ISHM: November 11 – 17, 2016

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Key Takeaways:

  • In Mosul, Iraqi Security Forces and Allies are Slowed by ISIS Resistance – Iraq commanders say their forces have been “shaken” by some of the most complex fighting that they have encountered against ISIS since operations to clear Mosul began on October 17. ISIS militants are using vehicle based improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), tunnels, barriers, and civilian human shields to protect against airstrikes and artillery barrages when moving from location to location. With over one million people still in the city, security forces are finding it difficult to distinguish civilians from ISIS militants – restricting the ability to use airstrikes or heavy weaponry. Anonymous sources on the ground report that the ISF have sustained heavy casualties since entering Mosul on November 4, and are having trouble consolidating cleared territories. ISIS militants continue to return to areas out of which they were pushed hours prior via tunnels or accompanied by human shields. Despite the difficulty in Mosul itself, cooperation among the Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, U.S.-led international coalition, and several popular militias remains high. ISF and federal police are within three kilometers of the Mosul airport to the south of the city, Peshmerga are holding territory to the north and east, militias to the west, and as planned, only the Iraqi Army and its elite Counterterrorism Service have entered Mosul itself. A combined 50,000 troops and militiamen are engaged in fighting and thus far, ten of Mosul’s 70 neighborhoods have been cleared of ISIS militants. more…
  • Needs of IDPs from Mosul Remain Stark – Over the past week, over 13,000 IDPs have fled the city of Mosul, bringing the total number of those displaced from the area to just under 60,000. The World Health Organization reports that as many as 30 patients with life threatening injuries are arriving per day at the Emergency Hospital in Erbil from Mosul and its surroundings. Most patients are suffering from gunshot wounds, shell and mine injuries, and acute respiratory infections. Many of those arriving are children who have been separated from their parents, and many do not have any form of identification. Separately, the UNHCR reported that toxic smoke from the now extinguished fire at the Mishraq sulfur factory, set ablaze by ISIS militants on October 22 in Qayyarah, and the still-burning oil wells near the town have led over 1,500 people to seek emergency treatment. Toxic smoke from the fires is taking a significant toll on the long term health of the 40,000 plus IDPs sheltered in nearby camps. more…
  • Kirkuk Denies Forced Displacements Despite Reports – Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report condemning the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and the government in Kirkuk Province for unlawfully destroying large numbers of Arab settlements in areas cleared of ISIS militants throughout the region. During remarks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) on November 14, Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim said that many Arab IDPs are building in places that belong to the government, and that these settlements are illegal. The HRW report points out that Kurdish settlements in the same areas are left untouched. The Governor accused the authors of the report of writing from their offices in “Amman, Beirut, [or elsewhere],” and of not visiting the region itself. Kurdish officials continue to deny reports of the destruction of Arab homes as part of a strategic plan to reclaim areas “Arabized” by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and 90s, even though Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani told HRW in July that Sunni Arabs would not be allowed to return to those areas. more…
  • ISIS Suicide Attacks Target Shrines During Shia Arbaeen Holiday – On November 14, six ISIS suicide bombers attempted to detonate their explosives in the district of Ain al Tamur, west of Karbala, targeting Shia pilgrims visiting the region during the Shia Arbaeen holiday. Security forces were able to kill five of the would-be suicide bombers before they could detonate their explosives. The sixth detonated his vest inside of a nearby home, killing eight civilians and injuring five others. Arbaeen commemorates the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala of 680 AD, and draws as many as two million Shia pilgrims to the region annually, making it an attractive target for ISIS-led attacks. more…
  • Fallujah Sees Resurgence of Violence – Nine people were killed and 26 injured in central Fallujah when ISIS militants detonated two vehicle-based IEDs on November 14. The attack is a setback for Fallujah, which has seen the return of 22,000 displaced families since the city was ostensibly cleared of ISIS militants in June. Following the attack, the Anbar Security Committee issued a curfew for the city which was soon lifted by Fallujah’s Mayor, Isa al-Sayer, despite the committee’s objections. On November 17, the Anbar Provincial Council voted to cancel an administrative order that would automatically reappoint al-Sayer as mayor without an election, saying that such a reappointment would be unconstitutional. Fallujah’s District Council hastened the return of IDPs to the city in recent months, despite some objection that security forces and health providers may not have been ready to receive them, as previously reported in ISHM. more…
  • With Eyes on Mosul, IDPs, Returnees Elsewhere in Iraq Receive Less Attention – Refugees International (RI) published a report this week on displacements in Iraq that have occurred outside of the Mosul theater. According to RI, half of Iraq’s 3.3 million IDPs are displaced within Anbar and Baghdad Provinces and have been largely ignored as attention shifts toward Mosul. IDPs outside of formal camps – 2.8 of the 3.3 million – are also frequently ignored as they are more difficult to reach and less visible. These IDPs are hosted by communities already strained for resources and overlooked by aid providers. Humanitarian access for UN and international NGOs is difficult, due to poor coordination with the central Iraqi Government and popular militias which often restrict NGO movement in territories under PMU control. The lack of personal identification documents among IDPs hinders security screenings, and family separation, sectarian targeting, and unlawful detention and persecution of IDPs suspected of cooperation with ISIS remain major barriers to peaceful resettlement. RI recommends a renewed focus on protection issues in Central Iraq, establishment of a civil-military coordination group, and prioritization of helping IDPs obtain documentation. For more on the plight of IDPs beyond Mosul, listen to our podcast with RI’s Daryl Grisgraber. more…
  • Teachers in Iraqi Kurdistan Continue to Protest Lack of Salary Payments – “Thousands” of teachers and school staffers continued demonstrations in Sulaimania and Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan, demanding that the Kurdistan Regional Government pay owed back salaries and implement reforms. The KRG has blamed salary reductions on disputes with Baghdad over oil revenues and the current economic crisis in Iraq. more…
  • Provincial Elections Set for April May Be Postponed – Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi may soon announce the postponement of local elections in Iraq after he sent a letter to the Electoral Commission informing them of his agreement with a proposed one year delay until April 2018. Regional instability and security which may prevent voters from reaching the polls is cited as the primary concern and reason for the delay. more…

