ISHM: November 18 – 23, 2016

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Due to the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday, this ISHM Report is being released one day ahead of schedule.
The next ISHM will be made available on Thursday, December 1.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Security Forces Make Progress South of Mosul Despite Heavy Resistance – Iraqi Security Forces and Federal Police continue to clear ISIS militants from points south of Mosul, including Nimrud, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire located 32 kilometers southeast of the city. Iraqi Army Units and its elite Counterterrorism Service (CTS) have occupied approximately ten neighborhoods in the east of Mosul while Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga hold points north of the city and militias hold the west. Western media reported on the frequency of chemical weapon use by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, noting that one-third of approximately 52 chlorine and sulfur mustard agent attacks have taken place in and near Mosul. U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes targeted ISIS IED and chemical weapons factories in the lead-up to the start of operations on October 17, but whether ISIS has stockpiled these munitions (and where they may have done so) is unclear. The next phase of the battle to clear Mosul will likely occur from the south, as units prepare for a protracted battle to reclaim Mosul’s airport. more…
  • PMU Militias Clear Airport, Progress Toward Tal Afar – Popular Mobilization Units, including the Badr Brigade, are continuing efforts to interdict supply lines from Syria to the ISIS controlled city of Tal Afar, 69 kilometers west of Mosul, and have successfully cleared ISIS militants from the city’s airport. Efforts to clear Tal Afar are a point of contention for humanitarian observers and the international community who are concerned that innocent Sunni civilians trapped in the city may be targeted by the Iranian backed Shia militias surrounding the city. For more on these concerns, read our piece in Foreign Policy (co-authored with Michael Knights). more…
  • Nightmare Continues for Those Fleeing Mosul – As Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul cleared additional sub-districts of ISIS militants, approximately 10,000 civilians were able to flee the city over the past week, bringing the total number of IDPs from Mosul up to just under 70,000. This number is still far lower than the total expected to flee the city as more neighborhoods are liberated – total displacements could reach as high as 1.2 million. The UNHCR is capturing the stories of many of these families who are disclosing details of their experiences over the past two years of ISIS occupation. Stories of physical and psychological torture, kidnappings, summary executions, and other acts of brutality contribute to the overwhelming need of psychosocial support and trauma therapy for IDPs – especially children. IDPs from points far south of Mosul that were cleared of ISIS militants in October are already beginning to return to their homes. Former Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily explained that the prevalence of premature returns is partly the result of a culture which considers displacement “shameful.” The lack of resources, prevalence of gender based violence, lack of access to education resources, and generally poor conditions in IDP camps are also motivating factors. more…
  • Attack in Sharqat Leads to Retribution, Forced Displacements – On November 19, five militiamen fighting with Popular Mobilization Units were killed at a checkpoint disguised as legitimate but actually set up by ISIS militants in Sharqat, Salah ad-Din Province. In retribution for the attack, the Mayor of Sharqat, Ali al-Dudih, deported nearly 1,000 residents of the Askari District of the city, alleging that all of the residents were loyal to ISIS and cooperated in the attack. The Governor of Salah ad-Din Province, Ahmed al-Jabouri, called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reinforce security forces in Sharqat and expedite the return of the civilians wrongfully accused of ISIS allegiance. Sharqat was ostensibly cleared of ISIS militants on September 22. more…
  • Kirkuk Continues to Force Displacements as Conditions in Hawija Worsen – The UNHCR reported that in a continuing trend, more displaced families originally from Baiji District, in Salah ad-Din Province were expelled from shelter in Kirkuk on November 21 and moved to Tikrit. More than 200 families have been expelled from Kirkuk since October. Meanwhile, a source within the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga reported that there are approximately 2,000 ISIS militants in the city of Hawija, and that an agreement among the Peshmerga, Iraqi Security Forces, and U.S.-led international coalition will allow for the clearing of ISIS militants from the city “soon.” The humanitarian situation in Hawija remains dire; there is a serious lack of food, water, medicine, and public services. For more on Hawija, read our briefing in World Politics Review. more…
  • Sporadic Violence in Anbar Continues to Plague Security Forces – This week, security forces declared a state of emergency in the cities of Haditha, Ramadi, Hit, and Baghdadi (all in Anbar Province) in anticipation of attacks by ISIS militants. On November 18, an IED attack killed 21 and injured 41 at a wedding party in Amiriyah Fallujah, 23 kilometers south of Fallujah. Other instances of violence and “armed outlaws” randomly detaining civilians pervade throughout the province. Iraqi Security Forces in Anbar are stretched thin, with most efforts focused on ongoing operations in northern Iraq. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Security Forces Make Progress South of Mosul Despite Heavy Resistance

On November 18, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that the Iraqi Army’s Ninth Armoured Division cleared Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from the village of Tel Waei, 41 kilometers southwest of Mosul. An earlier report by Jarallah claimed that the Ninth Armoured Division also managed to take the village of Umarkan, 24 kilometers southeast of Mosul.

