ISHM: December 9 – 15, 2016

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Key Takeaways:

  • Humanitarian Conditions in Mosul are Worsening as More Civilians Flee – Iraqi Security Forces are assisting civilians attempting to flee from Mosul, representing a shift in policy by the ISF which previously encouraged civilians to remain in their homes during the fighting. As of December 15, approximately 100,000 IDPs (an estimated one-third of them children) have fled Mosul and its surrounding villages as humanitarian conditions inside the city grow drastically worse. Iraqi Minister of Displacement and Migration, Jassim Mohammed, announced on December 11 that mass starvation has emerged as a serious concern for the 1 million or more Moslawis still trapped in the city after ISIS militants cut off food and water supplies. Families have resorted to collecting rainwater and drinking from the Tigris River due to widespread water shortages imposed by ISIS. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that trauma injuries among civilians in and around Mosul increased 30% over the past week, a sign of the growing level of violence between ISIS and Security Forces with innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. more…
  • Security Forces Make Slow Progress in Mosul as Popular Militias Secure the West – U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was in Baghdad on December 11 on what is likely to be his last visit there before he leaves office. Carter said that operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants could be complete before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20 – if Iraqi Security Forces significantly accelerate their progress. Security Forces have reclaimed approximately 30 of 50 neighborhoods in eastern Mosul as the Iraqi Army’s elite Counterterrorism Service (CTS) works to expand the front lines in the city. Iraqi Federal Police will deploy 4,000 of their forces to the southeast portion of the city to support troops repelled by ISIS forces during an attempted retaking of the Salam Hospital on December 7. Progress has been marred by ISIS’s use of suicide vests, vehicle based IEDs, and weapons “on par with those made by state armies,” according to a report by Conflict Armament Research. Popular militias are maintaining their position west of Mosul in an effort to secure remote desert regions through which ISIS militants may attempt to flee. more…
  • Hawija Remains a Center of ISIS Atrocities – As of December 12, 51,000 IDPs have fled the city of Hawija in Kirkuk Province, one of the most significant ISIS strongholds remaining in Iraq after Mosul. Hassam al-Sufi, leader of the al-Hashd PMU near Hawija claims that as many as 2,500 PMU militiamen are prepared to move into the city and are waiting for government permission. ISIS continues to execute civilians accused of collaborating with government or Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and severe shortage of food, water, and medicine remain a significant problem for those trapped in the city. On December 14, a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike destroyed a major bridge linking Hawija to Ninewa Province, used to move militants and supplies in the hopes the militants will be more isolated. Major security operations to clear the city are not expected to begin in Hawija, however, until after Mosul operations are complete. more…
  • Turkey Attacks PKK in Iraq – On December 9, Turkish warplanes reportedly attacked members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Jamanki District, 65 kilometers northeast of Dohuk. The following day, Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildririm assured Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that Turkish troops would withdraw from the Bashiqa camp in northeastern Iraq after operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants is complete. Iraqi-Turkish relations have been strained since Turkish Parliament’s October 1 decision to extend the stay of Turkish troops in northern Iraq – an unwanted presence by the Iraqi Government. Turkish officials fear Shia militia attacks on Turkmen populations in ISIS-controlled Tal Afar and the presence of PKK members in nearby Sinjar. more…
  • KRG Rejects Terms of Iraq’s Federal Budget, Argues for Continued Peshmerga Presence – The Ministry of Peshmerga within the Kurdistan Regional Government announced that the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga will not withdraw from areas they cleared of ISIS militants in northern Iraq, claiming that the Peshmerga have been protecting the region without financial support from Baghdad. The announcement comes days after the Iraqi Parliament in Baghdad passed a national budget that does not include funding for the Peshmerga and limits allocations to Kurdistan that the KRG finds objectionable. The announcement will do little to change the status quo in the near term and is often mentioned by KRG leadership seeking leverage in budget negotiations. more…
  • Iraqi Oil Production Cuts Require Kurdish Cooperation – On December 12, oil prices rose to more than $57 per barrel following an agreement by independent oil producers outside of OPEC to cut production. The cooperation with non-OPEC members was needed to ensure OPEC’s internal agreement. However, the Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO) may be set to increase delivery of Basra oil exports by as much as 7%, according to the Wall Street Journal. The reason for the disparity remains unclear, but concern that the Kurdistan Regional Government could continue to export oil above production limits may hinder Iraq’s OPEC obligation. 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.