In Mosul, Iraqi Security Forces and Allies are Slowed by ISIS Resistance

On November 11, the Washington Post reported that Iraq commanders say their forces have been shaken by some of the most complex fighting that they have encountered against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Mosul. Militants are using vehicle based improvised explosive devices (VBIED), tunnels, barriers, and civilian human shields to protect against airstrikes and artillery barrages when moving from location to location. With over one million people still in the city, security forces are finding it difficult to determine civilians from ISIS militants – restricting the ability to use airstrikes or heavy weaponry. Anonymous sources on the ground report that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have sustained heavy casualties since they entered Mosul on November 4, and are having trouble consolidating cleared territories. ISIS militants continue to return to areas they were pushed out of hours prior via tunnels or accompanied by human shields.

On November 11, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that ISIS militants launched at least three chemical attacks in Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of Mosul in Ninewa Province. The attacks affected at least seven people who received burns. A chemical weapons expert told HRW that the burns are consistent with exposure to low levels of a chemical warfare agent known as “vesicants,” or blister agents. The reports were confirmed by 15 residents of Qayyarah as well as a staff member of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. ISIS militants previously have been suspected of using chemical weapons: on September 20, ISIS launched projectiles containing chemicals to attack the Qayyarah West airbase, which had been cleared in July of ISIS militants by ISF and coalition forces. Coalition spokespersons stated after the attack that laboratory testing found “no mustard agent present” on the munitions fired at the airbase, as had been reported in a previous ISHM. ISIS was also previously reported to have used blister agents in an attack on areas held by armed opposition groups in Syria in August 2015, according to an investigative committee appointed by the UN.

On November 12, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, claimed that a social media video showing an Iraqi army tank running over a civilian was “fabricated and disseminated by ISIS” in order to diminish ISF’s success in Mosul. Jarallah claimed that the uniforms and guns used by the people in the video do not match those used by the Iraqi army and could not have come from other security forces in the area. He asked the media and human rights groups to cooperate with Special Operations Command for all factual material about operations in Mosul when publishing media reports. The graphic video allegedly shows Iraqi soldiers dragging a young, Sunni child named Muhammad Ali al-Hadidi through the desert and placing him head first in front of a tank, before being shot at and run over.

On November 12, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that the first division of the ninth armoured brigade stormed the al-Salam neighborhood in eastern Mosul. The operation led to the death of 30 ISIS militants and the destruction of three VBIEDs. On November 13, Jarallah also reported that that a portion of the ninth armoured division and elite Iraqi Counterterrorism Service (CTS) managed to clear ISIS militants completely from the Nimrud area, 32 southeast of Mosul, and from the Karkuki neighborhood in east Mosul. A later source on November 14 claimed that ISF took the village of Naevh, a village north of Nimrud.

On November 13, an anonymous local source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS leaders ordered local militants to evacuate their families to the east of the city. The source claimed that the order was limited to foreign and Arab fighters who may be moving to Baaj, 133 kilometers west of Mosul, as security forces continue to push into more eastern neighborhoods in Mosul.  

