ISHM: March 3 – 9, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Waves of IDPs Flee Western Mosul as ISIS Resorts to Chemical Weapons – Over the past week, more than 42,000 individuals have fled western Mosul as Iraqi Security Forces continue their attempts to clear the area of ISIS militants. On March 3, the World Health Organization activated an emergency response plan to handle reports of chemical weapons use. The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that seven patients with symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemical agents were taken from east Mosul to be treated in Erbil. ISIS has used chemical weapons against civilians numerous times in the past, as previously reported in ISHM. Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons and called for an immediate investigation, urging security forces to “act responsibly and grant and ensure immediate access” for investigators. more…
  • Iraqi Security Forces Continue to Make Progress in Clearing Western Mosul; Baghdadi Reportedly Fled the City – Iraqi Security Forces, including Federal Police, Rapid Response Divisions, and the Iraqi Army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service made considerable progress in clearing ISIS militants from western Mosul over the past week – so much so that on March 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Mosul to meet with ISF leadership. Security Forces have cleared the Mosul Central Bank, Mosul General Hospital, and retaken the Hurriya bridge (the second bridge connecting east and west Mosul to be cleared), in addition to securing more neighborhoods. Iraqi and American intelligence sources reported that ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has fled Mosul and is hiding in the western desert of Ninewa Province, likely with civilian sympathizers. Security Forces are likely to reclaim Mosul’s Great Mosque in the next few days in what would be a highly symbolic victory. The Great Mosque is the location where Baghdadi declared the formation of the so-called Islamic State in 2014. Doubling down on last week’s Iraqi airstrike on ISIS positions in Syria, Prime Minister Abadi said that Iraqi forces will continue to attack ISIS positions in other countries, provided the governments of the countries concerned give their consent. The remarks were made during the Sulaimani Forum at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani on March 8. more…
  • President Trump’s Executive Order Restricts Iraqi Refugee Admissions, Allows Iraqis to Apply for Visas – On March 6, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a “revised” executive order restricting the issuance of new visas to civilians of six Muslim-majority countries and freezing worldwide refugee applications for at least 120 days. Contrary to the original order signed on January 27, the new iteration does not include Iraq among the countries whose citizens are banned from traveling to the United States – the result of an intense lobbying effort by the Iraqi Government aided by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis who argued that the inclusion of Iraq is detrimental to security cooperation. (For more information about the executive order and the harm it does to refugees and U.S.-Iraqi cooperation, read EPIC’s official statement.) more…
  • Humanitarian Crisis Remains in Hawija as ISIS Militants Move Toward Hamrin Mountains – An anonymous security source reported that dozens of ISIS militants stationed in Hawija have taken refuge in the Hamrin Mountains, approximately 50 kilometers south of the city in Kirkuk Province. Two days after the report, however, ISIS militants publicly executed eight civilians in Hawija for allegedly trying to help others escape – indicating that a critical mass of militants still maintain tight control of the town. more…
  • Rojava Peshmerga, Yazidi Militias Clash in Sinjar – On March 3, KDP-backed Syrian Kurds of the Rojava Peshmerga Forces clashed with PKK-backed Yazidi militias (YBS) in Sinjar, 50 kilometers west of Tal Afar in Ninewa Province. At least seven Yazidi troops were killed and another 20 injured in the clash, which both sides acuse the other of instigating. more…
  • Security Remains Tenuous on Diyala, Salah ad-Din Border – ISIS militants continued to target Popular Mobilization Units and civilians in Salah ad-Din and Diyala Provinces this week. On March 6, ISIS militants launched six mortars in the Mutibija area on the border between the two provinces and kidnapped three members of the PMUs the following day. On March 8, four ISIS suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a wedding ceremony in Hajaj, just north of Tikrit, killing 21 and wounding at least 20 others. Provincial council members in both provinces have continuously pleaded with Baghdad to strengthen the presence of security forces to no avail. Units typically in place to secure the area were deployed to Mosul in early February. more…
  • Kirkuk, Baghdad Reach Agreement on Oil Transportation – On March 8, Deputy Secretary-General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Kosrat Rasul announced an agreement between the PUK and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi which will allow the PUK to continue to pump crude oil from fields in Kirkuk to Turkey for export. Last week, oil transportation was disrupted when PUK forces approached the state-run North Oil Company in Kirkuk, demanding equitable shares of oil revenue for the region, as previously reported in ISHM. 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.