Humanitarian Conditions in Mosul are Worsening as More Civilians Flee

Dec. 9 Dec. 10 Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13 Dec. 14 Dec. 15
Total IDPs 85,518 89,652 90,162 91,404 93,576 95,364 96,864
Daily Net Change +2,820 +4,134 +510 +1,242 +2,172 +1,788 +1,500

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

On December 9, a local source in Ninewa Province reported to Al Sumaria News that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Ninewa Province issued a fatwa condoning the looting and burning of civilians’ homes in areas around Mosul being cleared by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). ISIS has frequently used this “scorched earth” policy in the past, making cleared areas hazardous to returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as ISF.

On December 9, a security source in Ninewa Province reported to Al Mada Press that ISF evacuated 200 families (approximately 1,200 individuals) from al-Hudaba neighborhood in the center of Mosul to IDP camps north of the city. The source also reported security forces discovered and arrested three ISIS militants hiding among the IDPs. The recent increase in civilian evacuations from Mosul represents a shift in policy by ISF, which previously encouraged civilians to remain in their homes during the fighting.

On December 9, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that more than 5,000 IDPs reached the new Qayyarah Emergency Site in Qayyarah subdistrict of Ninewa Province between December 7 and 9. Many reached the camp exhausted after travelling more than 60 kilometers south from Mosul on foot, and some arrived soaking wet after crossing the Tigris River in order to reach the camp. Two women who arrived at the camp gave birth in the first two days of the Emergency Site’s opening; their transportation to a nearby clinic was facilitated by IOM. Emergency Sites can be constructed more quickly than full service camps and initially only include basic services such as shelter, water, hygiene and sanitation facilities and roads. They are designed to progressively upgrade the camp in order to meet minimum living standards. Two Emergency Sites have recently been opened in Ninewa Province by the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration in coordination with IOM in order to accommodate displacements from Mosul.

On December 10, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced the return of 350 IDPs to their homes in areas recently cleared of ISIS militants in Ninewa Province. The returnees left Gogjali, approximately 7 kilometers east of the center of Mosul, via buses allocated by the Ministry and returned to their various areas of origin including Nimrud, 33 kilometers southeast of Mosul; Hamam al-Alil, 24 kilometers southeast of Mosul; and Qayyarah, 63 kilometers south of Mosul. The Ministry did not explain why these IDPs were so close to Mosul, but it is possible that these IDPs were among those forcibly relocated by ISIS for use as human shields.

On December 10, PUK Media reported that 4,500 civilians were successfully evacuated from the village of Tal Abtah, 73 kilometers southwest of the center of Mosul, by a Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU). The report did not say where the civilians were taken. This is the second ISF-assisted evacuation in two days.

On December 10, a local official in Ninewa Province Khaled al-Jar reported to Al Sumaria News that security forces found 15 corpses in a water well in al-Tawt district in the south of Ninewa Province. The bodies were reported to belong to victims of execution by ISIS.

On December 11, the Minister of Displacement and Migration, Jassim Mohammed, announced that one million people trapped in areas occupied by ISIS militants are at risk of starvation due to severe food shortages. On December 13, Reuters News reported that residents in ISIS-held districts of the city warned that fresh food has become scarce and prices have soared, with the cost of some staples rising four-fold. One trader reported that no fresh fruit or vegetables other than potatoes and onions had reached the city in the past week, and said that “residents are worried how they can get bread. If the siege continues at this level many people will die from lack of food.”

On December 11, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that returns to areas around Mosul recently cleared of ISIS militants are picking up. 990 IDPs returned to their areas of origin on December 10, east and south of Mosul, from Iraqi Government-run IDP camps Khazar and Qayyarah Jad’ah. On December 10, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration stated that it expects hundreds of returns in coming weeks.

On December 11, the Ninewa Provincial Council announced that it would close its auxiliary offices in Erbil and Dohuk and return operations to areas in Ninewa Province recently cleared of ISIS militants. The Council explained that the goal of this move is to encourage and facilitate the return of IDPs to their homes in cleared areas. The Provincial Council is setting up its first office in Bartella, 20 kilometers east of the center of Mosul.

On December 11, Kurdistan24 released footage of an interview with two brothers from the town of Nimrud, 33 kilometers southeast of Mosul, who had their hands amputated by ISIS militants. Shedding light on the brutality of ISIS’s occupation, the brothers spoke with their faces covered in order to protect their father, whose location remains unknown, from ISIS retribution. The boys were accused of stealing and were originally sentenced to execution without trial, but their sentence was reduced to amputation. The amputation was executed in public, and was filmed and published online by ISIS in order to “instill fear in the hearts of the people”, according to one of the amputees. ISIS has a well-documented history of publicizing corporal punishment in order to intimidate the populations they preside over.