On November 13, Deputy Commander of Operations in the Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that CTS forces cleared the entire Karkukli neighborhood and are moving into the Aden and al-Bakir neighborhoods in eastern Mosul. Jarallah reported on November 16, that CTS forces were progressing quickly through Aden, but were experiencing a threat from VBIEDs.   

On October 14, PUK media reported that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew from the center of Bashiqa, 20 kilometers from the center of Mosul, and relinquished control of the area to Ninewa police. Governmental departments began to remove rubble from streets and houses, and are in the process of restoring electricity to local communities.  

On November 14, an anonymous security source reported that ISF shot down a small drone ISIS was using to film security forces in the al-Entisar neighborhood in eastern Mosul. The source also claimed that ISF shot down four drones just this week.

On November 15, an anonymous PMU leader reported that Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militia forces cleared ISIS militants from the village of Hijarah as Sufla, 54 kilometers west of Ramadi. The source claimed that many ISIS militants were killed, including three snipers.   

On November 15, HRW reported that ISF, PMU militiamen, and civilians mutilated and dragged the corpses of at least five ISIS militants in Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of the center of Mosul, on October 3, and executed at least one ISIS militant after he had surrendered. Qayyarah was cleared of ISIS militants by ISF on August 25, and the incident occurred when ISIS militants attempted to re-infiltrate the city but were repelled, with many killed or captured.

On November 15, spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry Brigadier General Saad Ma’an, said during a press conference in Qayyarah with spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Brigadier General Tahsin Ibrahim, and spokesman for the U.S.-led international coalition, John Dorian, that operations in Mosul are moving forward from various “axis” and that security forces are directly supervising and helping provide humanitarian aid and relief for citizens in Mosul. While he admitted that Peshmerga forces in the east and PMU militias in the west were making “little progress,” Ma’an claimed that there is great cooperation between security forces and citizens in Mosul and that the war was being fought “cleanly” by taking into account the needs of citizens. Brigadier General Tahsin Ibrahim reported at the same press conference that the ninth armored division cleared many neighborhoods of ISIS militants in Mosul despite taking casualties and are continuing to protect civilians from harm stemming from the operations. Ibrahim commented that the Iraqi Army air component carried out over 880 sorties and the Iraqi Air Force carried out 117 airstrikes since the start of the operation on October 17. Also during the press conference, John Dorian congratulated the Iraqi Army in clearing ISIS militants from Nimrud, 32 kilometer southeast of Mosul, and fighting “valiantly” to protect the lives of civilians in Mosul.

On November 15, sources in the PMU Badr Brigade announced that it cleared the two villages of Amadhala and Tel Mahior, around 40 kilometers west of Mosul, and besieged the city of Muhallabiyah, 42 kilometers west of Mosul. Statements by the Badr Brigade reported that forces found three kilometer long tunnels and VBIEDs. The PMU militia named “the Sinjar Resistance” claimed to clear ISIS militants from the two villages of Sukayniyah and Hayali, 152 kilometers west of Mosul.     

On November 15, Ninewa Provincial Council Member Hossam al-Abbar reported that ISF and federal police were within three kilometers of the Mosul International Airport, five kilometers south from the center of Mosul. Federal police and ISF later reported that they cleared ISIS militants from the villages of al-Adhba and Tel Aakub, both approximately 24 kilometers south of the center of Mosul.

On November 16, an anonymous PMU militia source reported that PMU forces were approaching the Tal Afar Airport, 69 kilometers west of Mosul. The source claimed that while ISIS militants have been defeated militarily at the Tal Afar Airport, PMU forces cannot occupy the area until the village of Tal Alrmj, two kilometers from Tal Afar Airport, is cleared of ISIS militants. A later report on November 16 claimed that PMU forces cleared ISIS militants from the airport after “fierce clashes.” A number of citizens trapped in Tal Afar, 68 kilometers west of Mosul, reported food, water, and medicine shortages and appealed for the government to clear ISIS militants from the city as soon as possible.

On November 16, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, confirmed the existence of an agreement between the Ministry of Peshmerga, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, and the Pentagon on the presence of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the existing line of defense before the start of military operations in Mosul on October 17. Barzani emphasized that the cooperation between the Peshmerga, the Iraqi Army, and the U.S.-led coalition have “made great achievements” and pointed out that the so-called Islamic State is “heading towards collapse.” Barzani also emphasized that the region will not “give up the right of independence” even if pressured to.

