ISHM: September 15 – 21, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • Tensions Mount in Kirkuk as Kurdish Independence Referendum Looms – Despite calls from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani renewed his commitment to holding a referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on Monday, September 25. The White House issued a statement on September 15, saying that the referendum is “distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS,” and that “holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing.” Signs of such destabilization were manifest this week following an exchange of gunfire between pro-independence gunmen and members of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Kirkuk City. The clash killed one and wounded two others before a mass deployment of police forces across the city secured the situation. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that Baghdad is ready to intervene militarily if the referendum for independence leads to violence. On September 18, the Iraqi Federal Court issued a state order to stop the referendum, labeling it unconstitutional, but the KRG has vowed to hold the vote anyway with one Kurdish Member of Parliament calling the ruling “politicized” and, therefore, “not binding.” more…
  • Governor of Kirkuk Disputes Ouster – Following a vote last week by the Iraqi Parliament to dismiss Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim, the KRG announced that it will not recognize the Iraqi Parliament’s authority in the decision and will continue to consider Karim as Kirkuk’s legitimate governor. A vote by the Kirkuk Provincial Council on September 19 echoed the KRG’s position. Karim is vocally supportive of Kurdish independence and has encouraged residents of Kirkuk to participate in the vote, despite vehement opposition by the province’s Arab and Turkmen population. more…
  • Attack in Nasiriya Results in Mass Casualties – On September 14, a coordinated attack in Iraq’s fourth largest city, Nasiriya, killed at least 59 and injured 96. Armed men in military uniforms stormed a restaurant and opened gunfire in the predominantly Shia city. Moments later, a vehicle-based IED exploded at a nearby police checkpoint. ISIS militants claimed responsibility for the attack in Dhi Qar Province, and some analysts suggest that the attack may be in retaliation for recent territorial losses by the so-called Islamic State. more…
  • Mass Displacement from Hawija Expected as Operations Begin – On September 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of operations to clear the city of Hawija of ISIS militants. UNOCHA issued a bulletin earlier in the week, expressing concern that as many as 85 thousand civilians in Hawija are expected to be displaced by impending military operations. Iraqi Security Forces, Popular Mobilization Units, and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga have been poised to begin operations for several weeks, but have so far not entered Hawija itself. Health care, clean water, and food access are extremely limited in the town in Kirkuk Province, held by ISIS since 2014. more…
  • Encouraged by Improved Security, More IDPs Return to Eastern Mosul – UNHCR reported that 8,000 IDPs have returned to eastern Mosul during the first ten days of September. Two thirds of families returning listed “improved security situation” as the main reason impacting their decision to return. Over 2.2 million people have been displaced from Ninewa Province since 2014 and to-date, only 400 thousand have returned. more…
  • “Hundreds” of ISIS Militants Killed in Western Anbar – Iraqi Security Forces increased the scale of operations to clear several remaining small towns in western Anbar Province of ISIS militants. On September 16, the Iraqi Army’s 8th and 10th divisions cleared Akashat, a village of about 300 houses, where Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said “hundreds” of ISIS fighters were killed. Airstrikes continued to target Ana, Rawa, and Qa’im, and the 7th division of the Iraqi Army entered Rihana, where they raised the Iraqi flag. On September 19, a tribal leader in western Anbar reported a mass movement of ISIS militants from Ana toward Rawa, 20 kilometers to the east, in an effort by the group to consolidate in the region. more…
  • Kurdish Parliament Reconvenes Without Gorran – On September 15, the Kurdistan Parliament held its first session in nearly two years, despite a boycott by the Gorran (Movement for Change) and Kurdistan Islamic Group parties who saw the convening as an opportunity to construct agreement between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) on the topic of the impending independence referendum and not an opportunity to “improve the situation of the citizens.” As expected, KDP and PUK Members of Parliament in attendance voted unanimously to hold the referendum on September 25. 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.