On December 12, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that trauma injuries among civilians in and around Mosul continue to be of significant concern, with 685 injuries reported between December 5 and 11, mainly from gunshots, mines, and indirect fire. This is a 30% increase from the week prior, and averages at nearly 100 trauma injuries every day.

On December 12, Al Sumaria News reported that a family in the Tahrir neighborhood in western Mosul began using a plastic inflatable children’s pool and cooking pots to collect rainwater to be used for washing and drinking out of necessity due to severe water shortages in the area. ISIS reportedly cut off water supplies in western Mosul on November 25, and nearly half a million people have been affected by the resulting crisis according to Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. The water shortage has caused some families to drink from the Tigris River, and medics in the area have reported increased cases of diarrhea and intestinal cramps, especially among children. The UN and humanitarian partners are working to bring basic water supply infrastructure and services back online, including work to repair a damaged water treatment plant near Mosul.

On December 12, The New York Times reported on the experiences of women who lived in Mosul under ISIS’s occupation. One of the many rules imposed on women by ISIS  was a strict dress code. It started soon after the ISIS seized the city in 2014, and became increasingly exacting until every part of the female body was required to be covered. Even hands had to be covered with gloves, and feet had to be hidden by socks. Most recently, announcements blared over loudspeakers telling women to wear a film of black cloth over their eyes, obstructing vision and impeding movement. ISIS also distributed a “Bill of the City” which instructed women to stay in their homes unless it was an absolute necessity to leave. Those who violated the dress code or behaved “immodestly” by ISIS’s standards were subject to punishment by the group’s morality police, including fines and/or beatings. One woman from Mosul told the Times that the goal of ISIS’s rules was “to make women melt away [and] make them invisible,” and offered the example of a woman she keeps in touch with who is still in Mosul and has not left her home for more than two years.

On December 12, PUK Media reported that photojournalist Hashim Fars was executed by ISIS militants in central Mosul. The report did not offer further detail on his death, but other sources suggested that he was executed after being charged with collaborating with the Iraqi Government.

On December 13, a security source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS militants kidnapped 30 civilians near the town of Baaj, 132 kilometers southwest of Mosul and 40 kilometers east of the Syrian border. The civilians were reportedly taken to unknown locations, possibly in Kirkuk or Salah ad-Din Province, to be used as human shields by the group.

On December 13, IOM reported that over 9,800 IDPs arrived at the Emergency Site in Qayyarah Airstrip, 65 kilometers south of Mosul in Ninewa Province. Most had fled their homes due to armed conflict in and around Mosul and were in immediate need of humanitarian assistance. The Emergency Site was established by IOM in coordination with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and a total of 3,100 tents have been erected to date. An additional 1,500 tents were received and are being set up in anticipation of additional arrivals.

On December 13, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 35,000 children fled Mosul since military operations to clear the city of ISIS militants began on October 17. A spokesman for UNICEF Peter Hawkins reported that while he could not offer an exact number of children killed in the conflict since October 17, he had witnessed the deliberate targeting of children by ISIS snipers. The protection of children remains a critical concern for the UN and humanitarian partners, who have recorded 154 unaccompanied girls and boys have been registered for follow up with social workers. Many of these children’s parents were killed in the conflict or detained by security forces for screenings.

On December 13, the Associated Press (AP) reported on the experiences of residents of Mosul who suffered under ISIS’s occupation. Civilians interviewed by AP explained that ISIS militants turned crueler over time, and watched neighbors who joined ISIS turn prosperous and vindictive. Parents stopped sending their children to school for fear for them being brainwashed by ISIS rhetoric. Most recently, as ISF encircled Mosul, ISIS militants hanged suspected spies from lampposts. Several witnesses described to AP how one woman and man accused of adultery were paraded blindfolded through the streets. The militants summoned everyone they could find to watch as the woman was stoned to death and the man received 150 lashes before he was forced to go to Syria to fight in ISIS ranks. Public punishment for violating ISIS’s rules, including executions, grew increasingly common in the city. Residents interviewed indicated that it would take a long time for society to recover from the trauma inflicted by ISIS.


Security Forces Make Slow Progress in Mosul as Popular Militias Secure the West

On December 9, an anonymous security source in Ninewa Province reported that the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service (CTS) began conducting operations in the As Sihhah District in eastern Mosul. The source claimed that CTS seized control of a few sections of the district and will continue to push into the district.

