ISHM: October 7 – 13, 2016

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Key Takeaways:

  • Turkish Troop Presence in Northern Iraq Continues to Cause Tension – On October 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press conference that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi needs to “know his place” in regional affairs, asserting that Turkey will not be excluded from impending operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants. The statement follows the Turkish Parliament’s approval of a continued Turkish troop presence in northern Iraq despite calls from the Iraqi Parliament, Arab League, and the United States that foreign military forces in Iraq should only be there with the consent of the Iraqi government. Members of Iraqi Parliament have called for severing diplomatic and economic ties between Turkey and Iraq (despite Turkey’s status as Iraq’s number one importer), and have called for the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session on the issue. Meanwhile, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kurdish parties are divided about the presence of Turkish troops, with the PUK demanding Turkey’s withdrawal and the KDP defending Turkey’s right to remain. As Renas Jano, a KDP Member of Kurdish Parliament said, “as long as the PKK presence continues, Turkey’s presence in the region will be essential for security.”  more…
  • Preparations to Clear Mosul Include Instructions for Trapped Civilians – Save the Children’s Country Director in Iraq, Maurizio Crivallero, highlighted the predicament facing those in Mosul, saying, “Families have an impossible decision to make. If they stay, their children may get caught in the crossfire,” and will not have access to food, water or medicine. “If they decide to flee, they will have to run a gauntlet of fighters, snipers, and landmines.” Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) issued a list of 32 recommendations for civilians in Mosul to implement during imminent military operations to clear the city of ISIS militants, including not attempting evacuation, marking windows with tape to indicate civilian status, and telling children that the sounds of battle are “just a game” or the sounds of “thunder and rain,” in order to keep children calm. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk, said that the decision to encourage civilians in Mosul to stay in their homes during military operations belongs to the ISF. Besides being caught in the crossfire, another serious concern for allowing families to remain is that they may be misidentified as ISIS sympathizers and summarily executed. Meanwhile, U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes continue to target IED factories, ISIS courts and media centers, and ISIS leadership in the city.  more…
  • Operations to Secure Hawija Continue as Escape from the City Remains Risky – Security forces began to move toward the Hamrin Mountains and al-Fathah, west of Kirkuk, to survey areas ahead of operations to clear Hawija of ISIS militants. Over the past week, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga have received more than 1,200 IDPs fleeing the ISIS-occupied city where humanitarian conditions remain dire. Fleeing Hawija is particularly difficult according to witnesses who have seen ISIS militants break the hands and feet of those trying to flee, behead defectors, and plant landmines along potential escape routes. The Iraqi Government has been accused of not doing enough to protect civilians in Hawija, instead focusing limited resources on Mosul. (For more on the neglect of Hawija, see our report.)  more…
  • IDPs are Returning to Sharqat as Fighting there Intensifies – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that between September 24 and October 6, 3,420 IDPs returned to Sharqat, a strategically important town on the Tigris River in Salah ad-Din Province which was ostensibly cleared of ISIS militants on September 22. According to eyewitness accounts, however, shelling and indiscriminate attacks by ISIS militants have increased in recent days, evidence of the capacity of Iraqi security forces to clear locations temporarily, but not hold them in the long-run. Holding cleared areas will become increasingly important as operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants advance.  more…
  • Security Forces Clear Hit of ISIS Militants and Continue Focus Elsewhere in Anbar – The capacity of Iraqi security forces to hold cleared areas will be further tested in Anbar Province, where the ISF, assisted by local militias and U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes cleared ISIS militants from Hit, as well as the Byjy al-Holi Road, a vital ISIS supply line to the western end of the province. According to an unconfirmed report, ISIS command has ordered all of their commanders and militants to leave the last three ISIS strongholds in Anbar (Anah, Qa’im and Rawa).  more…
  • VPs Reinstated; Parliament Questions Foreign Minister; IMF Loan Talks Conclude – Iraq’s Federal Court ruled that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s attempt to abolish the Vice Presidency and Deputy Prime Minister positions is unconstitutional because the measure passed the Iraqi Parliament without an absolute majority in August 2015. The reform effort was part of al-Abadi’s measures to better streamline the government. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was one of the three vice presidents when the mostly symbolic position was initially eliminated. On October 6, Parliament questioned Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on charges of corruption, although the outcome of the questioning and Parliament’s intentions to oust the Minister have not been publicly discussed since. Despite the vacancy of the Minister of Finance position, the Iraqi government concluded talks with the International Monetary Fund over a US$ 4 billion loan package intended to help Iraq diversity its economy and reform the government. Ousted Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari is largely credited with initiating the agreement.  more…
  • IDPs Pressed to Return to Fallujah – On October 8, Mayor of Fallujah Isa al-Sayer, announced the return of “7,400 displaced families” to the city center since returns began on September 17. The number reported by the mayor is unconfirmed and is remarkably high for such a short period of time. Al-Sayer encouraged IDPs to return, stressing that the restoration of public services such as electricity and drinking water are well underway. Fallujah was cleared of ISIS militants on June 26, but the presence of IEDs and lack of services have made families reluctant to return. On October 10, using a database of wanted persons, security forces identified and arrested eight ISIS militants hiding among IDPs returning to eastern Fallujah, underscoring concerns that the city may not be completely clear of militants.  more…

Turkish Troop Presence in Northern Iraq Continues to Cause Tension

On October 7, Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim called recent statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “dangerous and provocative.” Tensions between Iraq and Turkey have been running high after Turkey’s Parliament approved the extension of troops in northern Iraq for another year on October 1. Yildirim declared that Turkey has no hostile intentions towards Iraq and the purpose of the troops is solely to fight Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, and not to interfere with Iraq’s internal affairs. Yildirim’s comments come after Prime Minister al-Abadi warned of a regional conflict if the Turkish troops did not leave Iraqi territory. Iraq’s government has made a plea for the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session to address the issue. The UN Security Council has not released a statement on the situation.