Waves of IDPs Flee Western Mosul as ISIS Resorts to Chemical Weapons

March 3 March 4 March 5 March 6 March 7 March 8 March 9
Total IDPs No data No data 206,520 No data 211,572 No data 215,142
Daily Net Change No data No data +14,694 No data +5,052 No data +3,570

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

On March 3, The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) reported that it had activated emergency plans in place to handle chemical weapons injuries, in response to receiving 12 patients from East Mosul who exhibited symptoms potentially stemming from exposure to chemical weapons. The WHO said in a statement that, “4 patients are showing severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent.” Robert Mardini, Middle East Coordinator for the Red Cross, stated that the patients were displaying symptoms consistent with those of a “blistering chemical agent,” but no aid organizations have explicitly stated that chemical attacks have been carried out, or who caused these injuries. The BBC reported that the injuries resulted from two separate mortar attacks after which victims complained of a foul smell in the air. Data from IHS Markit suggests that Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has used chemical weapons at least 52 times since 2014.

On March 3, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons in Mosul. They reported that the West Emergency Hospital, 83 kilometers east of Mosul in Erbil, received seven patients with symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemical agents. Five women and two children arrived at the hospital with symptoms of coughing, vomiting, blisters, and red, irritated eyes. ICRC medical teams trained staff at the West Emergency Hospital how to decontaminate victims of exposure to chemical agents, and are working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to prepare for any additional cases that arrive at the hospital.

On March 3, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported that 15,000 children fled western Mosul in the past week alone. UNICEF Regional Emergency Advisor Bastien Vigneau reported that nearly 100,000 children have been displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area since operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants began on October 17, 2016. He added that 847 unaccompanied children or children separated from their families have been identified since October, with half of them reunited with their families or in the care of relatives.  

On March 4, Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, strongly condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons in Mosul, stating, “This is horrible. If the alleged use of chemical weapons is confirmed, this is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime, regardless of who the targets or the victims of the attack are. There is never justification–none whatsoever–for the use of chemical weapons.” Grande called for an immediate investigation and urged people to “act responsibly and to grant and ensure immediate access” for investigators.

On March 5, the WHO, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Health launched a five-day nationwide campaign to vaccinate 5.6 million children under the age of five against polio. More than 25,000 vaccinators will travel door-to-door to provide the free vaccine to children. Ministry of Health, WHO, and UNICEF teams will travel to camps, settlements, and slums to provide the vaccine to high-risk communities. The campaign launches one month before Iraq celebrates three successive years without a documented case of polio.

On March 5, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that between February 27 and March 5, nearly 42,000 individuals were displaced from western Mosul. On March 3 alone, 13,350 individuals were displaced. Currently, 206,520 individuals are displaced as a result of the crisis in Mosul; the highest number of individuals displaced since operations began on October 17, 2016. Since the operation to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants began on February 19, more than 500 individuals were treated at Trauma Stabilization Points outside of the city. A total of 15 individuals were referred to the Emergency and West Emergency Hospitals in Erbil, located 83 kilometers east of Mosul, for treatment following the alleged use of chemical weapons in Mosul.

On March 6, Tarik Hassan, a civilian from a small village near Hamam al-Alil located 20 kilometers south of Mosul, described life under ISIS control in an Al Jazeera interview. Eighteen months ago, ISIS militants ordered Hassan, his wife, and their five children to pack their things and travel to Mosul. Hassan explained that civilians were used as human shields and housed near ISIS bases and facilities to ensure that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) did not use heavy artillery or airstrikes in the area. Abdul Malik, a 16-year-old from Mosul, told Al Jazeera that ISIS militants parked an armoured vehicle outside of his house and ordered that Malik and his family remain inside. Major Mohammed Masood, commander of the Ninewa Province Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, estimated that ISIS militants pushed 200 to 350 families further inside Mosul, adding that the use of human shields is increasing as the ISF advance further into western Mosul and “make greater use of heavy artillery.” According to the UN, ISIS militants forced “tens of thousands” of civilians into the city and executed those who refused.