On December 9, an anonymous military source in the CTS reported that CTS forces cleared the neighborhoods of Adel, al-Tamim, and al-Alam of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in east Mosul. The source claimed that ISF inflicted heavy casualties on ISIS militants during the operations.

On December 9 Iraq Special Forces Commander, Major General Sami al-Aridi, reported that CTS forces destroyed seven vehicle based improvised explosive devices (VBIED) driven by suicide bombers in the Al Barid district in eastern Mosul. Aridi claimed that the VBIEDs, driven by foreign nationals, were destroyed before they reached security forces.

On December 9, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that three ISIS caches of weapons and a VBIED manufacturing location was destroyed when an Iraqi F-16 targeted the cache in an undetermined location within the city limits of Mosul.

On December 9, a commander in the CTS, Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, reported that the ranks of ISIS “collapsed” and claimed that the second “phase” of the operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants would begin in the next few days after ISF consolidates territory and reaches the Tigris river. Asadi reiterated that ISF was taking steps not to damage civilian infrastructure and to “preserve the lives of citizens.”

On December 9, a statement by Federal Police in Mosul reported that its forces targeted ISIS headquarters in numerous locations throughout southern Mosul. Federal police claimed to have killed 19 ISIS militants and destroyed five vehicles and three tunnels into the area. No exact locations or security force casualties were given.

On December 10, an anonymous local source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS improvised explosive device (IED) manufacturing “expert,” Abu Islam, and three of his aides were killed when a roadside bomb detonated in central Mosul. The source claimed that the death of Abu Islam is a “major blow to the organization.” ISIS has been planting IEDs in houses and using VBIEDs to slow security forces from clearing districts in Mosul.

On December 10, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that CTS forces cleared ISIS militants from the neighborhoods of al-Qadisiyah and al-Murur in eastern Mosul. Jarallah claimed that ISF inflicted heavy losses on ISIS militants in the two neighborhoods.      

On December 11, the Pentagon reported that U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter arrived in Baghdad to talk with Iraqi leader about the U.S.-led international coalition operation against ISIS militants in Mosul. Carter claimed that operations in Mosul could be completed before President-elect Donald Trump officially enters office, but ISF would have to significantly accelerate their progress in Mosul, ISIS so called capital in Iraq. Carter is expected to thank U.S. coalition partners and Iraqi troops, survey key locations supporting the battle, and discuss further steps in addressing ISIS while in Iraq.

On December 11, Federal Police Chief, Captain Raed Shakir Jawdat, reported that federal police forces opened “safe corridors” in order for civilians to flee conflict areas so they would not be used as human shields. Jawdat said that fighting has not stopped and federal police will continue to conduct operations in Mosul to clear ISIS militants from the city.  

On December 11, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that CTS forces “entirely” cleared ISIS militants from the Hay al-Noor District in the east of Mosul. The report by Jarallah claimed that CTS forces inflicted heavy casualties on militants in the district. A report by the Ninewa Provincial Council Member, Hossam al-Abbar, claimed that ISF are now in control of about 30 out of 50 neighborhoods in eastern Mosul.

On December 11, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, reported after Council of Ministers meeting on national security that Iraqi troops would maintain control of weapons contracted to them by the U.S.-led international coalition and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in order to provide security in areas cleared of ISIS militants. The meeting discussed numerous issuing having to do with arming, clothing, and equipping Iraqi military personnel in conflict areas.

On December 11, an anonymous local source claimed that ISIS media in Mosul promoted a sermon that called for attacks on Europe during Christmas and New Years in response to “aggression against the land of the caliphate.” The sermon suggested that the battle of Mosul will not be the end of the “caliphate” and the fighting should continue in Syria, the Middle East and Europe. Deputy Commander of the U.S.-led international coalition, British General Robert Jones, commented that intelligence sources have uncovered numerous plots threats against European capitals during New Years.      

On December 11, an anonymous, local source in Ninewa Province reported that there are deepening disputes in Tal Afar, 68 kilometers west of Mosul, between local and foreign ISIS militants after a prominent ISIS leader was killed in the Tal Afar Airport, 67 kilometers west of Mosul, by popular mobilization units (PMU) forces on November 20, 2016. The source claimed that ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, decided to fill the vacancy by posting three people from different “nationalities” to the position in order to eliminate any in-fighting between ISIS militants. The source did not indicate what nationalities the militants who filled the position were. ISF and PMU militia forces have been surrounding Tal Afar since November and are preparing to clear the city of ISIS militants.