On October 8, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) called on Turkey to remove its troops from within its borders immediately, saying that the presence of these troops is a violation of the sovereignty of the territory. The PUK also stated that they would not allow the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to become an arena for regional and international conflict. A statement signed by the PUK, the Kurdistan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, and the Communist Party of Kurdistan, noted that the presence of the Turkish troops is unconstitutional. The Turkish Parliament voted on October 1 to extend the stay of Turkish troops in northern Iraq claiming they had been originally invited in 2014 to help train Iraqi forces. The Iraqi government expressly denied this claim. To the contrary, on October 6, a state-run press agency in Turkey quoted Renas Jano, a Member of the Kurdish Parliament for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who indicated that “as long as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) presence continues [in Iraq], Turkey’s presence in the region will be essential for security.”

On October 8, dozens of Iraqi citizens protested in front of the Turkish Embassy demanding the country withdraw its troops from Northern Iraq. Baghdad and other provinces have been witnessing massive protests every Friday since August 2015 to demand political reform and the implementation of anti-corruption practices.

On October 9, the Arab League confirmed it would step up its efforts to put pressure on the Turkish government to end its presence in Iraqi territory. The League commented in a statement that it rejected the Turkish intervention and noted that it supports the security, stability, and unity of Iraq, and would work to prevent any outside interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. The Arab League is a regional organization of Arab countries in and around North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Arabia. It was formed in Cairo in 1945 by Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. It currently has 22 members, but Syria’s participation has been suspended since November 2011.

On October 9, PUK Media reported that a Turkish artillery barrage killed two children and a man in the Fadiliyah village, 20 kilometers north of Mosul. Alsurja claimed that the Turkish troops are stationed in Camp Zlican, 22 kilometers north of Mosul, and have destroyed dozens of houses without “reliance of intelligence information.”

On October 11, Member of Parliament and member of the Shia National Alliance bloc, Zainab Arif Basri, called on the Iraqi government to “expel” the Turkish Ambassador in Baghdad and said that Iraq is not an “Ottoman state.” Basri demanded the Iraqi government reduce diplomatic relations with Turkey and stop importing Turkish goods. She also reiterated the demand for the UN Security Council to have an emergency session to address the issue. Basri’s comments come as tension increases between the Turkish and Iraqi governments due to the Turkish Parliament’s decision on October 1 to extend the stay of troops in northern Iraq. Baghdad has called the move an act of occupation.

On October 11, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a press conference that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi needs to “know his place” and that Turkey cannot be excluded from a possible operation to recapture Mosul from ISIS militants. Erdogan continued, saying that Turkish troops would not withdraw from a base near Mosul or take orders from Baghdad. Turkish officials say the base is being used to train more than 3,000 Turkmen, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab fighters. Erdogan claims that al-Abadi asked Ankara to train fighters at the base in 2014, claims al-Abadi denies. Erdogan’s remarks come after a tense week between the two nations. Both countries summoned each other’s Ambassadors while Iraq requested an emergency session of the UN Security Council over the continued presence of unauthorized Turkish troops in northern Iraq.

On October 12, the Office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi denied allegations made by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that Iraq invited Turkey to send troops to a base in northern Iraq during a 2014 visit. The Office also noted that it plans to release documents that prove the invalidity of Erdogan’s claims. In a statement released by the Office, the Iraqi leadership stated its focus is clearing “every inch” of Iraq from ISIS militants and will resist the “occupation” of its land by the Turkish government. Erdogan released a response that Turkey will maintain troops outside of Mosul until the city is completely cleared of so-called Islamic State militants that echo comments he made on October 11 arguing that Turkey will not be excluded from operations to recapture Mosul.

On October 12, the U.S. State Department stressed in a statement published through Reuters that foreign military forces in Iraq should be there only with the consent of the Iraqi government. The statement continued saying that all parties in the coalition need to coordinate closely in the upcoming days and weeks to ensure the unity in efforts to defeat ISIS and achieve lasting security for the Iraqi people. The statement comes in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on October 11 that Turkey will not be excluded from operations to recapture Mosul from ISIS and that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi needs to “know his place.”

On October 12, Member of Parliament and member of the Shia National Alliance bloc Haitham al-Jabouri called on the Iraqi government to cut all economic ties with Turkey in light of the tension over the Turkish Parliament’s decision to extend the stay of its troops in northern Iraq. Jabouri accused Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of using this confrontation as a means to cover up his actions in the aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey in July. Meanwhile, a Member of Parliament and member of the Shia National Reform Front bloc, Rehab Alabboudh called for the Iraqi government to remove the Iraqi Ambassador from Ankara.