On March 7, two young Yazidi boys now living in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, described their lives as “cubs of the caliphate” in Syria. In 2014 ISIS militants kidnapped Lovant and Sabbah from their village near Mount Sinjar and took them to an unknown ISIS training camp in Syria where they were taught about war and ISIS ideology. To get used to shooting weapons, ISIS militants allegedly forced Lovant, Sabbah, and 120 other boys at the camp, to shoot corpses. While details of Sabbah and Lovant’s escape remain unclear, they explained that a smuggler helped them escape the camp and take them back to Iraq. Their story mirrors that of other “cubs of the caliphate” who were trained in Mosul. Recent ISIS propaganda video shows two young Yazidi boys carrying out a suicide car bomb attack against the ISF in Mosul.

On March 7, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) interviewed a family who recently escaped western Mosul and arrived at the Hassan Sham camp, 32 kilometers east of Mosul. Adil, his wife Sundus, and their six children fled western Mosul four days ago in the middle of the night. They walked through the pouring rain for more than an hour before they reached ISF and were taken to Hassan Sham. Adil explained that hunger was the main motivation for leaving western Mosul saying, “We were starving for one month, just feeding the children water and flour, and sometimes we could improve the diet with a bit of tomato paste. It was either stay and die, or flee and risk death.” When Adil and his family arrived at the camp, they received a tent, blankets, mattresses, a food. Adil noted that their first night in the camp was the first time they had eaten meat in “over six months.”

On March 7, Minister of Displacement and Migration Jassim Mohammed announced that more than 72,000 individuals have returned to Ninewa Province since operations to clear Mosul began on October 17, 2016. Access to health services, water, and electricity are cited as the major barriers to individuals trying to return to cleared cities in Ninewa.  

On March 7, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management for the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) Christos Stylianides announced that Iraq will receive an aid package worth EU€ 42.5 million (approximately US$ 45 million) in 2017. The new aid package is in addition to the over EU€ 159 million (approximately US$ 168 million) package that the European Commission allocated for humanitarian assistance in Iraq in 2016.

On March 7, the UNHCR opened Chamakor camp, located 20 kilometers east of Mosul, already receiving  347 individuals from western Mosul. The camp is able to house up to 10,200 individuals. Fred Cussigh, UNHCR’s Head of Office in Erbil noted that Chamakor camp opened in response to the recent spike in families fleeing Mosul. Cussigh added that if the current rate of displacement continues, then UNHCR “could face some serious challenges ahead.” UNHCR is also building two additional camps, Hassan Sham 2 east of Mosul and Hamam al-Alil 2 west of Mosul, for a combined capacity of 39,000 individuals.

On March 8, the UNOCHA released the Iraq: 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. The overview includes information regarding the number of Iraqis in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, their demographic information, and key figures regarding food security, water, sanitation, hygiene, education, and current rapid response mechanisms. Humanitarian partners estimate that in 2017, 11 million Iraqis will need some form of humanitarian assistance and more than 8.9 million will need protection assistance.

On March 9, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 215,142 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area since operations to clear the city of ISIS militants began on October 17, 2016, a net increase of 23,316 IPDs since March 2. Sixty-six percent of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area are housed in emergency camps, 18% live in private settings, 15% live in emergency sites, and 1% live in critical shelter arrangements. Cumulatively, 283,674 IDPs have been impacted by the crisis in Mosul since it began in October 2016. However, to date 68,532 IDPs have returned to their homes.

Iraqi Security Forces Continue to Make Progress in Clearing Western Mosul; Baghdadi Reportedly Fled the City

On March 3, a local source in Mosul stated that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) media has declared the deaths of five of their leaders in western Mosul, following 3 days of silence on official ISIS channels. The source reported that this silence reflects “the state of collapse happening in the ranks of the organization.”