Tensions Mount in Kirkuk as Kurdish Independence Referendum Looms

On September 15, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, renewed his refusal to postpone an impending referendum for independence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). A day earlier, Barzani met with representatives from the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), and the United Nations (UN), who tried to persuade him to postpone the referendum, after which he said that postponement is considerable. Last week, local and federal Iraqi officials greatly escalated their pressure on Kurdistan to abandon the referendum, but the Kurdish government is not backing down.

On September 15, the United States released a press statement from the White House reiterating its objection to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) intention to hold a referendum for independence. The press statement explains that the referendum is “distracting from efforts to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS),” and that “holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing.”

On September 15, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim agreed to work together to push the KRG to withdraw from holding the referendum on September 25. Yildirim announced that Turkey had set a “clear and precise” plan to react in case Iraqi Kurdistan declares independence, and he confirmed Turkey’s support for the actions of the Iraqi Government to preserve Iraq’s unity. Later that day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the Turkish National Security Council will meet on September 22, instead of its original time on September 27, to discuss the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. Erdogan said that Turkey will make its “final decision on the referendum” after that meeting.

On September 16, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with U.S. and UK ambassadors to Iraq. Masum stated that the meeting discussed ways to strengthen their relations and confront Iraq’s security and political challenges, especially the referendum. The U.S. and the UK are ready to support comprehensive dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil to resolve differences on holding the referendum. A day earlier, US, UK and United Nations ambassadors to Iraq met with President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani and offered him an alternative to holding the referendum.

On September 16, President of Iraq Fuad Masum announced an initiative for dialogue between political leaders to resolve the crisis amid holding a referendum for independence later this month. Masum stated: “We have decided to launch an initiative for dialogue and start by inviting leaders … to hold intensive meetings to reach concrete and urgent solutions to overcome this crisis.” Masum’s statement followed a meeting with U.S. and UK ambassadors earlier that day. He cancelled his trip to the United Nations meeting in New York to launch talks. Masum, a Kurdish politician, has recently been threatened with impeachment by members of the Iraqi Parliament who critiqued his silence or lack of opposition towards the issue of the referendum.

On September 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Baghdad is ready to intervene militarily if the referendum for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan leads to violence. He called the referendum a “dangerous escalation” that would violate Iraq’s sovereignty. On the same day, Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, stressed that the referendum is a matter of national security for Turkey, on which it will “take all actions.” Turkey has been sporadically air-striking the Dahuk Province in northern Iraq.

On September 17, a leading Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga commander, Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, encouraged his forces during a speech in Erbil not to back down from holding the referendum amid the pressures. “Do not retreat from the referendum in any form,” he said, “we will maintain all our capabilities on the Kurdish areas outside the region.” He pointed out that his forces will remain in areas outside the Kurdish Administration.

On September 17, the Kurdistan Regional Council on the Referendum decided to send a delegation to Baghdad for talks, while stressing that the referendum would not be postponed. The decision came during a meeting of the council under the supervision of President of the KRG Masoud Barzani. The US, Britain, and Spain have recently confirmed their objection to the referendum.

On September 17, French and Turkish ambassadors to Iraq met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to express their countries’ rejection to the Kurdistan referendum and support for maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity. In the preceding days, US, UK, and Spain also expressed formal objections to the referendum.

On September 17, Member of Parliament of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, Haider Mawla, revealed during an interview that some PUK leaders are opposed to holding a referendum in Kirkuk Province for fear of inciting violence. He said that PUK leaders informed their opinions to President of the KRG Masoud Barzani and will announce their official position in two days.

On September 17, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement opposing the referendum for independence on September 25. “[A]ny unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh),” the statement said. In that regard, Guterres’s position aligns with the official statements from the U.S. and the UK, which were released in the previous days. The Secretary also pointed out the importance of allowing the return of more than three million refugees and IDPs, and he called upon Iraqi leaders to approach the Iraqi Kurdistan matter with patience and restraint.

