ISHM 55: March 18 – 24, 2016

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ISHM LOGOKey Takeaways:

  • This morning, Iraq’s Joint Special Operations Command announced the start of operation to clear the city of Mosul of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). U.S. military spokesman Col. Steve Warren stated that the United States will provide ongoing air support for the operation, emphasizing that US Marines are already hitting ISIS targets in al-Qayyarah subdistrict of southern Ninewa. Iraqi Major Gen. Najm al-Din al-Jubouri, Commander of Ninewa Operations Command, announced that joint security forces have already cleared ISIS from 8 villages in the outskirts of al-Qayyarah.
  • On March 18, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and anti-ISIS tribal fighters cleared ISIS from five areas in eastern Fallujah, including Albu Jasim, al-Subaihat, al-Shihabi, Albu Sayeh, and al-Obeidi. These clearing operations reportedly killed 58 ISIS militants. To the west of Ramadi, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) captured the villages of al-Hawdha and Kabisa, as well as the areas of al-Mashatil and al-Mathana. On March 23, PMU Colonel Khamis Bahr al-Halbousi announced the start of operations to liberate the subdistrict of al-Saqlawiyah (22 km north of Fallujah) of ISIS.
  • The Head of the Security Committee of Anbar’s Provincial Council, Sheikh Rajeh Barakat al-Issawi, reported that civilians in Fallujah are starving and warned of an alarming suicide rate among residents. The city of Fallujah is currently under siege by ISF and PMU forces, as they continue to hit ISIS targets in the city. As a results, more than 10,000 civilians are currently trapped and have no access to humanitarian aid.
  • Deputy Special Representative to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Lise Grande, expressed serious concern over the 35,000 newly displaced civilians who were forced to flee their homes due to heavy bombing by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) of suspected ISIS targets in the city of Hit, northwest of Ramadi. Ms. Grande indicated that the displaced families are in urgent need of water, food and hygiene essentials.
  • On March 19, ISIS militants fired Katyusha rockets at a U.S. base near the city of Makhmour, in southern Ninewa, killing U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin and injuring three of his comrades. Following the attack, U.S. military officials acknowledged that the number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq has risen from 3,870 to around 5,000. On Tuesday, ISIS launched a second attack on the U.S. base near Makhmour, however no American casualties were reported.
  • An activist of the Yarsan religious community (also known as Kaka’i), Rijab Assi, announced that ISIS has distributed flyers threatening to kill all members of the community in northern Iraq and called on relevant security forces to protect the community. Yarsanism is an ancient syncretic religion founded in late 14th century and most of its followers are based in western Iran and northeastern Iraq.
  • On March 20, Iraq shipped its first tanker of natural gas in its history. The tanker departed from Iraq’s southern port of Umm Qasr near Basra. This is a significant move by the Iraqi government to improve the deteriorating economic conditions in the country. On March 22, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil reported that the country has exported more than 93.5 million barrels of oil in February, earning more than $2 billion in revenue. By comparison, Iraq’s oil earnings for February of last year reached $3.4 billion. Due to the continuing collapse of global oil prices, Iraq is facing a $20.5 billion budget deficit for 2016.

Mosul Operation Begins

On March 22, the International Coalition bombed the University of Mosul, killing dozens of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. ISIS responded with anti-aircraft guns, but no planes were downed.

On March 24, Iraq’s Joint Special Operations Commands announced that the operation to liberate the city of Mosul has begun. The city will be attacked from three different directions and civilians have been advised to avoid Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) bases and positions.

On March 24, Iraqi Security Forces cleared the villages of Haj Ali, Mahana, Kadila, Khaburdan, and al-Nadhra, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. These villages are on the outskirts of the larger town of al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul. Due to the militants fleeing the villages, there was no resistance for the ISF to encounter.

On March 24, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed one Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) soldier and injured three others in battles near al-Qayyarah. However, it is worth mentioning that dozens of ISIS militants have been killed and injured in battles during this operation as well.

On March 24, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) bombed a postal service building in al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul. The attack killed 15 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants.

On March 24, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the part of the town of al-Qayyarah that lies to the west of the Tigris River. As they fled, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed their own members and set fire to oil tanks. ISF soldiers are waiting for pontoon bridges so that they may cross the river and clear the east side of the city.

On March 24, Colonel Steven Warren, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, announced that in the current operation to clear al-Qayyarah and the areas around Makhmour of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, the United States and the International Coalition will be providing close air support to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). However, he also emphasized that US Marines are currently bombarding the town of al-Qayyarah with artillery to pave the way for ISF soldiers to completely clear it of ISIS militants.