On November 18, an anonymous, local source reported that ISIS released a document of 31 former ISIS leaders that fled Mosul from the western side of the city towards Baaj, 137 kilometers west of Mosul. The source claimed that the ISIS documents say that the leaders fled the city in fear of being killed in the battle and that they must be “arrested immediately or killed in the event of any resistance.”

On November 19, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) managed to clear ISIS militants from the al-Mu’allim district in eastern Mosul. Jarallah also claimed that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared ISIS militants from the Nimrud area, 32 kilometers southeast of Mosul.

On November 19, an anonymous security source in Ninewa Province reported that 15 ISIS militants were killed when a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike targeted oil tanks in western Mosul. The source reported that residents in the western neighborhood of al-Tenk reported “a violent explosion [that] shook the neighborhood.”

On November 19, Joint Operations Command reported that the Iraqi Ninth Armoured Division entered the al-Entisar, Judaydat al-Mufti, al-Salam, Shahid Yunis, and Palestine neighborhoods in the southeast area of Mosul. Likewise, the CTS is currently continuing to clear the neighborhoods of al-Bakir, al-Qadisiyah, al-Khadrah, al-Muharibeen, and Dahabi areas in eastern Mosul.

On November 19, head of the Ninewa Security Committee, Mohammed al-Bayati, reported that approximately 200 ISIS militants attacked security forces by boat from the villages of Qan’awsah and Imam, 75 kilometers south of Mosul. During the violent clashes that broke out between the security forces and ISIS militants, over 40 militants were killed and 11 more arrested. Commander of the eighth police regiment in Ninewa, Colonel Mijbil al-Jubouri, reported that three policemen were killed by ISIS suicide bombers during the conflict. Federal police arrive at the location to assist local police and secure the area.

On November 20, Member of Parliament in the Ninewa Province, Hunain al-Qadu, suggested that the Iraqi government use all military units possible, including PMU militias, to break into western Mosul in order to speed up operations to clear ISIS from Mosul. Qadu claimed that currently, operations have been proceeding “very slow” and reported that civilians in Mosul are “suffering a slow death as a result of medicine, food shortages,” and dealing with increasingly aggressive ISIS militants.

On November 20, an anonymous local source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS members were stealing human organs of both injured civilians and ISIS militants who are in hospitals in Ninewa, and then transferring the organs to Syria to be sold to international human organ traffickers. The source claimed that ISIS stole organs from at least 86 ISIS militants in local hospitals in Ninewa. ISIS receives most of it’s funding through crude oil, but as ISF continue to take more previously held ISIS areas, ISIS is having to rely on other practices to increase financial revenues.      

On November 20, an anonymous security force in Ninewa Province reported that the the CTS found one of the largest caches of weapons and ammunition in Tahrir, a district in northeast Mosul. CTS forces found around 800 weapons; including Mortars, IEDs, and rockets. The source reported that ISF were able to kill a suicide bomber before he detonated his vest near the cache.

On November 20, the Directorate of Military Intelligence reported that members of the Intelligence Directorate managed to infiltrate ISIS’s ranks in the city of Mosul and have been wandering the alleys collecting intelligence and monitoring ISIS. The Directorate warned that those who follow ISIS will die unless they begin to cooperate with security forces and offer information that will be helpful to security operations.

On November 20, a source in the CTS reported that forces cleared ISIS militants from the western Mosul districts of Aden, Walakha, and Mashru Almah. Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, claimed that CTS killed ISIS leader Marwan Hamed Saleh Hayali during conflicts between ISF and ISIS militants.