On October 13, the Turkish Ambassador to Iraq arrived in Baghdad to receive a “strongly worded” note of protest from the Iraqi government regarding the Turkish government’s decision to extend the stay of troops in northern Iraq. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry noted it will continue diplomatic efforts to resolve the tense situation but Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari commented that the Ministry will continue to reject all false pretenses Turkey gives for keeping troops in Iraq. The situation between the two governments, which originally began on October 1 with the Turkish Parliament’s vote to keep troops in Iraq, escalated this week with harsh statements from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. US officials on Wednesday stressed the need for foreign governments to receive approval from Iraq to maintain troops within its borders. However, the US also called for all parties determined to defeat the so-called Islamic State to peacefully coordinate efforts.

On October 13, the Information Office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a statement denying that the Iraqi government gave any official approval for foreign forces to enter Iraqi territory or for foreign ground troops to participate in any upcoming offensive to clear Mosul of so-called Islamic State militants. al-Abadi admits in the statement that Iraq had agreed in 2009 to Turkish forces training Iraqi forces but never to Ankara sending in soldiers with heavy weapons. The statement is in response to Turkish allegations and statements which “attempt to justify the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq” by citing false claims that Turkish troops were invited into Iraq in 2014 to participate in training exercises. The statement emphasizes that Iraqi forces are the only troops fighting on the ground in Iraq and that they did not ask for any foreign governments to send combat troops to Iraq. al-Abadi’s statements followed the harsh words from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday telling al-Abadi that Turkey can do what it wants and that he needs to “know his place” in regional affairs.


Preparations to Clear Mosul Include Instructions for Trapped Civilians

On October 6, Save the Children reported that the impending military operations in Mosul will put 600,000 children in the line of fire unless safe routes and other civilian protection measures are put in place. Maurizio Crivallero, Save the Children’s Country Director in Iraq, has stated that “families have an impossible decision to make. If they stay, their children may get caught in the crossfire and suffer from no food or medicine. If they decide to flee, they will have to run a gauntlet of fighters, snipers and landmines.” Save the Children’s rapid-response units are on standby in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), and ready to deploy with safe drinking water, emergency food, basic household items, and specialist child protection support. The group plans to provide psychological first aid for vulnerable children, and identify those separated from their families or fleeing alone and attempt to reunite them with their families.

On October 7, an anonymous security source in Ninewa Province reported that four mortar shells fell near a group of houses in the center of Qayyarah. The attack resulted in the injury of one person and material damage to a number of houses.

On October 8, Iraq’s defense ministry, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, and the U.S.-led coalition announced they had formed a joint military media center ahead of the upcoming offensive to clear Mosul of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The purpose of the outlet is to collect and provide military information to the media. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani officially banned all Peshmerga commanders or security officials from speaking to journalists to reiterate that all information and remarks should be published from this newly formed media center.

On October 8, Ninewa Operations Command reported that security forces repelled an attack by ISIS militants in the Talul Baj area, 105 kilometers south of Mosul. During the operation, security forces were able to destroy two vehicle-based improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and seize armored vehicles being used by ISIS militants. The operations resulted in the death of six ISIS militants.

On October 9, a spokesman from Saraya al-Salam, the Shia militia led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, announced the return of 34 displaced families to inhabited areas in the south of Tikrit, 170 kilometers northwest of Baghdad in Salah ad-Din Province, facilitated by Saraya al-Salam and tribal leaders in the area. The returns come after the clearing of IEDs from greater Tikrit, which was retaken from ISIS militants by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on March 31, 2015.

On October 9, spokesman for the Diyala Police, Ghalib al-Attiyah, reported that joint security forces arrested ISIS militants responsible for collecting payments and royalties from civilians in Baquba. Security forces transferred those in the ISIS gang to the Department for Combating Crime in Diyala for “fair punishment.”

On October 10, PUK Media reported that six ISIS militants were killed during a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike that targeted a ISIS site in Ba’shiqah, 22 kilometers north of Mosul. Among those killed in the operation was Jassim Saleh Yassir Khudair al-Jabouri, an ISIS “leader” from Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul.

On October 10, Salah al-Din Police Chief Major General Hamid al-Jabouri reported that security forces will launch military operations in Mtaibijh, 20 kilometers south of Tikrit, to prevent ISIS from obtaining a strategic foothold that would threaten the three provinces around it. Al-Jabouri reported that one policeman was killed and four other wounded in the ongoing operation.

On October 11, the Ninewa Operations Command of the ISF issued a list of 32 recommendations to civilians in Mosul to implement during the upcoming military operations in the city. These included advisements that Moslawis not attempt evacuation but rather remain in their homes, turn off gas and water, mark windows with tape to indicate civilian status, and keep a wet cloth on hand at all times to treat burns. ISF also encouraged Moslawis to tune in to the recently launched radio station, Radio of the Republic of Iraq in Mosul, in order to receive further safety instructions. Another notable recommendation was directed to mothers, who are encouraged to tell their children that the sounds of the battle are “just a game” or the sounds of “thunder and rain,” and to “not scream too much,” in order to keep children calm.

On October 11, Diyala Police Chief Major General Jassim al-Saadi reported that security forces trapped ISIS militants in the Great Desert area, 80 kilometers north of Baquba. The operation resulted in the death of “many” ISIS militants and destroyed many vehicles used by ISIS.  