On September 18, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon arrived in Baghdad. He was received by Iraqi Minister of the Interior Qassem al-Araji. The two are expected to discuss the security situation in Iraq — in particular, the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) — as well as Iraqi-British bilateral relations. Next, Fallon continued to Erbil to talk with KRG officials, including President of the KRG Masoud Barzani on ISIS and the referendum. Barzani commented on his meeting with Fallon later that day, “there is no choice but independence.” However, he set a condition: “If the Iraqi Government agrees to dialogue for the purpose of the independence of Kurdistan under a certain time frame and the existence of international guarantees, then the Kurdish political leadership will meet and decide its final decision.” Thus, Barzani gave the option of postponing or cancelling the referendum, but not the option of maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity.

On September 18, spokesman for the Electoral Commission of Kurdistan, Sherwan Zerari, reported in a news conference that two offices will open in Kirkuk and Ninewa Provinces to manage the referendum process. Further, he disclosed that 11 political entities, 64 international observers, and 65 media organizations registered to monitor the referendum process on September 25. Zerari said that, so far, no candidate registered for the post of President of Kurdistan. The Electoral Commission is preparing logistically to hold the referendum on schedule despite international pressures.

On September 18, the Iraqi Federal Court issued a state order to stop the proceedings of the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions. They asserted that the referendum is unconstitutional based on the provisions of Article 151 of the Civil Procedure Code No. 83 of 1969. Notably, a “state order” is a decision that is more administrative than judicial, which is issued in urgent cases. A Member of Parliament (MP) of the KDP, Shakhwan Abdullah, rejected the decision of the Federal Court, claiming that its decision is “politicized,” and, therefore, “not binding.” He confirmed that the referendum will proceed despite the Federal Court’s order.

On September 18, gunfire near the offices of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Kirkuk injured two, who were taken to a hospital. Mohammed Samaan Kanaan, in charge of offices of the Turkmen Front, told reporters that armed men on motorcycles opened fired on the office, and were wounded by the office guards who fired back. A different source reported that one person was killed and five others were wounded, and that the victims were campaigning for the Kurdish referendum. Armed clashes between Kurds and Turkmen broke out following the incident, but Kirkuk police reported that the security situation in the city is stabilized after a massive deployment of security forces. Kirkuk’s Police Directorate refuted reports about issuing a curfew in the city following the clashes, but mentioned that there are orders to arrest anyone who is armed.

On September 19, Turkmen Member of Parliament, Jassem Mohammed al-Bayati, accused “gangs” of the Governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim, for the attack on Turkmen headquarters a day earlier. Bayati claimed that the attackers threatened Turkmen to force them to participate in the referendum on September 25, and he expects “such criminal acts” to increase against Arabs and Turkmen in the Province of Kirkuk and elsewhere. He called on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to postpone the referendum and Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to do “what is necessary to control the situation and the return of security and stability.”

On September 19, Saudi Minister of State, Thamir al-Sahban, tweeted: “I look forward to the wisdom and courage of President Massoud Barzani to accept the current international mediation as part of the UN proposals” to spare a crisis in Iraq. In a meeting with Barzani two days earlier, Sahban expressed Riyadh’s readiness to mediate a dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad. Over the past several days, several international actors strongly urged Barzani to enter talks with Baghdad and cancel or postpone the referendum scheduled for September 25. Notably, Barzani expressed consideration for dialogue after meeting with British Secretary of Defense, Michael Fallon.

On September 19, Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party announced that the province of Kirkuk is ready to postpone the referendum on Kurdish independence if there is an alternative. However, he added that the province will hold the referendum on September 25 if there is no alternative, and invited all Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Chaldeans, and Assyrians to express their opinion the ballot box. Talabani did not specify what alternative his party is willing to accept. Many Iraqi officials warned of possible violence erupting during the referendum in Kirkuk Province, which is one of the most contentious territories in this dispute. Only six days before the expected vote, Talabani’s announcement is one of the first signs Kurdish leaders showed to consider postponement.