On December 11, leadership within the Badr Brigade PMU announced that PMU forces cleared ISIS militants from the three villages of Tal Ghazal, Tal Majan, and Washawira, 74 kilometers west of Mosul. PMU forces destroyed two VBIEDs driven by suicide bombers and are currently searching for IEDs and car bombs. Badr leadership stated that they have evacuated 163 civilians to protect them from IEDs, car bombs, and other explosive devices that may be in the area.

On December 12, an anonymous source reported that a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike targeted the “Old Iron Bridge” that connects the al-Faisaliah neighborhood on the eastern side of Mosul to the Alogwat connector on the western side of the city. This is considered the second time the bridge has been bombed (the first time being on November 24, 2016). The U.S.-led international coalition hopes to isolate eastern Mosul in order to allow ISF to more easily capture and hold districts in eastern areas of the city.

On December 12, Shafaaq News reported that approximately 4,000 federal police forces moved to the southeast area of the city of Mosul to support troops who were repelled by ISIS forces at the Salam Hospital on December 7, 2016. Spokesman for Iraq’s federal police forces, Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, claimed that three brigades from the federal police’s Fifth Division were prepared to move into the city, but would would wait for advancements by CTS forces before beginning any attack in the city. Federal police are currently located in Qaraqosh, 15 kilometers southeast of the border of Mosul.

On December 12, spokesman for the Interior Ministry Brigadier, General Saad Maan, reported that two ISIS militants were arrested while trying to escape Mosul with IDP fleeing through Gogjali, the eastern-most district in Mosul. No further information was given about the incident.

On December 12, Chancellor of Kurdistan Region’s Security Council, Masrour Barzani, speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C., said that new “terror groups” will likely replace ISIS if no long-term political solutions are found on century-long ethnic disputes in Iraq and Syria, and that the future of the stability of the Middle East depends on rethinking “an unjust map” that was drawn for the region a century ago, referring to the the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement that largely drew state lines in the Middle East. Barzani claimed that the end of ISIS will not be the end of terrorism and that the only solution is to find new approaches to political structures in the Middle East.             

On December 12, Federal Police Chief, Captain Raed Shakir Jawdat, reported that federal police in cooperation with citizens managed to arrest ISIS official Omar Hamid Nuri during a security operation in the village of Zakah, 16 kilometers south of the center of Mosul.

On December 13, Deputy Commander of Operations in Ninewa Province, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Jarallah, reported that CTS forces cleared ISIS from the Falah al-Oula and the al-Falah al-Thaneya neighborhoods in eastern Mosul. While conducting search operations in the neighborhoods, CTS forces found the Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi training camp. The camp contained numerous different types of military equipment and a field for training militants. Jarallah claimed that ISF inflicted heavy losses on the militants in the area.

On December 13, an anonymous security source in Ninewa Province reported that ISIS kidnapped 30 civilians under charges of leaving ISIS held territory and smuggled citizens from the self proclaimed “caliphate” in an area somewhere in between Baaj, 133 kilometers west of Mosul, and the Syrian border. The source claimed that those kidnapped were taken to an unknown location.

On December 13, Reuters reported that Shia PMU forces, fighting ISIS west of Mosul aim to clear and hold a large strip of territory on the Iraqi-Syrian border to prevent militants from fleeing into the “remote desert region” or using it as a base for counter attacks on security forces. Spokesman for the Kata’ib Hezbollah PMU militia, Jafaar Hussaini, claimed that Kata’ib Hezbollah forces would move further west to clear the border region where militants reportedly were hiding weapons to use against security forces. Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of two main Shia PMU militias fighting to secure villages around Tal Afar, 68 kilometers west of Mosul.

On December 14, a report by Conflict Armament and Research (CAR) reported that ISIS was manufacturing weapons with the level of sophistication on par with those made by state armies. CAR tracked the supply chain of ISIS arms and found complex systems of inventory management and industrial production when it came to tracking its own weapons and ammunition. While ISIS may not be using standardized raw materials, documents seized in Mosul indicate that ISIS is instructing militants to use production standards when manufacturing explosives, weapons, and ammunition. The report suggested that mortars made in one area of the self proclaimed “caliphate” can be used with mortar pipes created in other areas. The report claimed that ISIS has a steady supply chain from Turkey, into Syria, and into Mosul. ISIS seeks to standardize production to legitimize the self proclaimed “caliphate” and increase its efficiency when carrying out attacks against security forces and civilians.

On December 14, ISF officer, Lieutenant Colonel Khalaf al-Qaisi, reported that ISF were engaging ISIS militants in the Wahda district near al-Salam hospital. Fighting from high buildings, ISIS militants killed five soldiers from Iraqi’s Ninth Division and injured eight others. Qaisi reported that “scores” of ISIS militants were killed during the engagement. The same division suffered severe losses when they were repelled from the al-Salam hospital on December 7.