On October 11, Relations Officer of the Ministry of Religious Endowments in the Kurdistan Religion Marivan Naqshbandi reported that he had evidence that a number of civilian Kurds were helping ISIS financially and through the media. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) reported that approximately 500 Kurds joined ISIS between 2013 and 2014 and approximately 150 have returned to the KRI.

On October 11, PUK Media reported that eight ISIS militants were killed in a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike that targeted an ISIS court in the center of Mosul. No further information was given about the airstrike.

On October 11, PUK Media reported that six ISIS militant were killed when U.S-led international coalition airstrikes targeted two IED factories in central Mosul. No further information was given about the events.

On October 11, Member of Parliament and of the Security and Defense Committee Nayef al-Shammari called for the Ministries of Oil and Health to extinguish two oil fires set by ISIS militants in the oilfields west of Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of Mosul, and help civilians who are affected by them. ISIS militants set fire to many of the region’s oil wells after security forces retook the city of Qayyarah in late August 2016, causing “suffocating smoke” and the smell of petrol through the area.

On October 11, an anonymous local source in the Ninewa Province reported that three ISIS militants were killed when a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike targeted the ISIS-run Dabiq media center in central Mosul. Dabiq is a monthly magazine produced by ISIS in numerous languages to spread their ideas and principles.

On October 11, an anonymous source in the Salah al-Din Province reported that six ISIS militants were killed during an Iraqi Air Force Strike in Mtaibijh, 20 kilometers south of Tikrit. No further information was given about the airstrike.  

On October 12, Commander of the Tigris Operations Lieutenant General Mezher al-Mezher al-Azzawi reported that police operations backed by Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) were able to destroy 20 ISIS vehicles in Albu Jum’ah, a village on the border of Diyala and Salah al-Din. Al-Azzawi claimed that the bodies of two ISIS militants were found in the vehicles along with IEDs that ISIS was using to impede the progress of security forces.

On October 12, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk, in an interview with Channel 4 News in London, deferred to the ISF decision to encourage civilians in Mosul to stay in their homes during military operations to retake the city from ISIS militants. McGurk pointed to the success of this strategy in Sharqat, 120 kilometers north of Tikrit, which was cleared on September 22, 72 hours after military operations began. Operations in Mosul will involve airstrikes as well as door-to-door clearing, and ISIS militants have a track record of using civilians as human shields and forcefully occupying their homes to evade capture. Thus there is a grave risk to civilians staying in Mosul during operations. The alternative of evacuation, however, is just as dangerous, as civilians fleeing Mosul could be caught in the crossfire or deliberately targeted by ISIS. The UN estimates that up to 1.5 million people could be displaced due to operations in Mosul.

On October 12, The New York Times reported that two Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces were killed on October 2 after a small drone they had shot down exploded as they were taking it apart. While ISIS has used drones for reconnaissance, the death of the two Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters is the first attack with a drone by ISIS that resulted in casualties. ISIS used drones to attack targets twice last month, prompting U.S. commanders to issue a warning to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to view all small low flying devices as potential IEDs. The article reports that the drones used by ISIS are commercially available for purchase. U.S. officials have commissioned a study to identify how to best deal with the drones. A conflicting article by Le Monde reported that two French soldiers were also injured by the drone that killed the two Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters when it crashed to the ground.            

On October 12, an anonymous local source in the Ninewa Province reported that ISIS gave 120 families 24 hours to change the names of their newborn babies because “the names of the newborns were not worthy of the Caliphate State.” The source claimed that the order had been given amid an audit conducted by an ISIS committee of newborn babies in Mosul. It is believed that the order created greater “resentment and considerable popular discontent.”

October 12, an anonymous source in the Ninewa Province reported that clashes resumed between the people of Hamam al-Alil, 30 kilometers south of Mosul, and ISIS militants. Clashes began in the middle of July 2016 after a campaign of mass arrest by ISIS militants created discontent in the areas in and around Mosul.

On October 12, media sources reported that a Shia cleric and leader of the pro-Iranian Ahl al-Haq militia, Qais al-Khazali, commented that “the battle of Mosul is revenge for the killing of Husain” – referring to the Battle of Karabala when the leader of the Shia sect of Islam, Husain Ibn Ali, was killed by the army of the Umayyad caliph Yazid I in 680. The battle is considered a notable event in Sunni-Shia relations. The comment by Khazali comes at a time when Iraqi, U.S.-led international coalition actors, and humanitarian groups are worried about sectarian tensions in the planned invasion of Mosul.

On October 12, an anonymous local source in the Ninewa Province reported that ISIS militants sold houses belonging to security force members, university professors, and government officials in Mosul for “affordable prices.” The source claimed that ISIS sold a house that was worth 100 million dinars (approximately US$ 84,000) for 25 million dinars (approximately US$ 21,000).

On October 13, the Minister of Migration and Displacement, Derbaz Muhammad, and the Minister of the Interior for the KRG, Karim Sinjari, announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two ministries enabling joint action in the humanitarian response during military operations in Mosul. Part of this response involves the pre-positioning of aid in IDP camps, but Muhammad added that the ministries will focus on “efforts to reduce displacement” as well.

On October 13, head of the Security Committee in Ninewa Mohammed Ibrahim al-Bayati reported that a large piece of the Iraqi Army arrived on the outskirts of the city of Mosul as reinforcements for the invasion of Mosul. Al-Bayati commented that the Iraqi army will focus their troops in the northeast, north, and south of the city.