On November 16, the Parliamentary Committee on Culture called on the Ninewa Operations Command to protect the archaeological sites in the city of Nimrud and demanded that forces do not move any rubble until Iraqi archaeological experts arrive to the city to survey the site, assess the extent of the damage, and decided what can be saved in a scientific manner. A spokesman for the Committee stressed the importance of preserving these sites and not abandoning them after operations, which could lead to looting or further destruction of artifacts by smugglers. The city of Nimrud was home to the Northwest Palace that was built in the ninth century B.C. by the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II and was covered in elaborate decorations, which is what made it so archaeologically important. The decorations included large stone panels of intricately carved reliefs around the base of the palace that showed military campaigns, conquered peoples offering tribute to the king, ritual ceremonies undertaken by the king, and many winged mythical creatures known as “geniis.” The nature and extent of the damage done by ISIS has remained an unknown to archaeologists until now due to the area being under ISIS control since 2015.

On November 16, HRW released an update on the mass grave full of former Iraqi Police officers executed by ISIS militants which was found on the outskirt of Hamam al-Alil, 30 kilometers south of Mosul in Ninewa Province, on November 7, as reported in ISHM. The body count was previously thought to be 100, but according to HRW, upon further investigation the grave was found to contain at least 300 bodies of former Iraqi Police. HRW also noted that all of the visible corpses had bound hands and ankles and were blindfolded.

On November 17, the Arab coalition in Parliament expressed surprise at President of the Kurdistan Masud Barzani’s statement on November 16 on the non-withdrawal of Peshmerga forces from territory that has been cleared of ISIS militants. The coalition warned this position could lead to “internal conflicts.” In a statement received by Al Sumaria, the Coalition said that Peshmerga forces remaining in cleared areas would go against “all agreements of the federal government” with provincial governments and would go against the territorial integrity of Iraq.

On November 17, Commander of the Canadian Forces, Major General Michael Rollo, revealed that Canadian military advisors clashed with ISIS militants on numerous occasions in the past month. While Canadian forces who are working with Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters sometimes fire first, Rollo stressed that they always fire to protect themselves, friendly forces, or civilians and reaffirmed that Canadian forces never participate in formal combat missions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reduce the Canadian presence in Iraq in 2015. Canadian advisors number around 200 in Iraq.

On November 17, Deputy Commander of Operations in the Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that the CTS cleared ISIS militants from the al-Tahrir neighborhood in northeast of the city of Mosul. CTS forces claimed that they are encountering stiff resistance from ISIS militants throughout Mosul.


Needs of IDPs from Mosul Remain Stark

Nov. 11 Nov. 12 Nov. 13 Nov. 14 Nov. 15 Nov. 16 Nov. 17
Total IDPs 47,730 49,092 54,282 54,312 56,412 56,850 58,716
Daily Net Change +2,436 +1,362 +5,190 +30 +2,100 +438 +1,866

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Displaced from Mosul and Surrounding Areas Since Military Operations Began on October 17.

On November 11, Save the Children reported that “up to a dozen children” are being treated daily by medical workers on the front lines of the conflict between Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and their allies in Mosul. Many children are arriving at medical centers separated from their parents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Emergency Hospital in Erbil has received a daily average of 15 to 30 injured patients suffering from gunshot wounds, shell and mine injuries since the start of Mosul operations on October 17. This includes a two-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the chest, a three-year-old girl and her two sisters suffering from shell injuries, and an eight-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy with severe leg injuries.

On November 13, a local source in Ninewa Province reported to Al Sumaria News that ISIS ordered family members of local ISIS militants living in neighborhoods in the west bank of the city of Mosul to relocate to the east bank. The source added that the families of foreign fighters in Mosul were instead relocating to the west, towards the border town of Baaj, 135 kilometers west of Mosul in Ninewa Province, where they intend to ultimately cross into Syria and head toward Raqqa, ISIS’s last major stronghold.

On November 14, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that approximately 150 cases of missing essential personal documentation among internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing violence in and around Mosul have been identified among new arrivals at IDP camps. UNHCR and partners are working with authorities to resolve the issue of missing documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, which are necessary for IDPs to pass the security screening process in order to be sheltered in camps. On November 6, UNHCR reported that 63% of displaced families received at screening centers were missing civil documentation. On November 15, Reuters published a report on the plight of thousands of children born in ISIS-occupied areas in Iraq who may not have valid personal documentation and thus may miss out on education, healthcare, and citizenship. Births in ISIS-controlled areas were registered with authorities in ISIS, who are not considered valid outside that shrinking territory, or are not registered at all. Many parents who obtained birth certificates for their children from ISIS officials have destroyed them out of fear of reprisal for what could be seen by some as sympathizing with the group. UNHCR has requested that Iraqi authorities issue birth certificates for children born in areas controlled by ISIS militants, so these children can gain access to school and public services as soon as possible.