On November 21, the New York Times reported that a London based intelligence collection and analysis service, IHS Conflict Monitor, believes that ISIS used chemical weapons, including chlorine and sulfur mustard agents, at least 52 times on battlefields in Iraq and Syria. The report suggested that over one third of those chemical attacks came from the ISIS stronghold in Mosul. While military officials generally consider the chemical attacks “rudimentary,” ISIS may unleash more chemical attacks as they lose ground in Mosul, “slowing down and demoralizing” ISF as they push farther in the city. In order to try to prevent ISIS from having the ability to create chemical weapons, the U.S.-led international coalition targeted ISIS chemical weapons factories before the operations to retake Mosul began on October 17. It is unknown how ISIS gained chemical weapons, but some believe that ISIS either captured weapons from undeclared chemical weapons sites in Iraq and Syria, or produced them themselves. Attacks are usually “geographically scattered” and usually differ in delivery method, which indicates that ISIS is experimenting with different weapon configurations to carry out chemical weapons attacks.                     

On November 21, an anonymous security source in Ninewa Province reported that one of the largest Syriac, Catholic churches Mar Mehnam Monastery located in Khidr Ilyas, 32 kilometers from the center of Mosul, was cleared of ISIS militants. Mar Mehnam Monastery was taken and destroyed by ISIS militants on March 19, 2015.  

On November 21, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that the ISF succeeded in clearing ISIS militants from the village of Salmiyah, east of Mosul. ISF also cleared the village of Awrita Kharab, 405 kilometers north of Baghdad, of ISIS militants.

On November 21, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) reported that Iraqi Special Forces and “Americans” carried out an operation in the village of Abu Sidirh near Baaj, 137 kilometers west of Mosul, and arrested seven ISIS militants. The Iraqi special forces and American were dropped off by eight helicopters, while four other aircraft provided air coverage. Baaj is geographically important because it links Mosul to Syria.

On November 22, a military media source reported that two IED factories were destroyed and numerous ISIS militants were killed during a PMU “aerial bombardment” in the Arkab Valley area, on the western side of Mosul. PMU leadership also announced that its forces will begin the fourth phase of operations to clear Tal Afar, 69 kilometer west of Mosul, of ISIS militants. PMUs are expected to isolate and encircle the city in preparation for the final assault on the city.

On November 22, member of Ninewa Provincial Council, Hossam Eddin al-Abbar, reported that ISIS transferred detainees from a prison located in al-Salam Hospital, in the southeast of Mosul, to an unknown location. Abbar claimed that security forces have taken 85 percent of areas in eastern Mosul, prompting ISIS to move detainees to a new location.

On November 23, an anonymous source in Ninewa Province reported that the Iraqi army air component destroyed 40 oil tankers near the village Kharbardan, 57 kilometers south of Mosul. The convoy of oil tankers was completely destroyed in the airstrike.

On November 23, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that ISF cleared ISIS militants from the village of Qara Tappa, 14 kilometers southeast of Mosul. The report claimed that ISF inflicted heavy casualties on ISIS militants.

On November 23, a military media  source reported that the Iraqi Air Force killed the ISIS head of Information named Ziad Khrovah during an airstrike in the city of Mosul. Khrovah was in charge of the production of propaganda films created by ISIS to entice foreigners to join ISIS.


PMU Militias Clear Airport, Progress Toward Tal Afar

On November 17, Secretary General of the Badr Brigade, Hadi al-Amiri, commented that the Tal Afar Airport will be a “springboard” for clearing ISIS militants from the rest of the Ninewa province. Amiri reported that PMU militias will begin clearing ISIS militants from areas near the Syrian border such as Baaj, 135 kilometers west of Mosul, and Qairawan, 103 kilometers west of Mosul.

On November 18, a PMU militia leader of the Badr Brigade, reported that PMU forces cleared ISIS militants from Tal Afar Airport and the villages that surround the airport, 69 kilometers west of Mosul. The militia leader claimed that PMU forces killed numerous ISIS militants, and seized heavy weapons and vehicles.

On November 19, a PMU militia leader reported that his forces were able to “isolate” the western side of Tal Afar, 69 kilometers west of Mosul; cutting off vital supply lines from Syria that ISIS used to support militants inside the city. The PMU militia leader reported that anonymous sources in the city claimed that many of ISIS leaders fled the city when they heard Iraqi army, police, and PMUs were approaching Tal Afar.     

On November 19, Joint Operations Command reported that PMUs are continuing to secure Tal Afar Airport, 69 kilometers west of Mosul, from ISIS militants and are beginning to cut off the road that is north of the airport and leads to the city of Tal Afar. PMU engineers and road maintenance workers are continuing to clear the road of IEDs and maintain the roads for PMU forces to enter the city.