On December 14, Iraqi News Network reported that 13 ISIS militants were killed during two U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes on targets in eastern Mosul. While no location was given, the report claimed that an unnamed senior foreign ISIS leader was killed in one of the airstrikes.

On December 14, an anonymous doctor in Ninewa Province reported that he was informed that no less than 40 civilians were killed and many more wounded during overnight “bombardments” in the al-Nour, al-Falah, and al-Quds neighborhoods in the east of Mosul. ISIS has been known to bombard areas they lose to ISF, but an anonymous source in the ISF claimed that the 73rd Brigade of the 16th Division also carried out shelling in the vicinity. It is unknown whether ISF could be implicated in any of the civilian deaths.

On December 14, head of the Ninewa Provincial Security Committee, Mohammed al-Bayati, reported that the CTS forces repelled an ISIS attacks on the al-Tamim, Hay al-Noor, and al-Qadisiyah neighborhoods in eastern Mosul. ISIS reportedly took advantage of “bad weather” conditions and attacked security forces with suicide based improvised explosive devices (SBIEDs) and VBIEDs.

On December 15, the Ministry of Defense based on information from the Directorate General of Intelligence reported that 70 ISIS militants were killed during an airstrike conducted by the Iraqi Air Force targeting a meeting of ISIS militants in western Tal Abtah, 73 kilometers southwest of the center of Mosul. The report claimed that 20 of those killed in the airstrike were ISIS leaders.


Hawija Remains a Center of ISIS Atrocities

On December 10, leader of the al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Hawija, Hassam al-Sufi, reported that there are 900 fighters currently equipped and trained in urban warfare that will participate in any operation to clear the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from Hawija, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk. Sufi claimed that over 2,500 popular mobilization unit (PMU) militiamen will eventually participate in the operations, and claimed it was up to the government to decide when the operation to clear ISIS from Hawija would begin.

On December 12, a security source in Kirkuk Province reported to Al Sumaria News that dozens of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fled ISIS-controlled Hawija, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, and passed through Makteb Khaled security checkpoint before being relocated to IDP camps by Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. The source added that the IDPs were mostly women and children. Another source reported that the number of IDPs from Hawija received in IDP camps around Kirkuk was 410. Hawija has been occupied by ISIS since June 2014 but was passed over in the rush to clear ISIS from Mosul. Civilians in Hawija face violence as well as a shortage of food, water, and medicine.

On December 12, a local source in Kirkuk Province reported that ISIS militants executed 17 civilians in a camp near Hawija, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City. The civilians were reported shot on charges of cooperating with Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga.

On December 13, Head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, Ribawar Talabani, called on the federal government to clarify the justification for delaying the start of operations in Hawija, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk, in order to confront and end the humanitarian conflict in the region. Talabani called on the federal government to send all “financial dues” that were agreed upon and stressed that Kirkuk Province has not received any finances to date. Talabani stated that citizens complained that armed robberies were increasing, and security forces did not have the funds to confront security measures that would eliminate the robberies.

On December 14, an anonymous security source in Kirkuk Province reported that a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike destroyed a bridge in the Shumayt area, 22 kilometers west of Hawija. A major bridge linking Hawija to Ninewa Province, ISIS militants regularly used the bridge to move militants and supplies to attack security forces. The source claimed that the destruction of the bridge will isolate militants in both Ninewa Province and the city of Hawija.

On December 14, chief of district police, Brigadier General Sarhad Qader, reported that ISIS executed 28 Iraqi army and Sahwa recruits by firing squad in Hawija, 55 kilometers west of Kirkuk. The recruits, that had been detained earlier, were charged with collaborating with government and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces.                   

On December 14, the Arab Bloc publicly condemned the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga for “human rights violations” against Arabs in areas controlled by the Peshmerga, including forced evictions, displacements, and dispossession of land in villages throughout Kirkuk. The Bloc also blamed the Peshmerga for not intervening in the murder, yesterday, of two Arabs who returned to the village of Qutan to check on their lands. The Bloc declared that the murder of these Arabs was intended to send a message to displaced Arabs that they should not return to their homes. The Bloc called on all Kurdish parties, especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to hold an urgent meeting to resolve the issues of violations against Arabs by Kurds.