On March 3, a local source in Ninewa Province reported that Abu Yasin, an ISIS preacher, gave a sermon in which he claimed that U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes had hit six ISIS headquarters, seeking but failing to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Abu Yasin also talked of the organization killing “defeatists” (ISIS deserters), and called for sleeper cells to be formed in the West.

On March 3, Operations Commander Lt. General Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that Counter-terrorism Services (CTS) cleared the Wadi Hajer neighborhood of western Mosul. The neighborhood is northwest of Mosul Airport and contains the Mosul General Hospital.

On March 4, a local source in western Mosul reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has placed non-Iraqi Arabs and foreign nationals in charge of the remaining militants in Mosul. The source suggested that Baghdadi no longer trusts Iraqi ISIS leaders, in part due to the major loss of ground and manpower in the past few weeks.

On March 4, a local source in Ninewa Province reported that a Syrian militant known as Abu Salman al-Shami, an official at an ISIS camp used to train teenage boys to fight, was killed. The source stated that al-Shami and one other militant died in an airstrike west of Mosul.

On March 5, Mosul Operations Commander Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that the ISF stormed four more neighborhoods in western Mosul. Federal Police, Rapid Response, and CTS troops pushed forward into ISIS controlled areas such as al-Adnan and al-Dandeen.

On March 6, the ISF seized control of the Hurriya bridge in Mosul. The bridge is the second to be fully cleared, after the Fourth bridge to the south was captured on February 27. Mosul Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah also reported that the al-Samud neighborhood had been cleared.

On March 6, the Federal Police announced that the Police Directorate building in western Mosul was cleared. Utility buildings such as the water, electric, and sewage headquarters were also cleared on Monday.

On March 6, an anonymous source in western Mosul reported that unidentified gunmen killed an ISIS preacher, known as Abu Huzaifa, and his brother in an area considered a stronghold of the organization. The source also reported ISIS arresting civilians in relation to the deaths.

On March 7, sources in western Mosul reported that ISIS leaders in the city received orders to withdraw from Mosul and retreat to the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is still under ISIS control. The sources also reported that the orders stipulated that militants burn ISIS headquarters as they left.

On March 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi arrived in Mosul to meet with top generals, dressed in uniform in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the ISF. The same day, Rapid Response teams cleared the Mosul Central Bank on the west side of the city.

On March 7, the Directorate of Military Intelligence announced the death of a militant known as Abu Omar, who is thought to be the military commander of ISIS in western Mosul. Abu Omar was killed in the al-Duwasa neighborhood, which was cleared today, along with the Tal al-Rumin and al-Dindeen neighborhoods, and the village of al-Thelja.

On March 8, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stated that the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) will continue to carry out airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in other countries, provided the governments of the countries concerned give their consent. The statement follows an operation reported in last week’s ISHM in which Iraqi airplanes, with the permission of Bashar al-Assad’s government, hit ISIS positions across the border from Qa’im.

On March 8, PMU troops cleared the al-Sabuniya train station on the rail line running between Tal Afar and Mosul. The station is approximately 15 kilometers from Mosul.

On March 8, the Ninth Armored Division of the ISF took control of Badush Prison, nine kilometers west of Mosul. The same division cleared the Tlul Atishana mountains, just south of the prison, and the road in between, which runs to al-Esk (35 kilometers northwest of Mosul).

On March 8, Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that the CTS have cleared the neighborhoods of al-Mansour and al-Shaheda in western Mosul. Also on Wednesday, the ISF stormed al-Malimeen neighborhood.  

On March 8, Iraqi and American intelligence sources reported that Baghdadi has fled Mosul and is hiding out in the desert. They report that the leader of ISIS often hides with civilian sympathizers, rather than in barracks with soldiers.  

On March 8, Al-Shaafaq News spoke with ISF snipers in western Mosul, who reported that ISIS snipers were one of the main factors slowing the advance of the ISF. Miqdadi Saadi, an ISF sniper, commented that snipers are a strong defensive asset, and that sometimes ISIS snipers are able to obstruct ISF units for days.