On November 19, a later anonymous source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS closed its headquarters in the Tal Afar District area, 55 kilometers west of Mosul before the Tal Afar Airport, 69 kilometers west of Mosul, was cleared of militants. The source claimed that ISIS did not expect PMUs to take Tal Afar and when they did, it sent a “shock wave” through the ranks of ISIS supporters.

On November 20, a PMU militia leader reported that PMUs destroyed all tunnels extending from Tal Afar, 69 kilometers west of Mosul, to surrounding villages. The PMU leader claimed that his forces continue to progress forward in operations to clear Tal Afar of ISIS militants.  

On November 21, an anonymous media source reported that PMU militias were continuing to destroy tunnels that extended from the city to surrounding villages and the airport. Militias are also successfully dismantling IEDs in numerous villages around the Tal Afar Airport before they attack the city.

On November 21, an anonymous,local source in the Ninewa Province claimed that ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, moves between the Baaj area, 133 kilometers west of Mosul; Tal Afar, 69 kilometers west of Mosul; and Syria. The source reported those who know of his movements are imposing strict travel regulations fearing that Baghdadi will be killed by a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike.


Nightmare Continues for Those Fleeing Mosul

Nov. 18 Nov. 19 Nov. 20 Nov. 21 Nov. 22 Nov. 23
Total IDPs 59,754 61,674 68,520 68,550 68,112 68,340
Daily Net Change +1,038 +1,920 +6,846 +30 -438 +228

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Displaced from Mosul and Surrounding Areas Since Military Operations Began on October 17 – Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM).

On November 18, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that many families in Debaga camp in the Makhmour District of Erbil Province, 75 kilometers southeast of Mosul, expressed an intent to return to their areas of origin that have been recently cleared of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants despite insecurity in these areas. UNHCR conducted interviews with families intending to return to make sure they were making a free and informed choice. However, UNHCR and response partners remain concerned by the situation in newly-cleared areas, which may still be contaminated with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or lacking functioning basic services and civilian infrastructure, including water and electricity networks, hospitals and schools.

On November 18, Reuters reported on the return of standardized textbooks to Iraqi schoolchildren in Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of Mosul, who had been forced to use textbooks distributed by ISIS as part of their propaganda effort to influence a new generation of children. ISIS militants controlled Qayyarah from June 2014 until they were cleared from the town by ISF and coalition forces on August 25, during which time they banned the study of subjects they deemed “un-Islamic” such as geography, history, and civic education. ISIS was also known to use boys’ schools as recruiting grounds. In the beginning of the 2015 school year, ISIS introduced an entirely new curriculum to indoctrinate students and enforced their strict dress code for women. As a result of these practices, many parents pulled their children out of school and other students dropped out. Most children have been set back by two grades, and since teachers have been displaced by the violence, there is approximately one teacher for 80 students at the girls’ school in Qayyarah. Since Qayyarah was cleared of ISIS militants on August 25 efforts to provide psycho-social assistance and remedial education to the children have been undertaken by the Iraqi Government and INGOs, including the revitalization of school buildings as well as the distribution of textbooks.

On November 18, the UN Population Fund (UNFP) reported on the humanitarian response to the needs of victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) sheltering in the town of Dohuk, 57 kilometers north of Mosul in Dohuk Province. More than 46,000 people are scattered across three displacement camps in Dohuk, and thousands more are living outside the camps, according to UNHCR. Many of them have been exposed to SGBV and are in need of psychological and physical treatment. The threat of SGBV escalates in all humanitarian emergencies, and the sexual violence perpetrated by ISIS is especially brutal. UNFP established the Dohuk Survivors’ Center in 2015, and in the past year, the Center has provided 850 women and girls with medical treatment, counselling, legal services, and referrals to additional support. SGBV is a key component of ISIS’s recruitment strategy as well as a major source of the group’s revenue, and has been called “terrorism behind closed doors” by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura.

On November 19, Reuters News reported that nearly 200 wounded civilians and military personnel were transferred to hospitals last week, the highest level since the Mosul campaign began on October 17. The proportion of civilians among the wounded is also increasing, reaching 20% in the first month of the offensive, according to a Department of Health official in Ninewa Province; though the report notes that part of the increase is likely due to improved access to areas recently cleared of ISIS militants. Iraqi authorities do not release comprehensive casualty statistics, but the UN figures are thought to only represent a fraction of the total since they capture only the most severe cases that cannot be treated on site, and do not include fatalities. According to the Department of Health, the increasing casualties are overwhelming hospital capacity and are likely to accelerate as the battle for the inner city of Mosul escalates.