On November 14, the UNHCR reported that toxic smoke from the now extinguished fire at the Mishraq sulfur factory, set ablaze by ISIS militants on October 22 in Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of the center of Mosul, and the burning oil wells in Qayyarah affected 14 towns for 25 to 60 days. Many of the towns affected host IDP camps to which thousands have fled from violence in Mosul. UNHCR states that the mid- to long-term impact on health, livelihoods and the environment could be dire, according to a report by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP). Smoke from the fires led to more than 1,500 people seeking treatment for respiratory complications.

On November 16, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on the humanitarian response to conflict in Mosul by 107 UN agencies and international NGOs. As of November 15, 69,344 individuals received Rapid Response Mechanism Kits containing water, food, and hygiene items; 40,926 individuals were sheltered in camps; and 113,903 individuals received 30 day food rations.

On November 16, UNHCR reported that together with BBC Media Action and Radio Nawa, the group launched an initiative to help newly-displaced families to access timely information through radios. 2,000 small transistor radios are being distributed in UNHCR Hasansham camp. Radio Nawa, a Sulaimania based public service radio station operating a Kurdish and Arabic service across Iraq, has installed a new transmitter to reach the camp, which is accommodating more than 10,000 people. Families who have spent more than two years under the control of extremist armed forces have spoken of tight restrictions and lack of access to impartial information.

On November 17, the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix for Mosul recorded that 77% of the 58,716 IDPs displaced from Mosul and its surrounding since October 17 are sheltered in formal camps, 22% are sheltered in private settings (14%) or critical shelter arrangements such as abandoned buildings (8%) in host communities, and 1% are sheltered in screening centers. The IOM also recorded that the vast majority of IDPs (98%) are displaced within Ninewa Province, with a smaller presence in Anbar, Erbil, Baghdad, and Salah ad-Din Province.


Kirkuk Denies Forced Displacements Despite Reports

On November 13, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued an 80-page report documenting how Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga have unlawfully destroyed large numbers of Arab homes, and sometimes entire villages, in areas cleared of Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The report is based on findings in 21 towns in Kirkuk and Ninewa provinces ascertained through field visits by HRW researchers, more than 120 interviews with witnesses and officials, and extensive analysis of satellite imagery. While Arab homes were targeted, Kurdish homes in the towns were untouched. Leaders in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) maintain that the towns affected are historically Kurdish areas that they intend to incorporate into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). In a meeting in July 2016, KRG President Masoud Barzani told Human Rights Watch that the KRG would not allow Sunni Arabs to return to villages that had been “Arabized” under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, saying these were, in his view, rightfully Kurdish areas. Such territorial claims lend credence to the belief of many Arabs in the disputed areas that KRG security forces carried out demolitions for the purpose of preventing or dissuading Arabs from returning there.

On November 13, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that some 20 displaced families from Baiji district, 98 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City in Salah ad-Din Province, were forced to leave Kirkuk Province on November 11-12 and have fled to Tikrit, 113 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City. The families sought shelter with relatives in Tikrit as they could not return to their area of origin in Baiji due to the high level of destruction and serious security risks. Approximately 168 displaced families from Salah ad-Din Province have been expelled from Kirkuk since October.

On November 13, the leader of the Arab Coalition, Saleh al-Mutlaq, condemned the government of Kirkuk for allegedly burning and destroying Arab homes throughout the province, and called on the central Iraqi Government to send troops into Kirkuk to protect Arab residents and restore peace and security. He added that the forced displacement of Arab internally displaced persons (IDPs) carried out by Peshmerga forces under the administration in Kirkuk equates to “ethnic cleansing” and called for an international trial. The government in Kirkuk has been repeatedly accused of forcibly deporting Arab IDPs from the province and damaging property of Arab residents in areas considered to be “rightfully” Kurdish.

On November 14, Kirkuk Police Chief Brigadier General Omar Aref reported the creation of a new regiment of police to protect civilians and official security services in the city of Kirkuk from ISIS militants. The new regiment will secure checkpoints and help other police cope with emerging security challenges. The new security measures are in response to the October 21 attack on the city of Kirkuk as previously reported in ISHM.

On November 14, a source within the Department of Displacement and Migration in Kirkuk reported to Al Sumaria News that five members of a displaced family were killed and two members were injured by a fire that broke out in Whelan IDP camp, west of Kirkuk City,  in Kirkuk Province. The source reported that initial investigation indicates that the fire was accidental, caused by proximity of blankets to a heating source. The tents provided to IDP families have capacity for six individuals, but families may attempt to shelter more than six members in them, creating a cramped and potentially hazardous environment.