On December 14, a local source in Kirkuk Province reported that dozens of civilians fled ISIS-controlled Hawija, 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, and arrived in the city center of Kirkuk after receiving security clearance from Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga at Makteb Khaled checkpoint. On December 15, a security source in Kirkuk Province reported that 475 civilians who fled violence in Hawija arrived in Kirkuk City to be relocated to IDP camps. As of December 12, over 51,000 IDPs were displaced from Hawija since August 1, according to the IOM. Since December 1 alone, some 4,500 individuals have fled the district.


Turkey Attacks PKK in Iraq

On December 9, an anonymous source in Dohuk province reported that Turkish warplanes attacked militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Jamanki area, 65 kilometers northeast of Dohuk. A later report on December 10 by Safaaq News reported the the Turkish General Staff claimed that 19 militants had been killed and injured during the airstrike.

On December 10, Turkish Prime Minister, Ben Ali Yildirim, assured Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi that Turkish troops would withdraw from the Bashiqa camp in northeastern Iraq with the clearing of the city of Mosul from so-called Islamic State militants. Yildirim pointed out that Turkey “seeks to perpetuate the trade and economic relations between Iraq and Turkey.” Yildirim also noted that Turkey is serious about respecting Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity. In a phone called later in the day, al-Abadi expressed to Yildirim that he is “keen to develop strong relations with Turkey” but that it is important to remove “reasons that impede” that progress. Turkish and Iraqi relations have been strained recently over Turkish Parliament’s decision on October 1 to extend the stay of troops in northern Iraq for another year.

On December 15, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Nechirvan Barzani, called for the withdrawal of the PKK from the district of Sinjar during a speech at the American University in Dohuk. Barzani said the presence of the PKK in the province is causing instability in the region and hinders the reconstruction process in Sinjar. He also noted that is up to the people of Sinjar to decide their fate, and not the PKK. On November 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the PKK of turning Sinjar into a “terrorist center.”


KRG Rejects Terms of Iraq’s Federal Budget, Argues for Continued Peshmerga Presence

On December 12, Rudaw News reported that the Peshmerga Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that it will not withdraw from areas Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces recaptured from ISIS militants, contradicting a signed memorandum between the United States and the KRG agreeing that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters would withdraw from recaptured areas to bring stability to those regions. The Peshmerga Ministry claimed that the agreement only applied to withdrawing from Mosul. The Kurdish Peshmerga reinforced their position by claiming that they have been protecting the region and people “of different ethnicities” without financial support and claimed the “war against terrorism” is a “part of the Kurdistan Region’s independence policy.” “We announce to every faction that the Peshmerga’s weapons are not for rent,” asserted the Peshmerga Ministry.

On December 13, Kurdish Official Nasr Ad-Din Sindi stated that the “current areas” where Peshmerga are stationed are not the “final borders of Kurdish cities.” In an interview with Al Sumaria news, Sindi confirmed that “the presence of the Peshmerga forces in the Kurdish areas outside the provincial administration is of great importance to the protection of its population and [the] identity of Kurdistan.” He noted that the presence of the Peshmerga in these areas is a result of an “agreement” between the KRG and Baghdad. Sindi also stated that the “unresolved fate” of these areas could create future problems and hinted there might be the need to hold a referendum in those areas after they are cleared of so-called Islamic State militants. The future fate of territory currently held by Peshmerga forces has been a contentious political topic between the KRG and Baghdad during the ongoing Mosul operations.

On December 14, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced the postponement of a meeting between the Kurdish political blocs in Iraqi Parliament with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, to discuss the recently passed 2017 budget. The KDP refused to participate in the budget vote on December 7, as reported previously in ISHM. Meanwhile, the Kurdish blocs that did participate in the vote and found the budget to be a positive step for Kurdistan, like the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Islamic Union of Kurdistan put out a joint statement saying that the meeting should solely be held “in the interest of the people of Kurdistan.” The meeting now is expected to be held sometime next week.

On December 14, Kefah Mahmoud, a media advisor to the Prime Minister of Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, confirmed that a referendum process will “decide the fate” of areas outside of Kurdistan territorial management that have been held by Peshmerga forces since 2003. In an interview with Al Sumaria news, Mahmoud said that “since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003” Peshmerga forces entered and controlled these areas that are technically outside of the KRG’s domain but have offered “the most competent” Kurdistan institution services for the people in these territories like health, municipal, security, education, and agriculture services. Mahmoud stressed that the referendum is to “decide the identity” of these areas, “whatever the size and magnitude.”