On November 19, UNHCR reported on protection monitoring among internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Mosul and surrounding areas. UNHCR’s protection monitoring data indicates that 22% of families are headed by females, whose male relatives and spouses have likely been detained for security screening or killed in conflict. 57% of families are missing civil documentation, and the report notes that increasing incidents of confiscation of civil documentation by authorities at screening centers and checkpoints have a direct impact on movement and access to services for IDPs. Authorities have even confiscated phones from IDPs out of fear of collusion with ISIS militants, effectively depriving IDPs of crucial means of communication and hindering their ability to contact separated family members. UNHCR also recorded 73 unaccompanied or separated children between November 12 and 18, whose parents have been detained for security screenings or killed. These issues point to shortcomings in protection efforts during the screening process for IDPs in and around Mosul. UNHCR also noted the continuation of forced displacement from Kirkuk Province, as well as the provinces of Anbar and Salah ad-Din, where tribal authorities are evicting families of “a particular community” without due process. These actions are seen by many as collective punishment that could feed into sectarian divisions and potentially trigger further cycles of violence.

On November 20, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on abuses by PMUs. The Iraqi-backed Hashad al-Asha’ri militias beat at least 22 men from the recently cleared villages of Douizat al-Sufla, 48 kilometers southeast of Mosul, and Tal al-Shaer, 70 kilometers west of Mosul. The militias also recruited at least 10 children in Debaga IDP camp, 40 kilometers south of Erbil, to fight ISIS. HRW previously reported on child recruitment by PMUs in August.

On November 20, UNHCR reported that more and more displaced families are disclosing their experiences over the past two years to protection actors, recounting experiences of physical and psychological torture as well as other acts of brutality, kidnappings and family separation. UNHCR and partners have been providing psychological first aid, which includes reflective listening, assessment of needs and interventions to address immediate identified needs. With the scale of displacement increasing, there is a need to strengthen psychosocial support and

counselling services in IDP locations. In addition, physical injuries among new arrivals are also increasing. Health services are available in all camp locations and severe cases are being referred to Erbil for treatment. However, there is a need to increase trauma capacity at the field level to respond to injured civilians.

On November 20, the Iraq Education Cluster – which includes the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children, and other INGOs – reported on education needs of children displaced by the Mosul offensive. According to the report, 21,585 children have been forced out of school by the Mosul military offensive. The cluster has distributed school kits and 3,521 children have been provided access to temporary learning spaces in Qayyarah, Jedaa, Khazar and Hassansham camps. 7,200 children from Mosul displaced outside of camps are at risk of losing their access to education as they remain out of school and out of reach of humanitarian workers.

On November 21, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced the return of 2,427 IDPs from Jedaa camp in Qayyarah subdistrict, 65 kilometers south of Mosul, and Debaga camp, 40 kilometers south of Erbil City in Erbil Province, to their homes in villages around Mosul recently cleared of ISIS militants by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and coalition forces.

On November 21, Doctors Without Borders announced the establishment of two field hospitals near Mosul in response to the increase in casualties due to the start of the military campaign to clear Mosul of ISIS militants. The first, located 30 kilometers north of Mosul at the main juncture on the road to Dohuk, is to be equipped with a surgical unit. The second, located 65 kilometers south of Mosul in Qayyarah, is to be equipped with an emergency room, wards, and surgical equipment.

On November 21, Ninewa Provincial Council member, Hossam al-Din al-Abbar, reported that ISIS militants forcibly relocated hostages that were being held in al-Salam Hospital in al-Wahda district on the east bank of Mosul to unknown locations. Al-Abbar speculated that the hostages were being taken to locations where they would be used as human shields by ISIS militants in anticipation of ISF and coalition forces moving east after they clear the west bank of Mosul.