On October 13, PUK Media reported that eight ISIS militants were killed when a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike targeted a gathering of ISIS militant in the center of Mosul. No further information was given about the airstrike.

On October 13, an anonymous security source in the Salah al-Din Province reported that 25 ISIS militants were killed by the Iraqi Air Force targeting and ISIS headquarters near Telol al baj, 102 kilometers north of Tikrit. The airstrike also resulted in the destruction of two vehicles and two houses.

On October 13, an anonymous local source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS blocked four bridges with concrete blocks in Mosul to inhibit to movement of civilians fleeing the conflict before security forces invade Mosul. No further information was given about the event.


Operations to Secure Hawija Continue as Escape from the City Remains Risky

On October 7, an anonymous security source in Kirkuk Province reported that an airstrike carried out by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) targeted a car carrying four Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) leaders in the center of Hawija, 55 kilometers west of Kirkuk. The ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike were implicated in attacks in Tuz, 65 kilometers south of Kirkuk; Ajil, 32 kilometers northeast of Najaf; Sharqat,120 Kilometers north of Tikrit; Kirkuk City; and Makhmur, 78 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk.

On October 7, an anonymous local source in Kirkuk Province reported that ISIS was imposing a tax of up to 236,000 Iraqi Dinars (approximately US$ 200) on families fleeing ISIS-held areas in Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk. ISIS is forced to innovate in order to remain solvent, as the group has lost substantial revenue due to some success by ISF in clearing ISIS militants from oil fields and regaining control of banks in Ninewa.

On October 8, the Commander of the Ninth Brigade of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga Forces, Aras Mohammad, reported “dozens” of casualties among ISIS militants during an artillery barrage by Peshmerga in the Daquq District, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk. The artillery barrage was conducted after receiving intelligence that an ISIS leader was conducting a meeting with various ISIS militants. The Peshmerga forces did not report any specific numbers of names of those killed in the strike.

On October 8, the Commander for the Liberalization of Hawija, Anwar al-Assi, reported that ISIS executed 10 people on charges of cooperating with security forces near the Riyadh area, 45 kilometers west of Kirkuk. No further information was given about the event.

On October 8, the Department of Displacement and Migration in Kirkuk Province announced the distribution of 2,000 food packages to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Laylan and Nazrawa camps in Kirkuk. The IDPs are mostly from from the ISIS-controlled city of Hawija, 65 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, and surrounding areas. The Department also confirmed that the Kirkuk would continue to receive IDPs fleeing areas occupied by ISIS. The same day, Kirkuk allowed 230 IDPs detained at Maktab Khalid checkpoint to enter into Kirkuk. Kirkuk frequently delays the settlement of IDPs into camps (which are now unsustainably crowded) by keeping IDPs waiting in security checkpoints. These checkpoints have limited services available and IDPs are often stranded for days without aid or adequate shelter.

On October 9, the Commander of the Liberation of Hawija, Anwar al-Assi, reported that joint security forces began to move towards the Hamrin Mountains and al-Fathah, 87 kilometers west of Kirkuk, to survey areas where joint security forces would confront ISIS militants as a first step in operations to clear ISIS militants from Hawija, 55 kilometers south of Kirkuk. Member of Parliament from Kirkuk, Khaled Mafraji, stated that the number of people displaced from Hawija continues to increase as a result of the humanitarian crisis facing those who live in ISIS’s area of influence.

On October 9, the Department of Displacement and Migration in Kirkuk Province announced that they received 274 IDPs fleeing ISIS violence in Hawija, 65 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, and relocated them to a new IDP camp in the Daquq District, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk City. The new camp is a joint effort between the administration of Kirkuk, the Department of Displacement and Migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN, and is prepared to accommodate 1,600 displaced families.

On October 10, the Governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim, denied all allegations of forced deportation of residents of Qarah Tapah, an Arab village 25 kilometers west of Kirkuk City in Diyala Province, by the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, explaining that the residents who were transferred from Qarah Tapah were willingly relocated to safe areas where they could be protected while Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fight to clear Qarah Tapah and its surroundings of ISIS militants. Karim stated that accusations that this relocation is an attempt to create demographic change or abuse the human rights of Arab citizens are false and politically motivated to delegitimize his administration.

On October 11, the Deputy Chairman of the Arab Council in Kirkuk, Sheikh Ismail Hadidi, confirmed that the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga evacuated the village of Qarah Tapah, 25 kilometers west of Kirkuk City, due to security concerns about ISIS sleeper cells hiding within the village and conducting attacks on the Peshmerga as well as oil fields in the area. Hadidi denied rumors that the evacuation was really forced displacement, and reported that a meeting was held between security leaders in the Peshmerga and members of the Arab Council regarding the event. According to Peshmerga intelligence, ISIS was also using the village to transfer chemical agents to areas where ISIS militants could conduct attacks on civilians and security forces.

On October 11, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it was committed to investigating claims of abuse in areas occupied by both Kurds and Arabs. This comes in response to an October 10 report by Reuters that Kurds are occupying Arab-owned homes vacated when Arab owners fled ISIS. The Kurds claiming these properties feel a generational entitlement to the land. The KRG said there were a number of other reasons why some Arabs had not returned to their homes, including concerns about unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Some had also been kept out because they were suspected members of the militant group. The KRG repeated its past statements that it did not have a policy of pushing Arabs out of areas that Kurdish forces have retaken from ISIS.