On September 20, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with President of the KRG Masoud Barzani and PUK Political Bureau leader Hero Talabani in Sulaimania to discuss the Kurdistan referendum and outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad. The meeting was under the framework of Masum’s initiative to create an urgent solution to the referendum debate through dialogue with Iraqi leaders. Masum announced this initiative on September 16, and cancelled his trip to the United Nations meeting in New York for its purpose.

On September 20, the European Union (EU) High Commissioner for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mugereen, stated the EU’s position on Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence: “The European Union recalls its unwavering support for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, and unilateral actions, such as the proposed referendum, are fruitless and must be avoided.” The EU joins a number of prominent international bodies in opposing the Kurdistan referendum this week, including the US, UK, and UN.

On September 20, The New York Times reported that Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, is working with a pro-Kurdish lobbying group to promote the referendum for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan planned to take place on September 25. The White House has officially expressed explicit objection to the referendum multiple times, including this week. Manafort’s career occasionally included advising foreign clients whose intentions collide with U.S. interest. Recently, Manafort has been at the center of the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections. The New York Times speculates that Manafort began working with the Kurdish group this summer, around the time that U.S. federal authorities raided his home notified him that they are planning to indict him.


Governor of Kirkuk Disputes Ouster

On September 15, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that it does not recognize the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to dismiss the Governor of Kirkuk. The KRG described it as an “irresponsible and unacceptable” decision. They will continue to consider Najmaddin Karim as Kirkuk’s legitimate Governor and the decision will remain “a piece of paper.” The Iraqi Parliament voted to oust Karim from his position as Governor on September 14 as part of their effort to pressure the KRG not to hold a referendum for independence later this month. The vote was prompted by the Kirkuk Provincial Council’s August 29 decision to include Kirkuk in the referendum for independent Kurdistan. Karim is a Kurdish politician of the Patriotic Union for Kurdistan party, and Kirkuk Province is a central territory of dispute between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, partially because it is oil-rich.

On September 16, the Kurdish Alliance (KA) members of the Iraqi Parliament decided to end their suspension of Parliamentary meetings. They will return to attend regular meetings Monday. KA deputies have boycotted Parliament meetings since September 12, following the Parliament’s vote to reject the referendum for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. A leading member of the Movement for Change party, Amin Bakr, explained that they wanted to “return to dialogue and consolidate the principle of partnership,” in order to end the recent escalation between Baghdad and Erbil.

On September 17, the Governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim, showed indifference towards the Iraqi Parliament’s recent decision to dismiss him from office. He added that Kirkuk is going to hold the referendum on September 25 and he encouraged all the people in Kirkuk to participate.

On September 18, the Iraqi Parliament held a meeting in the presence of 172 deputies; however, Kurdish Members of Parliament were absent. The Kurdish Alliance announced on September 16 their decision to end their suspension of Parliament meetings and attend the meeting scheduled for Monday, September 18. However, their suspension continued. Kurdish Members of Parliament were absent from Parliamentary meetings since September 12, the day the Iraqi Parliament voted to reject the referendum for independence of the Kurdish regions.

On September 19, the Provincial Council of Kirkuk voted to reject the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to impeach Najmaddin Karim from his position as Governor of Kirkuk. Member of the Provincial Council of Kirkuk, Mohammed Kamal, explained that the Iraqi Parliament does not have the authority to elect or dismiss the Governor of Kirkuk in and out of office, only the Provincial Council has the authority to do so.


