Over 4,000 people arrived at the Kilo 18 camp in western Anbar since August 30. Overcrowding in Anbar’s IDP camps is a growing issue, and the new arrivals are being housed in temporary shelters as they prepare to move to other camps.

On September 14, the head of the District Council of Ana, Abdul Karim al-Ani, again called for the IAF to cease its bombing on Ana, a town in western Anbar, roughly 100 kilometers east of the border with Syria. He said that a recent airstrike killed three civilians and wounded 10 more, severely damaging several houses not occupied by ISIS. Ana has been held by ISIS since 2014, and a recent aerial campaign by the IAF is intended to take out ISIS positions before the ISF moves in to retake the city. Ani, however, has repeatedly maintained that the airstrikes are needlessly destructive and dangerous, and advocated for seizing all IAF operations in the city.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
09/14/17West Dhi Qar Provinceunspecifiedunspecified
09/13/17Zayouna neighborhood of Baghdad23
09/13/17Entrance to Musayyib, north Babylon Province1unspecified
09/13/17Nahrawan, east of Baghdad14
09/13/17Sadr area of Yusufiya, south of Baghdad02
09/12/17Qayyara, 55 km south of Mosul22
09/12/17South Baghdad12
09/11/17Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad14
09/09/17Rasheed, south of Baghdad02
09/09/17North Babylon Province06
09/08/17South Baghdad16
09/08/17Ibrahim bin Ali, west of Baghdad02

 

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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