On October 11, a local source in Kirkuk Province reported to Al Sumaria News that five people, including two women, died in Hawija due to the lack of medical supplies and services in the District. There is a serious humanitarian crisis in Hawija, an ISIS stronghold 60 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, pushing residents to risk their lives in attempts to flee toward Kirkuk or else stay and suffer severe electricity, water, medicine, and food shortages. The Iraqi government’s lack of attention to the crisis is exacerbating the poor conditions in Hawija.

On October 12, the Department of Displacement and Migration in Kirkuk Province reported that on the evening of October 11, the Peshmerga received 1,200 IDPs fleeing ISIS violence in Hawija, 65 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, into Kirkuk Province where they will be relocated to IDP camps. In preparation for the influx of IDPs corresponding to upcoming military operations in Mosul, the government in Kirkuk has cooperated with international aid groups to expand existing camps in Laylan and Nazrawa, and create a new camp in Daquq District, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk City. The IDPs fleeing Hawija have taken risks to do so: Um Mustafa, a displaced woman seeking refuge in Daquq, witnessed ISIS militants break the hands and feet of those who try to flee, and behead defectors. There have been reports of ISIS militants lining the roads used by those fleeing to Kirkuk with mines. For these reasons, many IDPs pay smugglers anywhere from US$ 200 to US$ 500 to facilitate the dangerous journey to the front lines of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, where they are often detained at security checkpoints for long periods of time before being relocated to crowded camps with limited resources.

On October 12, the Head of the Arab Council in Kirkuk, Sheikh Burhan Assi, declared that the focus on military operations to clear ISIS militants from Mosul will leave ISIS-held areas to the south and west, including Hawija, 55 kilometers west of Kirkuk, open to an influx of ISIS militants fleeing Mosul. Assi claimed that ignoring Hawija to focus on Mosul will be a “death sentence” to the more than 100,000 civilians in and around Hawija, who face attacks on the civilian population by ISIS militants and a lack of food and medicine within the city. Assi also commented that postponing the clearing of Hawija creates the image that Kirkuk’s Arabs are “not valued,” and encouraged the Iraqi government to make Hawijah a priority.

On October 12, an anonymous security source in Kirkuk reported that ISIS leadership sent ISIS militants from Mosul to the areas of Zab, Abbasid, and Riyadh in Hawija, 45 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk. The ISIS militants brought vehicles and planted IEDs on the roads used by displaced civilians fleeing from the conflict to the south and west of Kirkuk.

On October 12, the IOM reported that between September 24 and October 6, 2,033 IDPs were transported from Markaz Dibis and Maktab Khaled security checkpoints to camps in Kirkuk. IDPs waiting at checkpoints for their security screenings to be processed are sometimes held for days or weeks in poor humanitarian conditions with limited access to food, water, or shelter.


IDPs are Returning to Sharqat as Fighting there Intensifies

On October 7, an anonymous source in the Salah al-Din leadership reported that an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) gunmen killed Salah al-Turki, the brother of Director of the Salah al-Din Province, after he tried to escape from the ISIS militants across the Tigris river in Sharqat, 120 kilometers north of Tikrit. No further information was given about the incident.

On October 7, Salah al-Din Provincial Council member Abdul Sultan reported that joint security forces repelled ISIS militants in the village of Khanokh in Sharqat, 105 kilometers north of Tikrit. The operation resulted in the death of eight militants. Sultan claimed that one child and four other civilians were killed in the ISIS attack and blamed the deaths on “weak” air support.

On October 8, Salah al-Din Provincial Council member Abdel Sultan al-Jabouri reported that security forces and the local community were able to repel an attack by ISIS militants in the village of Khanokh, near Sharqat, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. Al-Jabouri claimed that the ISIS militants infiltrated the village from the north and west and security forces were only able to repel the ISIS militants after “fierce clashes” and the arrival of reinforcements. Security and political leaders in the area reported that they will be evacuating the women and children from the area due to their exposure to mortar fire and continued attacks by ISIS militants.

On October 8, an anonymous source in the Salah al-Din Province reported that five members of the same family were killed when a mortar shell hit their home in Sharqat, 105 kilometers north of Tikrit. No further information was given about the incident.

On October 11, the Salah ad-Din Province announced the return of 250 displaced families to their places of origin in the district of Sharqat, 170 kilometers north of Baghdad in Salah ad-Din Province. Sharqat was cleared of ISIS militants by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) with the assistance of the U.S.-led international coalition on September 22, but the security situation in the district remains lax. Efforts to restore services such as water and electricity to the district are underway.

On October 12, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that between September 24 and October 6, 3,420 IDPs returned to Sharqat, 170 kilometers north of Baghdad in Salah ad-Din Province, as a result of ISF operations which cleared the city of ISIS militants on September 22.


Security Forces Clear Hit of ISIS Militants and Continue Focus Elsewhere in Anbar

On October 7, Commander of Anbar Operations, Major General Ismail Mahlawi, reported that security forces succeeded in clearing Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from the Black Hill area in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The operation resulted in the death of “dozens” of ISIS militants. Mahlawi claimed that security forces will clear the area of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and prepare to clear the Bakr area in Hit of ISIS militants.

On October 8, the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) reported that a Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militia was able to clear ISIS militants out of the Albu Nimr area, 25 kilometers northwest of Ramadi. The media report claimed that ISIS militants suffered “heavy casualties” during the operation.