ISF and PMUs Report Further Territorial Gains Against ISIS in Anbar

On March 18, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and tribal fighters cleared the Albu Jasim, Subhayat, and Shihabi areas, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah, Anbar province, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation resulted in the deaths of 18 ISIS militants and the destruction of a large cache of ISIS weapons and missiles.

On March 18, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) cleared the areas of Albu Sayeh and al-Ubaidi, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah, Anbar province, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. These two operations killed a total of 40 ISIS militants and destroyed three vehicles used by the terrorist group.

On March 18, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and tribal fighters cleared the village of al-Hawda, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation killed “dozens” of ISIS militants and is essential for paving the way for tanks and other armed vehicles to be involved in the imminent operation to clear the city of Hit.

On March 19, Iraqi Security Forces (ISIS) cleared the village of Kabisa, 160 kilometers west of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation saw the deaths of dozens of ISIS militants and the destruction of a number of ISIS-owned vehicles.

On March 19, Iraqi Security Forces (ISIS) and tribal fighters cleared an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) training camp near Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, of ISIS militants. The operation saw the deaths of dozens of ISIS militants and the raising of the Iraqi flag over the camp.

On March 20, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the areas of al-Mushatil and al-Mutahana, two small villages on the outskirts of Hit which is 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation resulted in the deaths of dozens of ISIS militants and have paved the way for the imminent invasion of Hit by the ISF.

On March 20, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared half of the village of Albu Bali, 20 kilometers northeast of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation has killed 19 ISIS militants thus far.

On March 20, the International Coalition bombed a gathering of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants west of Ramadi which is 110 kilometers west of Baghdad. The strike killed 15 ISIS militants and destroyed three vehicles.

On March 21, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) killed seven leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the village of al-Abadi, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah in Anbar province.

On March 23, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) announced the beginning of an operation, in conjunction with tribal fighters, to clear the city of Saqlawiyah, 62 kilometers west of Baghdad, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation killed dozens of militants in its first few hours and will continue until the city is completely under Iraqi control.

Starvation and Suicides in besieged Fallujah; Growing Humanitarian Emergency in Conflict Areas

In Fallujah, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that supply lines have been cut and the city remains under an ongoing siege. There are reports of critical shortages of fuel, food, clean water and medicine, with civilians also being subjected to shelling and airstrikes that have resulted in many casualties.

On March 23, the head of the security committee of Anbar’s Provincial Council, Sheikh Rajeh Barakat al-Issawi, reported that “10,000 innocent families can not leave the city of Fallujah because of ISIS and the siege.” As a result, civilians are starving and committing suicide at alarming rates, he said. The Sheikh appealed for a swift end to the siege and an airlift of emergency relief for the innocent civilians trapped there, who have largely been without contact with the outside world since January 2014.

On March 24, governor of Anbar, Suhaib al-Rawi, demanded that aid be air delivered to the city of Fallujah until its liberation, urging the international community to do its part in ending the humanitarian crisis. Al-Rawi added that the local government, in coordination with security forces, are working to achieve Fallujah’s liberation.

As fighting intensifies against ISIS militants, there are growing concerns about noncombatants who are caught in the crossfire or affected by military operations to clear ISIS militants from their areas. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman Khaled Mafraji called on international organizations to immediately intervene in order to “save millions of people from certain death” by providing food and medicine to Anbar, Ninewa, and other areas of active conflict.

Meanwhile, conditions for IDPs in camps continues to deteriorate. On March 23, a World Food Program report revealed that the food consumption of internally displaced persons (IDPs) declined through January and February 2016, with over a quarter of IDPs living in camps reporting inadequate food consumption. In addition, among IDPs, a much higher proportion of respondents living in camps reported resorting to negative food-related coping strategies in February (64%) compared with January (22.5%).

Displacement

On March 18, member of the provincial council of Diyala Amal Omran announced the distribution of humanitarian aid by international organizations to 500 returnees to the district of Saadia, northeast of Baquba.

On March 18, the Department of Displacement and Migration in Diyala province confirmed that more than 41,000 displaced families have received smart cards to secure their financial dues approved by the central government.

On March 19, the United Nations expressed serious concern over the fate of the nearly 35,000 people that have been forced to flee their homes in Hit, Anbar province, where Iraqi forces have launched an offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Lisa Grande, humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations in Iraq, said hundreds of the families that have fled are very close to the frontlines and it is difficult to reach the affected areas. The displaced families are in urgent need of water, food, and hygiene supplies.