On November 21, UNHCR reported on capacity issues at UNHCR IDP camps in Iraq. UNHCR currently has 6 completed camps with a combined 9,097 plots, 4,026 of which are occupied, leaving 5,071 available. Each plot fits one tent for one family – approximately six people – indicating that UNHCR camps have capacity for 30,426 more IDPs. UNHCR also has three camps with a combined 4,860 plots under construction, and one camp with 3,000 plots planned. UNHCR’s total contribution goal is 20,000 plots, with capacity for 120,000 IDPs. UNHCR’s report indicates that camps facilitated by humanitarian partners have capacity for 73,800 plots, or 442,800 IDPs. As of November 21, 68,550 IDPs were displaced from Mosul. The UN estimates that up to 1 million individuals could be displaced by conflict in Mosul.

On November 21, UNHCR reported that Qaymawa camp (formerly Zelikan camp) was reaching capacity after 64 displaced families (approximately 340 IDPs) arrived between November 17 and 20. Most fled from eastern Mosul. The camp started to receive IDPs on October 21, four days after the Mosul offensive was launched, and as of November 21, the camp sheltered 914 displaced families (approximately 4,530 IDPs), with 15 family plots unoccupied. The cold weather continues to place additional hardships on displaced families, with many requesting thicker blankets and additional clothing, especially for children.

On November 22, the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix for Mosul recorded that 3,066 IDPs left Jedaa camp in the subdistrict of Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of the center of Mosul, between the November 21 and 22 in order to return to their homes in recently cleared areas around Mosul. In addition, the IOM recorded that 840 IDPs left Baybokht camp in Bashiqa subdistrict, 19 kilometers northeast of the center of Mosul, to return to their areas of origin as well. International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) have expressed concern that these returns are premature, as the cities “cleared” of ISIS militants remain contaminated by IEDs and other security threats. In a conference at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on November 18, former Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily explained that the prevalence of premature returns is partly the result of a culture which considers displacement “shameful”, stating that “Iraqis by their nature do not like to be refugees.” The lack of resources and poor conditions in IDP camps is also certainly a motivating factor. Thus when local government officials call on IDPs to return to their homes and former lifestyles, many IDPs choose to do so despite the security risks. ISIS has a well-documented record of leaving behind improvised explosive devices (IEDs) when they flee, booby-trapping civilian homes, and engaging in a “scorched earth” policy that leaves cities without basic services such as electricity and water.


Attack in Sharqat Leads to Retribution, Forced Displacements

On November 19, an anonymous security source in the Salah ad-Din Province reported five Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militiamen were killed at a fake checkpoint set up by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in the middle of Sharqat, 103 kilometers north of Tikrit. The PMU attacked the checkpoint and killed three ISIS militants. Security operations are still ongoing to find other militants who fled the area.

On November 19, the Mayor of Sharqat, Ali al-Dudih, announced the decision to deport residents of the Askari district in the west bank of Sharqat, 95 kilometers south of Mosul in Salah ad-Din Province, because of their alleged allegiance to ISIS and cooperation in hiding the bodies of ISIS’s victims. The residents were relocated to Rabidha village in the ‘Alam district on the east bank of Sharqat, where they were being held under surveillance by local security forces. ISIS sleeper cells remain in Sharqat, which was ostensibly cleared of ISIS militants on September 22.

On November 20, the Governor of Salah ad-Din, Ahmed al-Jabouri, announced the formation of committees to audit security clearances of returnees to Sharqat, 95 kilometers south of Mosul in Salah ad-Din Province, in response to the relocation of residents from the Askari district to the ‘Alam district the day prior due to suspicions of their involvement with ISIS. Al-Jabouri also called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reinforce security forces in Sharqat in order to stabilize the security situation in the city and expedite the return of these civilians to their homes.

On November 21, the Salah ad-Din Provincial Council announced that security forces had processed the files of 750 of the individuals who were relocated from the Askari district on the west bank of the Tigris River in Sharqat, 95 kilometers south of Mosul in Salah ad-Din Province, to the ‘Alam district on the east bank on November 19. The residents were relocated based on suspicions of their allegiance to ISIS and collusion in an attack on the PMU in Sharqat earlier that day. The Council explained that those who cleared the security screenings would be transferred back to their homes. As of November 21, six of those displaced from Askari district were continued to be held by security forces and were undergoing investigation.

On November 22, the Governor of Salah ad-Din Province, Ahmed al-Jabouri, called on PMU leaders in the province to direct their forces to vacate the government buildings and civilian homes they have occupied since clearing cities of ISIS militants. Al-Jabouri stated the need for cities to return to how they were prior to ISIS occupation, and explained that this move would expedite the return of public services for residents.