On October 8, ISF Commander of Hit Operations, Major General Qassim Al-Muhammadi, reported the death of seven ISIS militants during an airstrike conducted by the U.S.-led international coalition in the Bakr area in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The operation also resulted in the destruction of three vehicles carrying machine guns, rocket launchers, a cache of ammunition, and IEDs.

On October 8, Commander of Hit Emergency Police, Colonel Fadel al-Hiti, reported that a sweep of the Azwaip area in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, resulted in the arrest of three ISIS militants by  security forces. Security forces also seized mortar shells, communication devices, and forged identification papers that would permit them to leave Hit.

On October 8, Anbar Police Chief, Major General Hadi Kasser Rseg, reported that accurate intelligence allowed police forces to conduct a search operation in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, and seize a large cache of rockets, mortars, and other weapons that would be used by ISIS militants against civilian and security force targets.

On October 9, ISF Commander of Hit Operations, Major General Qassim Al-Muhammadi, reported that 12 ISIS militants were killed during an airstrike conducted by the U.S.-led international coalition in the villages around the Bakr area in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The operation resulted in the destruction of four vehicles that were carrying rocket launchers and mounted weapons.

On October 9, Head of the District Council of Hit, Mohammed Mohannad al-Hiti, reported that security forces were successful in clearing ISIS militants from the areas of Djaal, Mahaboubih, and Alsirajah areas in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. Al-Hiti claimed that security forces encountered little resistance from ISIS militants during the operation and reported that joint security forces were preparing to clear Bakr and Jubail of ISIS militants.

On October 10, intelligence director of the al-Somoud Brigade PMU, Nazim Al-Jughaifi, reported that a PMU special security force conducted an operation in the Al Khasfa District, 125 kilometers northwest of Ramadi, and killed seven ISIS militants. No PMU special security force personnel were killed or injured during the operation.

On October 10, Commander of Hit Emergency Police, Colonel Fadel al-Hiti, reported that security forces cleared ISIS militants from the the Swib and Amira areas in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. Al-Hiti reported that security forces encountered little resistance from ISIS militants during the operation and are beginning to clear IEDs from houses within the cleared area.

On October 10, Commander of Hit Emergency Police, Colonel Fadel al-Hiti, reported that security forces cleared all areas in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, of ISIS militants. Al-Hiti claimed that security forces encountered little resistance from ISIS militants during the final parts of the operation. Security forces are beginning to clear IEDs from houses in Hit.

On October 10, ISF Commander of Hit Operations, Major General Qassim Al-Muhammadi, reported that security forces killed 15 ISIS militants on a desert road in between the Haditha District and Baiji, 140 Kilometers north of Ramadi. No further information was given about the operation.  

On October 11, ISF Commander of a PMU militia in Anbar Province, Sheikh Saad Alsamarmd reported that joint security forces were preparing to clear ISIS militants from three more areas in western Anbar including areas in Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi; Rutba, 285 kilometers west of Ramadi; and al-Baghdadi, 90 kilometers northwest of Ramadi. Alsamarmd claimed that security forces supported by the U.S.-led international coalition and Iraqi Air Force will conduct the operations.

On October 12, intelligence director of the al-Somoud brigade PMU, Nazim Aljughaifi, reported that joint security forces completed all preparations to clear ISIS militants from a road between Anbar and Salah al-Din Province near the Baiji area, 140 kilometers north of Ramadi. Aljughaifi claimed that joint security forces would be clearing ISIS militants from an area known as Baiji-Haditha road, 43 kilometers north of Tikrit; and the city of Rawa, 126 kilometers northwest of Ramadi, in the next two days.

On October 12, a security source in Anbar Province reported that ISIS command ordered all of their commanders and militants to leave the last three ISIS strongholds in Anbar Province – Anah, Qa’im, and Rawa – and head with their families to Syria. The source claimed that ISIS militants are “urgently fleeing” areas in western Anbar and security forces were encountering little resistance during operations to clear ISIS militants from areas in Anbar Province.

On October 13, intelligence director of the al-Somoud brigade PMU, Nazim Aljughaifi reported that security forces launched an operation to clear ISIS militants from the Baiji area, 140 kilometers north of Ramadi, with air support for the U.S.-led international coalition. No further information was given about the operation.  

On October 13, ISF Commander of a PMU militia in Anbar Province, Sheikh Saad Alsamarmd reported that security forces cleared the Baiji-Haditha road, 43 kilometers north of Tikrit, of ISIS militants and IEDs with little resistance and have begun to erect checkpoints along the road. Alsamarmd commented that the operation cut off vital ISIS supply lines to the western Anbar regions.


VPs Reinstated; Parliament Questions Foreign Minister; IMF Loan Talks Conclude

On October 6, Parliament collected enough signatures to question current Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, on charges of corruption. However, there has been no coverage or mention of the outcome of the questioning in local news sources or if Parliament is planning to move forward with the corruption charges by calling for a vote of no confidence on Jaafari.

On October 7, hundreds of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad calling for further government reforms, including improved access to government services, anti-corruption measures, and the prompt appointment of ministers to fill the vacant positions in Defense, Finance, Interior, and Trade and Industry. The protesters also denounced the Turkish intervention in Iraq the provocative statements made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this past week. On October 1, Turkey’s Parliament voted to extend the stay of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, a move that led to calls from members of Parliament to cut economic ties with Turkey. In response, Turkey has claimed that Baghdad invited the troops in 2014, a claim the Iraqi government has completely denied.