On March 9, Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that CTS had cleared the al-Malimeen and al-Sailo neighborhoods of western Mosul. The ninth Armored Brigade, outside of the city, cleared the towns of Baytar and Aekeelat to the west.

On March 9, Iraq received two Czech L159 model warplanes, the fourth installment of a deal that will leave Iraq with 12 planes of this model. The Iraqi Air Force also owns US F16s and Russian Sukhoi 25s.

President Trump’s Executive Order Restricts Iraqi Refugee Admissions, Allows Iraqis to Apply for Visas

On March 6, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order omitting Iraq from the list of six Muslim-majority countries facing travel restrictions. After courts struck down Trump’s original travel ban, which included Iraq, the White House recreated the order in an attempt to “court-proof” it. The new order allows travel from Iraq and removes certain other restrictions, such as overt preferential treatment for Christians over Muslims in refugee processing, but retains the essence of the original ban. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions commented on the ban, stating, “We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism.” The ban’s current iteration prevents citizens of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from obtaining visas for at least 90 days. Additionally, refugee processing will be frozen for at least 120 days, in order to allow vetting measures to be assessed and improved where possible. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis joined the Iraqi government in lobbying Trump to omit Iraq, arguing that it hindered the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that Iraq’s omission came as a result of increased involvement from the Iraqi government in the screening process of migrants. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry responded to the updated ban, expressing “great relief” at Iraq’s omission. Ahmad Jamal, a spokesman for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, called the change “an important first step” in strengthening the alliance between Washington and Baghdad. Likewise, Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, said that the changes in the updated ban demonstrate the “real partnership” between the two countries. Outside of the Iraqi government, reception to the update was positive as well. Abu Hasan, a PMU commander, decried the original order, arguing that it will only hurt the world’s efforts against ISIS, but was “pleased” to see Iraq’s absence from the updated list. Ahmed Galadi, an Iraqi soldier who has fought alongside American special forces, corroborated Hasan’s comments. Imam Ahmed Rakan Ahmed offered that although it was positive Iraq was omitted, the United States is not doing enough to help alleviate the situation in Mosul.

Humanitarian Crisis Remains in Hawija as ISIS Militants Move Toward Hamrin Mountains

On March 4, an anonymous security source reported that Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been moving many of its militants stationed in Hawija to the Hamrin Mountains 50 kilometers to the south. The move has left few militants in the city, a seemingly anticipatory action as ISIS losses in Mosul continue to mount.

On March 6, ISIS militants executed eight civilians in front of a crowd of people in Hawija, 45 kilometers west of Kirkuk City. ISIS militants accused the civilians of helping others escape Hawija. An anonymous source posited that ISIS is in a state of desperation and are resorting to extreme and brutal measures in order to maintain control.

On March 7, ISIS militants arrested and executed a young man in Hawija, 45 kilometers west of Kirkuk City, on charges that he cooperated with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). An anonymous source also reported that 10 civilians were arrested on similar charges.

Rojava Peshmerga, Yazidi Militias Clash in Sinjar

On March 3, Rojava Peshmerga forces clashed with Yazidi militias (known as the YBS) in the Sinjar area of western Ninewa Province. The YBS were trained by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), who are in competition with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), who trained the Syrian Kurds of the Rojava. The KDP claimed that they were carrying out routine guard changes when the YBS attacked, while the YBS stated that the Rojava attacked Yazidi positions in Khanasor, 70 kilometers northwest of Tal Afar. Sarhad Sinjari, a diplomatic relations officer for the YBS, suggested that the clash was the result of a Turkish government plot, designed to destabilize the area.

On March 4, the YBS in the Sinjar area of western Ninewa Province claimed that Rojava Peshmerga forces are preparing a major attack on Yazidi defense positions. The statement follows March 3 clashes between the PKK-backed YBS and the KDP-backed Rojava units, who reportedly killed at least seven Yazidi troops and injured another 20.