Kirkuk Continues to Force Displacements as Conditions in Hawija Worsen

On November 19, Kirkuk Police Chief, Brigadier General Khattab Omar Aref, reported in a news press conference that 5,000 police officers and members of other security branches took part in a large-scale security operation in districts in central and south Kirkuk city. Aref claimed that 309 suspects were arrested based on ties to Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), but investigative teams released 87 of the detainees for lack of evidence.

On November 20, a source in the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga reported to Almada Press that 300 internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing violence in the ISIS-controlled city of Hawija, 55 kilometers west of Kirkuk City in Kirkuk Province, were received by IDP camps in Daquq district of Kirkuk Province, 35 kilometers south of Kirkuk City. The IDPs spent hours traveling by foot along roads peppered with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in order to escape the dire humanitarian situation in Hawija, where there is a serious lack of food, water, medicine, and public services, as well as the threat of violence from ISIS. Hawija was passed over by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and coalition forces in the rush to clear Mosul of ISIS militants, and remains an ISIS stronghold.

On November 21, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that in a continuing trend, seven more displaced families originally from Baiji district, 98 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City in Salah ad-Din Province, were expelled from their shelters in Kirkuk Province on November 21 and moved to Tikrit, 113 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City in Salah ad-Din Province. Some 213 families have been expelled from Kirkuk to Salah al-Din Province since October this year. UNHCR and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) continue to advocate against evicting civilian families of a particular community without due process. Collective punishment remains a serious concern as such trends will feed into sectarian divisions, and potentially trigger further cycles of displacement.

On November 22, an anonymous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga military source reported that there are around 2,000 ISIS militants within the city of Hawija, 55 kilometers west of Kirkuk. The source claimed that there is a joint agreement between Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi military with assistance from the U.S.-led international coalition to clear ISIS militants from Hawija soon. Hawija has been under the control of ISIS since June 2014, and is considered one of the last ISIS strongholds in Iraq.

On November 22, Kirkuk Provincial Police Chief, Brigadier General Sarhad Qader, reported that provincial police arrested three people who were attempting to revive ISIS sleeper cells in the Kirkuk region in an undisclosed location. Those arrested admitted to working with ISIS militants for years and gave a written confession.

On November 23, an anonymous security source in Kirkuk Province reported that ISIS was reestablishing sleeper cells in the south of Kirkuk after militants begin to suffer defeats in Iraq and Syria. Militants are collapsing on multiple fronts – Mosul and Southern Iraq – are are instead establish fronts near Hawija, 55 kilometers west of Kirkuk, in preparation for possible attacks on Tikrit; Baiji, 43 kilometers north of Tikrit; Tuz, 95 kilometers east of Tikrit, and Kirkuk. The source claimed that ISIS leaders in the area are instructing militants to force families to pay a royalty of a plate of wheat even if the family is starving. ISIS has become disorganized as security forces take more and more “territory” from ISIS militants, depriving them of revenue and support.


Sporadic Violence in Anbar Continues to Plague Security Forces

On November 18, Mayor of Amiriyah Fallujah, Faisal al-Issawi, reported that they arrested seven people suspected of being linked to an IED attack that killed 21 people and injured 41 at a wedding party in the Amiriyah Fallujah area, 23 kilometers south of Fallujah. Issawi claimed that those injured are still being treated at Amiriyah Fallujah hospital and that they death toll could continue to rise. Member of the Board of Amiriyah, Khudair Rashid, claimed that security forces are tightening security measures at checkpoints  around the city in anticipation of possible suicide attacks by ISIS militants. Rashid called on civilians in the city to “cooperate with security forces and to report any suspicious activity.” Security forces instituted a curfew in the area until further notice.   

On November 18, Mayor of the the Haditha District, Mabruk Hamid, reported that security forces declared a state of emergency in the cities of Haditha, 70 kilometers northwest of Ramadi; Hit, 50 kilometers northwest of Ramadi; Baghdadi, 56 kilometers northwest of Ramadi; and other cities in Western Anbar in anticipation of attacks by ISIS militants. Hamid claimed that security and PMUs are ready to repel any attacks by ISIS militants on Haditha, Hit, and Baghdadi.

On November 19, Commander of Jazeera Operations, Major General Qassim al-Muhammad, reported that seven ISIS militants were killed when a U.S.-led international coalition targeted a gathering of ISIS militants in Rawa, 180 kilometers west of Ramadi. The airstrike also destroyed a vehicle mounted with a 23 mm gun.