On October 10, Iraq’s federal court ruled that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s attempt to abolish the posts of Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister is unconstitutional. Under Iraq’s constitution, abolishing the posts would require the approval of an absolute majority (at least 165 Members of Parliament) to approve the measure followed by a national referendum. The decision, which is binding for the Iraqi government, was a setback to al-Abadi who eliminated the posts last year as part of a wide-ranging reform plan that was approved by his Cabinet and passed by Parliament (but not with an absolute majority). The reinstatement of the Vice Presidency positions hands back power to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was one of the three Vice Presidents. al-Abadi hoped the move would increase public support for his government in the face of widespread protests. An anonymous source noted the return of the two posts also affects the expenses of the state.

On October 10, the IMF and the Iraqi government officially concluded talks on the US$ 4 billion the IMF plans to loan Iraq over the next three years. The loan is intended to help Iraq diversify its economy and implement government anti-corruption reforms. An anonymous source at the IMF noted the loan will help in the effort to rebuild areas in Iraq recently cleared of or still being held by so-called Islamic State militants. The ending of the negotiations happened despite the sacking of Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari on September 21, experts worried this move would lead to the IMF might backing out of the deal. Talks between the IMF, Iraq, and American mediators had been on going since July.


IDPs Pressed to Return to Fallujah

On October 8, the Mayor of Fallujah, Isa al-Sayer, announced the return of “7,400 displaced families” to the city center of Fallujah, 62 kilometers west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, since returns to the city center began on September 17. Al-Sayer encouraged internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Fallujah to return to the city and stressed that the restoration of public services such as electricity and drinking water are well under way. Fallujah was cleared of ISIS militants on June 26, but the presence of IEDs and lack of services have made IDPs reluctant to return. As previously reported in ISHM, IDPs are encouraged to use an Internet form to sign up for return — a difficult process to access for thousands of families who fled more recently and are stuck in harsh conditions in desert camps. The form can be found here.

On October 10, the Ministry of Electricity announced the creation of a power line from Baghdad to Fallujah, 62 kilometers west of Baghdad, which has the capacity to deliver 100 megawatts of electricity in the initial stage. The development is part of an ongoing effort to restore electricity and other public services to Fallujah in order to support the return of IDPs to the city, which was cleared of ISIS militants on June 26.

On October 10, a spokesman for the Fallujah Council in Anbar Province Salam Ajami Halbusi directed teachers, administrators, and support staff to return to their work in the city in order to provide for displaced families returning to Fallujah. Halbusi claimed that “hundreds” of families are returning to Fallujah daily and that there would be an increase in the “next few days”, and emphasized the need for residents in Fallujah to return to work and life as usual. Also on October 10, Fallujah University received new refrigerators, oven ranges, water filters, and air conditioners to accommodate the return of students to dormitories. Efforts to remove rubble and restore the infrastructure of the university are also underway.

On October 10, Commander of West Baghdad Operations, Major General Saad Ali al-Harbiya, reported that security forces arrested eight ISIS militants who were hiding among IDPs returning to their homes in areas cleared of ISIS militants in eastern Fallujah. Security forces were able to identify the ISIS militants from a database of wanted persons.


DateLocationDeathsInjuries
10/13/16Tobji, Northwest Baghdad25
10/13/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad18
10/13/16Bour, North Baghdad28
10/13/16Arab Ejbur, South Baghdad14
10/12/16Hamrin Mountains, Northern Salah al-Din80
10/12/16Madain, South Baghdad11
10/12/16Obeidi, East Baghdad28
10/12/16Mahmudiya, South of Baghdad 15
10/12/16Samarra, South of Tikrit 10
10/12/16Sadr City, Northeast Baghdad10
10/11/16Hawija, Southwest of Kirkuk19
10/11/16Pasmaya, East of Baghdad 27
10/11/16Husseiniya, Northeast Baghdad15
10/11/16Hosseini, Northwest Baghdad29
10/11/16Al Furat, West Baghdad18
10/10/16Abaiji, North Baghdad12
10/10/16Madain, South Baghdad28
10/10/16Sulaikh, North Baghdad17
10/10/16Saidiya, Southwest Baghdad10
10/10/16Iskan, West Baghdad17
10/09/16Baquba Checkpoint, North of Baquba68
10/09/16Al Za’franiya, Southeast Baghdad14
10/09/16Al Shuala, Northeast Baghdad27
10/09/16Al-Marr, West of Kirkuk 11
10/09/16Yusufiya, South Baghdad24
10/09/16Baghdad Al Jadeeda, East Baghdad522
10/09/16Hosseinia, North of Baghdad28
10/08/16Riyadh, West of Kirkuk40
10/08/16Suwaib, Southwest Baghdad16
10/08/16Saidiya, Southwest Baghdad27
10/08/16Rashdiya, North Baghdad26
10/08/16Arab Ejbur, South Baghdad14
10/08/16Taji, North Baghdad38
10/07/16Sha'ab, Northeast Baghdad38
10/07/16Nahrawan, South of Baghdad29
10/07/16Bakri, West Baghdad28
10/07/16Madain, South Baghdad 15
10/07/16Saidiya, Southwest of Baghdad20

 

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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