On November 14, Kurdish officials denied reports that the destruction of Arab homes in areas cleared of ISIS militants was part of a strategic plan to reclaim areas “Arabized” by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Dindar Zebari, the head of a KRG committee tasked with responding to international reports, stated that “KRG security forces may destroy a property if there is an assured presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), with the destruction of the home being the last possible resort when defusing this explosive device proves too difficult or a large risk to our engineering teams” and asserted that “there was no strategic intention” in destroying the homes.

On November 15, spokesman for Kirkuk security, Captain Farhad Hama Ali, reported that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Kirkuk police managed to arrest 104 suspected terrorists during security operations in different location in Kirkuk province. A later report by Kirkuk Provincial Police Chief, Brigadier General Sarhad Qader, claimed that police managed destroy a sleeper cell near Kirkuk after arresting six suspected ISIS militants. The province of Kirkuk has seen an increase in violence since operations in Mosul began on October 17 and many security sources attribute the violence to sleeper cells in the region.

On October 16, Kirkuk Provincial Police Chief, Brigadier General Sarhad Qader, reported that a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike targeted a gathering of ISIS militants near Hawija, 45 kilometers west of Kirkuk. The airstrike resulted in the death of ISIS “leaders” Abu Ayyub al-Kurdi and Abu Baraa.

On November 17, head of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk, Kamal Kirkuki, reported that 38 ISIS militants were killed when a U.S.-led international airstrike targeted a gathering of ISIS militants in the Dibs area, 36 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk.


ISIS Suicide Attacks Target Shrines During Shia Arbaeen Holiday

On November 11, Commander of Samarra Operations, Major General Imad Zuhairi reported that an Iraqi Air Force strike targeted and killed two would-be Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide bombers in the Huiesh area, 46 kilometers south of Tikrit. Zuhairi reported that security forces managed to arrest 95 suspected terrorist and criminals in the last week as foreign visitors arrive in Samarra to travel to Karbala during the Shia holiday Arbaeen.

On November 11, head of the Security and Defense Committee in Parliament, Hakim al-Zamili, reported that he held a meeting with security leadership within Samarra to create a coordinated plan to secure visitors visiting Iraqi shrines during the Shia holiday of Arba’een – a Shia Muslim holidays commemorating the end of the 40 days after the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein ibn Ali, in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Security forces are worried about securing the almost two million and growing Shia visitors at Shia shrines in Karbala from ISIS attacks.   

On November 14, Commander of Euphrates Operations, Major General Qais al-Muhammadawi, reported that security forces engage six ISIS suicide bombers in the district of Ain al Tamur, 106 kilometers west of Karbala. During the engagement, security forces killed five would-be ISIS suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests, The sixth suicide bomber managed to flee into a home before he detonated his vest after being surrounded by security forces; killing eight civilians and injuring five others. Muhammadawi commented later that day that the security situation is under control.

On November 15, the Nujaba Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militia leader claimed that his forces secured the Ain al-Tamur District, 106 kilometers west of Karbala, of ISIS militants, but warned that sleeper cells still threaten the security of the the mid-Euphrates region and Baghdad. The Nujaba PMU leader called on security leaders and PMUs to “intensify their actions and prosecute sleeper cells in Baghdad, Babil, Karbala, and Najaf.” Worries of ISIS militant attacks comes after six ISIS suicide bombers targeted Shia civilians and security personnel in the al-Tamur District on November 14. Eight civilians were killed and six wounded during the attack.


Fallujah Sees Resurgence of Violence

On November 10, a source in Baghdad Operations Command reported that security forces arrested five suspected Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants when they tried to enter the city of Fallujah, 62 kilometers west of Baghdad, with returning displaced families. The source noted that security forces have been arresting ISIS militants for months who are trying to hide amongst the civilian population. Fallujah has seen the return of 22,000 displaced families since the city was cleared of ISIS militants in June, according to the Director of the Department of Displacement and Migration in Anbar Province, Mohammed Rashid.

On November 13, an anonymous source in the Joint Special Operations Command reported that over 70 ISIS militants were killed or wounded by Iraqi Air Force strikes in 15 locations in western Anbar Province. The source claimed that the Iraqi Air Force specifically targeted sites containing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle based improvised explosive devices (VBIED), and explosive materials.

On November 14, Commander of Anbar operations, Major General Qassim Al-Muhammadi, reported that six ISIS militants were killed and three buildings used by ISIS were destroyed when the U.S.-led international coalition conducted an airstrike in the al-Sakra area near western Ramadi. The strike also destroyed four tunnels and the a large cache of weapons.