On December 14, the Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Council, Osman Nuri, declared the he refuses to adhere to the 2017 budget. Nuri stated his main issue with the budget is that it “did not meet the financial dues of the Kurdistan region.” Later in the day, the KRG as a whole announced that it did not consider the 2017 budget to be in Kurdistan’s “favor” and stressed the need for meetings between Kurdish political blocs in Iraqi Parliament and KRG officials to discuss the current specifications of the budget and to clarify some of these remarks on the budget.

On December 15, Prime Minister of the KRG, Nechirvan Barzani, said the Kurdistan region is preparing to conduct a new dialogue with Baghdad on the future of Kurdistan. The President noted the dialogue will not really begin until after military operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants are complete. Barzani made the announcement during a speech at the American University in Dohuk.


Iraqi Oil Production Cuts Require Kurdish Cooperation

On December 10, independent oil producers outside of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries like Russia agreed to cut production by 600,000 barrels per day (bpd). The announcement was made during the OPEC meeting that took place in Vienna over the weekend. Moscow expressed willingness to cut oil production by 300,000 bpd. In a surprise response to the news that Russia and a few other non-OPEC members pledged to curb oil production next year, Saudi Arabia signaled it is willing to cut oil production even more than expected. OPEC reached an original oil production cut agreement with its members on November 30.

On December 12, oil prices jumped to US$ 57.14 after non-OPEC members agreed to cut production during the OPEC meeting in Vienna held over the weekend. Non-members agreed to cut production by at least 558,000 bpd, the largest production cut ever by states outside of OPEC. Meanwhile, the OPEC deal states members will cut production by 1.2 million bpd starting in January 2017, with Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producing OPEC member, cutting production by 486,000 bpd.

On December 12, Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi reiterated Iraq’s commitment to cut oil production “in compliance with the global agreement to support prices.” However, Al-Luaibi added that “nevertheless” he is confident that Iraq will have the ability to increase production in the coming years.” He explained that Iraq is considering “several options” for the application of cuts, including reducing the production of oil fields in Kirkuk and the south fields that are being developed by major oil companies or “other areas run by the government.” He continued, saying the ministry is “engaged in discussions with foreign companies that occupy giant fields in southern Iraq to implement some cuts during scheduled maintenance periods.” The OPEC agreement made on November 30 called for a reduction of 1.2 million bpd collectively between OPEC members, while Iraq agreed to reduce production by 200,000 bpd.

On December 14, OPEC warned that unless OPEC members and independent producers followed the agreement to cut production of crude oil in 2017, there will be an enormous surplus of oil on the market. This level of surplus would undermine the negotiations to stabilize the market and increase historically low oil prices that the market has seen since 2014. In its monthly report for November, OPEC members pumped 33.8 million bpd, which is a 150,000 barrel increase from October and the highest oil output level since 2008.

On December 14, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iraq plans to increase crude oil exports in January 2017, despite its agreement with OPEC to cut production by 200,000 bpd. The newspaper viewed a “detailed oil-shipment program” for Iraq’s national oil company, State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO), that reportedly showed plans to increase deliveries of Iraq’s Basra oil exports by about 7% to 3.53 million bpd. These oil shipments represent about 85% of Iraq’s exports. The shipment plan was dated December 8, just nine days after Iraq agreed to cut its output by 4% at the OPEC meeting on November 30 in Vienna. Meanwhile, on December 12, Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi issued possible methods for reducing output. SOMO chief Falah al-Amir declined to comment about the company’s output level.


DateLocationDeathsInjuries
12/15/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad01
12/15/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad01
12/15/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad02
12/15/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad02
12/15/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad01
12/15/16Sha’ab, Northeast Baghdad02
12/14/16Mansuriya, East of Baquba12
12/14/16Albu Hamdan, Eastern Baghdad10
12/14/16Washash, Central Baghdad210
12/14/16Arab Ejbur, Eastern Baghdad01
12/14/16Beirut Square, Central Baghdad00
12/14/16Arab Ejbur, Eastern Baghdad11
12/13/16Al-Ubaidi, Eastern Baghdad03
12/13/16al-Zohour, Eastern MosulUnknownUnknown
12/13/16al-Zohour, Eastern MosulUnknown Unknown
12/11/16Fallujah, West of Baghdad 06
12/11/16Fallujah, West of Baghdad 16
12/11/16Al Baiueia, Northeast Baghdad15
12/11/16Sharqat, East of Tikrit 21
12/11/16Abu Dshir, South Baghdad02
12/11/16Abu Dshir, South Baghdad03
12/10/16Al-Baghdadi, West of Ramadi 01
12/09/16Baghdad Al-Jadeeda, East Baghdad14

 

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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