Attack in Nasiriya Results in Mass Casualties

On September 14, a coordinated attack on a restaurant in Dhi Qar Province killed at least 59 and injured 96 people. Some reports counted over 80 deaths. Several of the casualties were Iranian nationals. It began as armed men in military uniforms stormed into a restaurant in Nasiriya around lunch time and fired at people indiscriminately. Moments later, a vehicle-based improvised explosive device (VBIED) exploded in a nearby police check-point on Highway 1. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

On September 15, Dhi Qar Governor Yahya al-Nasseri said that ISIS attackers responsible for the double-attack a day earlier came from outside the Dhi Qar Province through desert roads. He called on the Federal Government to return security forces to the province, which is lacking in military personnel and equipment to protect against terror attacks.


Mass Displacement from Hawija Expected as Operations Begin

On September 15, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a bulletin that highlighted several humanitarian highlights from Iraq. In particular, the bulletin addressed the 85,000 civilians expected to be displaced by the upcoming military operation in Hawija, Kirkuk Province.

On September 15, an anonymous source reported that ISIS in Hawija executed one of their prominent leaders on charges of leaving the land of the Caliphate. The source said that the person executed was known as Abu Qatada Muhajir, and was responsible for recruiting suicide bombers. Another report from an anonymous source in Hawija said that three of the leading preachers of ISIS fled Hawija with their families to an unknown location, and ISIS members carried out raids in search of them. It is not the first time during the past couple of weeks that ISIS executed one of its members for desertion in Hawija. Hawija has been under ISIS control since 2014 and is the last ISIS stronghold in the area. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have recently cleared Mosul and Tal Afar of ISIS militants and are expected to begin an offensive on Hawija soon.

On September 16, a roadside bomb killed an ISIS-affiliated family of five (two children, three adults) who attempted to flee Hawija by foot. The explosion happened in the outskirts of Hawija, in Kirkuk Province. The family were on their way to Hamrin Basin. Hawija recently witnessed a flight of many ISIS members and affiliated family members, as it is expected that the ISF is soon to begin an operation to clear Hawija of ISIS militants.

On September 16, a group of armed ISIS members and their families arrived to Mataibija, on the border between Diyala and Salah ad-Din, an anonymous source reported. The source said that the families were fleeing from Hawija and were trying to “find gaps” to blend-in by identifying themselves as IDPs escaping violence. There have been multiple reports in recent weeks of ISIS members and affiliated families fleeing Hawija to escape the expected military offensive to clear Hawija of ISIS militants.

On September 17, REACH released a humanitarian overview of conditions faced by civilians in Hawija. REACH found that healthcare and clean water are not accessible, functional schools and livelihood opportunities do not exist, and malnutrition is widespread. Around 65,000 civilians are expected to be impacted when the operation to clear Hawija begins.

On September 18, a tribal leader in Baghdadi, in Anbar Province, reported that ISIS executed four of its leaders who tried to flee towards the Iraqi-Syrian border. ISIS controlled Baghdadi for nearly three years, but ISF forces launched an operation a day earlier to begin clearing several districts in Anbar Province.

On September 18, the Imam Ali Brigade conducted a military parade in Najaf. Karim al-Khakani, commander of the Imam Ali Brigade, said that they are fully prepared for the battle in Hawija as well as for battles on the Iraqi-Syrian border. In recent weeks, Mosul and Tal Afar have been cleared of ISIS militants by the efforts of the ISF, PMUs such as the Imam Ali Brigade, and Peshmerga forces.

On September 18, the Military Information Cell announced that 500 thousand leaflets were airdropped on each of the following places: Hawija, Rashad, Riyadh, the Abbasid region, Zab, and parts of Sharqat. The leaflets included warnings for ISIS members to “surrender or die” by “the hands of the heroes of Iraqi forces.” The leaflets also directed citizens to radio stations in their area to provide guidance.

On September 19, an anonymous source reported that ISIS killed seven of its members in Hawija, Kirkuk Province, because they were considered “negligent in the performance of duties and leaked information to the enemy.” The source pointed out that bloodshed for that reason was the first of its kind in Hawija. In the past couple of weeks, ISIS in Hawija killed several of its leaders who tried to flee, while other ISIS members fled Hawija successfully.