On November 14, Commander of Anbar Operations, Major General Ismail Mahlawi, reported that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) carried out security operations in the areas between Akashat, 310 kilometers west of Ramadi, and Rutba, 282 kilometers west of Ramadi. The operation, which resulted in destruction of 20 IEDs, is a precursor to operations to clear the city of Qa’im, 220 kilometers west of Ramadi, where ISIS has consolidated many of its forces in Anbar.

On November 14, an anonymous source in the Fallujah Police reported that security forces will implement a curfew after two VBIEDs killed nine people and injured 26 in the center of Fallujah, 62 kilometers west of Baghdad. Security forces closed all outlets to enhance security presence in anticipation of more suicide bomb attempts. Governor of Anbar, Suhaib al-Rawi, commented that suicide bombers who target security forces and civilians demonstrate that ISIS is becoming desperate. The curfew was lifted on November 15 despite the Anbar Security Committee calling for a continuation of the curfew earlier that morning. On November 17, Anbar Police claimed that they arrested the mastermind of the bombing, Harith al-Walid Rashid al-Jubouri, when he was attempting to cross through a checkpoint in Ramadi.    

On November 15, an anonymous source in Fallujah reported that ISF and police found and detonated VBIEDs and IEDs in the industrial district in southern Fallujah without any reports of casualties. Another source on November 16 reported that security forces arrested an ISIS militant who had been hiding in a tunnel for four months. The militant was transferred to a detention center for questioning. Security forces have been conducting security operations in the region after two VBIEDs killed nine people and injured 26 others in Fallujah on 14 November.

On November 15, Commander of Anbar Operations, Major General Ismail Mahlawi, reported that during security operations in the cleared city of Hit, 50 kilometers northwest of Ramadi, security forces managed to find a cache of weapons that included over 430 IEDs and weapons. Mahlawi claimed that the cache of bombs and weapons was left by ISIS militants when they fled the city after it was ostensibly cleared in October 2016.

On November 16, an anonymous source at Anbar Operations Command reported that ISF repelled an ISIS militant attack on Rutba, 310 kilometers west of Ramadi. The source claimed that all ISIS VBIEDs were destroyed and militants killed during the attack.  

On November 17, the Anbar Provincial Council decided to “cancel” the administrative order that would automatically reappointment the current Mayor of Fallujah, Isa Al-Sayer without holding an election after the Judicial Council in Fallujah ruled this would be against the law. The Anbar Council has now authorized the ability to nominate candidates for the position of Mayor so citizens have the option of choosing a new mayor in the near future. It is noteworthy that Fallujah saw on Monday the explosion of two car bombs that killed nine people and injured 26 others.


With Eyes on Mosul, IDPs, Returnees Elsewhere in Iraq Receive Less Attention

On November 14, the Director of the Department of Displacement and Migration in Anbar Province, Mohammed Rashid, announced that over 100,000 displaced families returned to their areas of origin in the province since the respective areas were cleared of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Rashid reported that 53,000 displaced families returned to Ramadi, 100 kilometers west of Baghdad; 22,000 returned to Fallujah, 46 kilometers east of Ramadi; over 7,000 returned to Hit, 50 kilometers northwest of Ramadi; over 7,000 returned to Khalidiyah, 35 kilometers west of Fallujah; over 6,000 returned to Garma, 19 kilometers northeast of Fallujah; over 2,000 returned to Haditha, 113 kilometers northwest of Ramadi; and more than 1,000 returned to Rutba, 282 kilometers west of Ramadi. Returns to areas cleared of ISIS militants are encouraged by local government despite destruction to infrastructure, lack of services, and unstable security situations in these areas.

On November 15, Refugees International published a report on displacements in Iraq outside of the spotlight on Mosul. There are already 10 million people in that need humanitarian assistance in Iraq. 3.3 million of these are internally displaced persons (IDPs), roughly half of whom are displaced within Anbar and Baghdad Provinces. These displacements have been ignored as attention shifts towards Mosul, but IDPs beyond Mosul face equal threats to their well-being. IDPs outside of formal camps are also frequently ignored as they are more difficult to reach and less visible, but in reality 2.8 of the 3.3 million IDPs in Iraq live outside of camps. These IDPs are hosted by communities which are already strained for resources themselves, but are frequently overlooked by aid providers. The clearing of ISIS militants from the city of Fallujah in June exposed a number of weaknesses in humanitarian response, particularly with regard to IDP protection. These include the challenge of humanitarian access for the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) due to difficulties in coordination with the central Iraqi Government and also the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), which have restricted the movement of INGOs through territories under their control. The presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in areas of return has also become a more pressing concern as IDPs are encouraged to return to their places of origin, sometimes prematurely due to the unstable security situation and lack of basic services in “cleared” cities. Other challenges include the lack of proper personal identification documents among IDPs previously living under ISIS control, which hinders their security clearance and subsequent resettlement. Security screenings to identify potential ISIS members or sympathizers among IDPs represent a protection issue on their own: there have been instances of family separation, sectarian targeting, and unlawful indefinite detention and persecution of IDPs suspected of cooperation with ISIS. Some of Refugees International’s recommendations include a renewed focus on protection issues in central Iraq, the establishment of a civil-military coordination group, and the prioritization of helping IDPs obtain official documentation. For more on the plight of IDPs beyond Mosul, listen to our podcast with Daryl Grisgraber of Refugees International.