On March 21, the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that an estimated 4,200 families have been forced to flee from their homes in Hit, Anbar province, in response to last week’s military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The newly displaced people are in desperate need of water and food, and Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager Salah Noori said they fear that as many as “ 50,000 individuals will be displaced in the upcoming days as the military operations continue”.

On March 20, the Director of the al-Wafa subdistrict, 35 km west of Ramadi, Naji Aber al-Dulaimi, announced that they have received 1,286 displaced persons, mostly women and children, from Hit and Leap, while demanding the central government and international organizations to send them emergency aid.

On March 20, the Jalula administration in Diyala province announced the return of 251 internally displaced families to the Orouba neighborhood. Their return coincided with Newroz, a regional holiday celebrating the beginning of Spring.

The Number of U.S. Troops in Iraq now “around 5,000”

On March 19, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fired Katyusha rockets on a U.S. base near the city of Makhmour, 60 kilometers south of Mosul in Ninewa province. The attack killed U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin and injured three other U.S. service members.

Following the attack, U.S. military officials acknowledged that there are currently around 5,000 American soldiers in Iraq, far more than the administration’s authorized cap of 3,870.

On March 22, ISIS launched a second attack on the U.S. base near Makhmour. Ten ISIS militants attacked the base, and after two were killed, the remaining eight fled. There were no American casualties.

ISIS Threatens the Yarsan Religious Community

On March 18, activist Recep Assi revealed to the media that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is now posting messages in areas where the followers of the Alkakaiah religion reside in which accuse them of blasphemy and vow to kill them. Assi called on the relevant authorities to act to protect them.

Iraq Ships Natural Gas for the First Time

On March 20, a tanker ship carrying liquid natural gas departed from Iraq’s southern port of Umm Qasr near Basra. This is the first natural gas export in Iraqi history.

On March 21, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones announced that Iraq earned $350 million in customs revenues during the month of January. This sum is critical as Iraq continues to investigate new streams of funding to replace diminished oil revenues.

On March 22, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil reported that February exports amounted to 93.5 million barrels of oil, earning just over $2 billion in revenue. By comparison, Iraq’s oil earnings for February of last year reached $3.4 billion. Due to the continuing collapse of global oil prices, Iraq is facing a $20.5 billion budget deficit for 2016.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
3/18/16Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
25
03/18/16Yusufiyah,
South of Baghdad
18
03/19/16Abu Ghraib,
West of Baghdad
26
03/19/16al-Gazaliyah,
Western Baghdad
10
03/19/16al-Obeidi,
Eastern Baghdad
19
03/19/16al-Bayaa,
Southern Baghdad
26
03/19/16Abu Dashir,
Southern Baghdad
18
03/20/16Taji,
North of Baghdad
29
03/20/16Abu Dashir,
Southern Baghdad
17
03/20/16al-Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
15
03/20/16al-Haqlaniyah,
West of Ramadi
13
03/20/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
27
03/20/16al-Bayaa,
Southern Baghdad
15
03/20/16al-Obeidi,
Eastern Baghdad
16
03/21/16Abu Ghraib,
West of Baghdad
17
03/21/16Hor Rajab,
Southern Baghdad
14
03/21/16al-Suwaib,
Southwestern Baghdad
15
03/21/16al-Gherai’at,
Northern Baghdad
25
03/21/16Baladiyat,
Eastern Baghdad
11
03/21/16Ramadi,
West of Baghdad
10050
03/21/16Tobchi,
Western Baghdad
17
03/22/16al-Tarmia,
North of Baghdad
37
03/22/16al-Obeidi,
Eastern Baghdad
16
03/22/16Nariyah,
Eastern Baghdad
26
03/22/16al-Wardia,
South of Baghdad
17
03/22/16Bakri,
Western Baghdad
28
03/23/16Taji,
North of Baghdad
16
03/23/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
27
03/23/16Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
23
03/23/16Husseiniya,
North of Baghdad
13
03/23/16Al-Amin al-Thaniyah,
Eastern Baghdad
26
03/23/16Mahmudiya,
South of Baghdad
15
03/24/16Mansour,
Western Baghdad
16
03/24/16al-Sebaa,
Central Baghdad
14
03/24/16Yusufiyah,
South of Baghdad
15
03/24/16al-Adhamiyah,
Northern Baghdad
10
03/24/16al-Wahda,
Southern Baghdad
17
03/24/16al-Bayaa,
Southern Baghdad
15


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC’s Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s final report (ISHM No. 55) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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