On September 20, the Iraqi Military Intelligence Cell announced the destruction of an improvised explosive device (IED) factory in Hawija. The factory was hit by several strikes of an Iraq F-16 aircraft, resulting in a large explosion of stored ammunition. “Dozens of terrorists” were killed, the statement said. Hawija is currently ISIS’ most important stronghold in Iraq.

On September 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the first phase in the process of clearing Hawija of ISIS. “we announce the launch of the first phase of the liberation of Hawija, in fulfillment of our pledge to our people to liberate all Iraqi territory,” Abadi said. Later on Thursday, Joint Operations Command announced that security forces began operations in eastern Hawija and Sharqat, in Salah ad-Din, west of Hawija. Local reports following the beginning of the operations said that ISIS members are escaping Sharqat towards Hawija. By the end of Thursday, Iraqi forces cleared seven villages north of Sharqat, killing over 25 ISIS members in the process.


Encouraged by Improved Security, More IDPs Return to Eastern Mosul

On September 13, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that returns of displaced people have increased in Ninewa Province. 8,000 persons have returned to Mosul and the surrounding areas during the first 10 days of September. Two-thirds of the families returning to Mosul from refugee camps listed “improved security situation” as the top reason impacting their decision to return. Over 2.2 million people have been displaced from Ninewa Province since 2014. So far, a little over 400,000 have returned.

On September 14, Kuwait provided 1,500 aid baskets to displaced Iraqis in Mosul. The aid was funded by Zakat House and was supervised by the United Iraqi Medical Society.

On September 15, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) arrested 14 women and 16 children during a search and clearance operation in the area around Ayadiya, approximately 10 kilometers outside of Tal Afar in Ninewa Province. The arrestees included 13 Turkish citizens and one Russian citizen. Ayadiyah, in Ninewa Province, had been declared clear of ISIS militants on August 30, but the ISF continued to encounter ISIS members and affiliates in later days.

On September 18, the Military Information Cell issued a statement to clarify previous media reports on ISIS family members being transported to unknown destinations. The statement said that women and their children were first received east of Ayadiyah, under the control of Peshmerga forces, and then transferred to a “safe place with better services” in Talef, under ISF control. In total, ISF received 1573 Iraqi women and children, and 1324 foreign women and children from European, Asian, Arab, African, and South American origins.

On September 19, the Government of Japan granted US$ 4.5 million emergency funding for UNHCR humanitarian assistance for families affected by the crisis in Mosul. The funding is intended to help provide the most vulnerable IDPs with shelter and emergency non-food items, such as blankets and stoves, in preparation for winter. It will also allow 700 families to return to their areas in Refugee Housing Units, provided by UNHCR. Japanese Ambassador to Iraq, Fumio Iwai, said that the Government of Japan will continue to support humanitarian and stabilization efforts in Iraq even after the current conflict ends.

On September 19, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that around 13,000 displaced people would be returning to Mosul. The Ministry is combining efforts with the Ministry of Transportation to provide buses back to the people’s places of origin in Mosul.

On September 19, Human Rights Watch disclosed that more than 1,400 women and children who had surrendered with ISIS fighters were being detained by Iraqi authorities. Additionally, up to 200 men were purportedly separated from the women, and their whereabouts are currently unknown. The women interviewed by Human Rights Watch alleged that several of the men were shot by Peshmerga forces in extrajudicial killings after an unknown woman detonated a bomb that killed three soldiers.

On September 21, the European Union (EU) donated another EU€ 10 million (US$ 11.9 million) in humanitarian assistance to Iraq, bringing the total contribution to EU€ 350 million (US$ 417 million) since 2015. The aid will provide support to those affected by the conflict, particularly after the Mosul operation.