Teachers in Iraqi Kurdistan Continue to Protest Lack of Salary Payments

On November 13, teachers and staff launched massive demonstrations in the provinces of Sulaimania and Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan, demanding that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) revise its salary system and implement reforms. An eyewitness said “thousands” of teachers and staff gathered in the city centers calling for the immediate payment of their salaries, which have not only been delayed but also reduced since the beginning of the 2016, and held banners with slogans calling to fight against KRG corruption. The KRG blamed the salary reductions on the disputes with Baghdad over oil production and the current economic crisis in Iraq.

On November 15, teachers and staff from Sulaimania registered a complaint with the province’s court over the KRG’s decision to reduce teacher salaries. The province has experienced large demonstrations over the KRG’s decision in September 2015 to cut salaries due to Iraq’s economic crisis and the disputes between the KRG and Baghdad over oil in the region.

On November 15, the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted to form a committee for the purpose of allocating a portion of the “petro-dollar funds” for the salaries of up to 8,000 teachers and staff in Kirkuk. The so-called “petro-dollar funds” is a compensation system whereby the KRG pays the city of Kirkuk for every exported barrel of oil from the two main oil fields in the province, Bay Hasan and Havana. The money was originally paid to Kirkuk by the Iraqi government but after the new deal between Baghdad and Erbil to export Kirkuk’s oil through the Kurdistan region, the KRG has the obligation to pay the city. Under the terms of the compensation system, Kirkuk receives two dollars for every exported barrel of oil. By the end of December 2015, the KRG paid Kirkuk US$ 50 million.


Provincial Elections Set for April May Be Postponed

On November 11, Member of Parliament Aram Sheikh Mohammed called the possible postponement of some provincial elections “useless” and that this decision does not serve the political process. He continued, stressing his opposition to the trend, while warning the delay could weaken service institutions along with creating a state of disappointment for voters who currently are waiting for the election to choose new representatives. Elections in some provinces may be delayed due to the instability in certain areas, which could prevent the election from running smoothly and could prevent voters from reaching the polls. It is expected that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will formally announce the postponement of local elections in the country after he sent a letter to the Electoral Commission on November 12, informing them of his agreement with a delay until April 2018.


DateLocationDeathsInjuries
11/17/16Madain, South Baghdad17
11/17/16Gherai’t, North Baghdad26
11/16/16Bayaa, Southwest Baghdad26
11/16/16al-Wihda, East Baghdad60
11/16/16Tobji, Northwest Baghdad 25
11/16/16Nahrawan, Southeast Baghdad15
11/16/16Bayaa, Southwest Baghdad26
11/15/16Nahrawan, Southeast Baghdad18
11/15/16Saidiya, South Baghdad17
11/15/16Suwaib, Southwest Baghdad26
11/15/16Ameria, West Baghdad18
11/14/16Arab Ejbur, South Baghdad15
11/14/16Fallujah, West of Fallujah513
11/14/16Fallujah, West of Fallujah413
11/14/16Abu Ghraib, West Baghdad38
11/14/16Madain, South Baghdad 08
11/14/16Mahmudiya, South Baghdad28
11/14/16Ain al-Tamur, West of Karbala85
11/13/16Abu Ghraib, West Baghdad24
11/13/16Ghazaliya, West Baghdad02
11/13/16al-Shuala, Northwest Baghdad 27
11/13/16Obeidi, East Baghdad16
11/13/16Ghadeer, East Baghdad17
11/13/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad00
11/13/16Abu Ghraib, West Baghdad26
11/13/16al-Wihda, South Baghdad26
11/12/16Abu Ghraib, West Baghdad27
11/11/16Mahmudiyah, South of Baghdad25
11/11/16Madain, South of Baghdad110
11/11/16Falastin St., East Baghdad11
11/11/16Bakri, West Baghdad28
11/11/16Tarmiya, North of Baghdad23
11/11/16Yusufiya, South Baghdad28
11/10/16Mansour, West of Baghdad11

 

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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