On November 19, an anonymous source in Joint Operations Command reported that the Iraqi Air Force targeted nine areas in Anbar Province, around 110 kilometers west of Ramadi. The source claimed that the Hawk PMU intelligence branch has been monitoring ISIS location, including the ISIS camp, Furqan, 110 kilometers west of Ramadi. The Iraqi Air Force killed 50 ISIS militants at Furqan and at least 140 in other areas nearby, including a first generation Saudi Arabian al Qaeda supporter named Osama Anzi.      

On November 20, Commander of Anbar Operations, Major General Ismail Mahlawi, reported that security forces dismantled 38 IEDs during security operations near Tharthar Lake, 70 kilometers northwest of Ramadi. ISIS sleeper cells are planting IEDs and VBIEDs to be used against security forces and civilians in the area as security forces continue to clear ISIS militants from western Anbar Province. Mahlawi reported that some IEDs have yet to be discovered.  

On November 21, Commander of Jazeera Operations, Major General Qassim al-Muhammad, reported that 23 ISIS militants were killed when a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike targeted a gathering of ISIS militants near Rawa, 174 kilometers west of Ramadi. The strike also destroyed three ISIS vehicles.

On November 21, member of the security committee in Anbar, Barakat Aifan, reported that an “unknown” group arrested over 30 people without the knowledge of ISF and took them to an unknown location. Anbar Provincial Council Member, Sabah Krhot, demanded that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi put an end to “armed outlaws” arresting civilians by sending troops to the Rahhaliyah area, 90 kilometers west of Ramadi. On November 22, member of Anbar Provincial Council security committee, Barakat al-Issawi, claimed that 250 families from Nukhayib Rahhaliyah, 70 kilometers south of Ramadi, were being displaced by “unidentified armed elements” at gunpoint. Rahhaliyah is under the control of security forces and never fell to to ISIS when they took over large areas in 2014.

On November 22,  intelligence director of the al-Somoud PMU, Nazim al-Jaghifi, reported that joint security forces with support from the U.S.-led international coalition cleared the Raghadan valley area, 40 kilometres west of Haditha, of ISIS militants. The security operation was met without resistance, seized weapons, ammunition, and found a list of ISIS members stationed in the valley and their duties. Joint forces are continuing to sweep the area for additional ISIS militants.      

On November 23, intelligence director of the al-Somoud PMU, Nazim al-Jaghifi, reported that unidentified gunmen attacked an ISIS security headquarters in Rawa, 180 kilometers west of Ramadi, and killed four ISIS militants. The armed group that carried out the attack then burned the ISIS flag and raised the Iraqi flag above the headquarters. ISIS instituted a curfew and banned the freedom of movement in the area in response to the attack.

On November 23, an anonymous source in Anbar Province reported that five ISIS militant were killed during a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike in the village of Sakrah, 147 kilometers northwest of Ramadi. The source claimed that the strike also resulted in the destruction of vehicles and a weapons cache.


DateLocationDeathsInjuries
11/23/16Za’franiya, Southeast Baghdad0Unknown
11/23/16Daquq, South of Kirkuk03
11/23/16Bayaa, Southwest Baghdad39
11/23/16Abu Ghraib, West Baghdad25
11/23/16Bour, Northwest of Baghdad29
11/22/16Hosseinia, North Baghdad 19
11/22/16Abu Ghraib, West Baghdad14
11/21/16Sadr City, Northeast of Baghdad03
11/21/16Amil, Southwest of Baghdad25
11/21/16Mashtal, East Baghdad15
11/21/16Madain, South of Baghdad29
11/20/16Falastin St., East Baghdad00
11/20/16Shaikh Omar, Central Baghdad36
11/20/16Yusufiya, South of Baghdad29
11/20/16Baiji, North of Tikrit12
11/20/16Tuwaitha, Southeast of Baghdad14
11/19/16Daquq, South of Kirkuk10
11/19/16Western Ramadi
11/19/16Taiji, North Baghdad15
11/19/16Khan Dhari, West of Baghdad28
11/19/16Amin, East Baghdad26
11/19/16Sha’ab District, Northeast Baghdad18
11/18/16Shuala, Northwest of Baghdad17
11/17/16Amiriyah Fallujah, South of Fallujah2142

 

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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