“Hundreds” of ISIS Militants Killed in Western Anbar

On September 16, the first, 8th and 10th divisions of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) began a massive operation to clear ISIS from Akashat region in Anbar Province. Later that day, the media cell of the Joint Special Operations Command announced that Akashat was “completely liberated” of ISIS forces. Akashat is a town of about 300 houses located northwest of Rutba city, 310 km west of Ramadi. ISIS has been present there since mid-2014.

On September 16, the Military Information Cell of the ISF announced that the Iraqi Air Force is air-dropping thousands of leaflets in four districts in Anbar Province, Akashat, Ana, Rawa, and Qa’im. The leaflets addressed the citizens of those districts informing them that “their hour of salvation is close after the liberation of Ninewa.” The leaflets also warned ISIS members that their “hour of reckoning” is close and that they “must surrender themselves and undergo a fair trial or die by the fire of the armed forces.” An earlier report that day said that ISF forces launched a large operation on Akashat. After clearing Mosul and Tal Afar, many speculated that Hawija, in Kirkuk Province, would be the next destination the ISF would clear of ISIS militants.

On September 17, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, declared victory over ISIS in Akashat. His statement praised the ISF, and especially the Air Force, which, he said, killed hundreds of ISIS fighters. Iraq’s offensive on Akashat began on September 16. ISF declared the region cleared of ISIS militants in less than a day.

On September 18, the Iraqi Air Force bombed ISIS posts in Qaim, Anbar Province, killing 49 and wounding others, including a deputy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On September 19, ISF began operations to clear ISIS militants from Ana District in Anbar province. The operation will initiate from three locations. The seventh division of the Army entered Rihana, east of Ana district (210 km west of Ramadi) early Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon, Iraqi forces raised an Iraqi flag over Rihana. Rihana’s district council declared it “liberated.” 22 ISIS members were killed in the process and four vehicle-based improvised explosive device (VBIED) were destroyed. ISF had cleared Akashat, west of Ana, two days earlier.

On September 19, a tribal leader in Baghdadi, Anbar Province, reported a mass movement of ISIS members from Ana towards Rawa, 20 km east. On the same day, ISF reportedly began a large-scale operations to clear Ana of ISIS militants.


Kurdish Parliament Reconvenes Without Gorran

On September 15, the Movement for Change and the Kurdistan Islamic Group parties refused to participate in the Kurdish Parliament’s meeting Friday, in which they voted to hold the referendum for independence on September 25. Juan Rapper of the Kurdistan Islamic Group criticized that the Kurdish Parliament must improve the situation of its citizens and not only talk about the referendum. He added that the meeting on Friday was primarily for constructing an agreement between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

On September 15, the Kurdistan Parliament held its first session after almost two years of inactivity. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the referendum for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and to respond to recent decisions by the Iraqi Parliament. The Movement for Change and the Kurdish Islamic Group parties boycotted the meeting. In the meeting, the Kurdistan Parliament voted unanimously to hold the referendum on September 25, and assigned Baker Talabani as Secretary of Parliament.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
09/20/17Khan Dhari, near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad14
09/19/17South Baiji District, Salah ad-Din334
09/19/17Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad15
09/19/17Karagul, south of Baghdad03
09/19/17Near Daquq, 35 km south of Kirkuk 10
09/18/17Baquba, Diyala Province00
09/18/17South Kirkuk01
09/17/17Sinjar, Ninewa Province0several
009/09/17Amiriyah, Falluja, Anbar Province west of Baghdad04
009/09/17Wahda neighborhood, South Baghdad02
009/09/17Sayed Abdullah, south of Baghdad14
09/16/17Southeast of Tikrit, Salah ad-Din Province00
09/16/17Tajiyat, north of Baghdad03
09/16/17Hawija, Kirkuk Province50
09/16/17Aden District , Kirkuk Province110
09/15/17Muqdadiya District , northeast of Baquba19
09/15/17Hor Rajab District, south of Baghdad13
09/15/15Qarah Tapah, (11 km northeast of Baquba), Diyala Province10
09/15/17Nasiriya, Dhi Qar Province5996

 

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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