Security Remains Tenuous on Diyala, Salah ad-Din Border

On March 5, Human Rights Watch reported that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) forcibly displaced at least 125 families accused of having familial ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The families, all from Salah ad-Din Province, are being held in what Human Rights Watch described as a “camp functioning as an open-air prison” in Tikrit. Based on satellite imagery and civilian interviews, Human Right Watch reported that PMU and ISF allegedly destroyed 220 homes of those forcibly displaced in the village of al-Aithah between September 23, 2016 and October 23, 2016. In January, Brigadier General Juma Enad Sadoon, the Salah al-Din operational commander of the ISF, ordered the “forced displacement of immediate relatives of ISIS members.” The order was framed as being both a “stern message” to families with ties to ISIS and a way of protecting those families from “retaliatory attacks by neighbors who lost family members to ISIS.” Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to “ensure prompt independent judicial review of detention and allow detainees access to lawyers and medical care and to communicate with their families.” Human Rights Watch also called on local provincial leaders to reverse decrees that order the forced displacement of families with alleged ties to ISIS, as they are a violation of international standards.

On March 6, ISIS launched six mortars in the Mutibija area between Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces, but the mortars did not result in any casualties. The area is a hotbed for militant activity, in part due to a highly porous border, despite various provincial officials calling for further security support from Baghdad.

On March 6, the ISF repelled an ISIS attack on a security station in the Abu Saida area, 30 kilometers northeast of Baquba. The same day, one PMU fighter was killed and three others injured in another attack near Mansuriya, 45 kilometers northeast of Baquba. Unidentified gunmen attacked a car on the road in Muqdadiyah, killing one civilian and wounded a retired army officer.

On March 6, a raid conducted by the intelligence unit of the Fifth Brigade captured an ISIS leader in the Abu Saida region of Diyala Province. Awad al-Rubaie, head of the security council in the area, reported that “the detainee is one of the most important leaders in the (Hamrin) Basin.”

On March 6, four militants died while attempting to booby-trap a vehicle in the Sharqat area, 310 kilometers north of Baghdad. One of the dead was allegedly the improvised explosive device (IED) expert known as “the Egyptian.”

On March 7, militants kidnapped three members of the PMUs from the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces. Search operations were launched to comb the area for the kidnappers. The same day, the ISF arrested the chief financial officer for the ISIS mandate of Diyala.

On March 8, four suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a wedding ceremony in the village of Hajaj just north of Tikrit, killing 21 people and wounding 20 others. Security forces cordoned off the area; however, the perpetrators of the attack have not yet been identified. A conflicting report indicated that 26 people were killed and another 25 injured. The report also stated that the perpetrators of the attack were ISIS militants.

Kirkuk, Baghdad Reach Agreement on Oil Transportation

On March 5, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met with Brazil’s Democratic Labour Party during the Socialist International conference in Colombia. The two parties discussed the influence of Socialism in their respective political arenas, as well as what Socialist movements over the world can do to empower one another. Both parties agreed that Socialist groups should work together to ensure each country is fairly represented and protected on the world stage. Additionally, Mala Bakhtiar, the chief of the Executive Body of the PUK gave a speech shedding light on the plight of developing countries in the current international system, arguing that international crises affect them the most. Bakhtiar also firmly advocated for international-Socialist recognition of the Kurdish right to statehood.

On March 5, delegations from the PUK and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) met to discuss Kurdish politics in the city of Slemaini. The parties talked about two main problems facing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG): the immediate political and security situation in Kurdistan, and the long-term goals of the KRG, specifically, how to achieve Kurdish statehood. Both parties emphasized the need to compromise, acknowledging that their own agendas should be secondary to statehood.

On March 7, Norwegian oil and gas operator DNO ASA confirmed that it received US$ 43.79 million from the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) in response to a recent series of crude oil deliveries they facilitated. Occurring in 2016, the deliveries originated in the Tawke oil field and were sent to export markets. DNO ASA will share the money with Genel Energy, who assisted in the oil’s production and export.

On March 8, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to continue to transport oil from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, a city in southern-Turkey, via pipeline. Ultimately, the oil will be sold in Turkey.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

03/09/17Abu Gharib, West of Baghdad02
03/09/17Tajiyat, North of Baghdad
03/09/17Nahrawan, East of Baghdad14
03/08/17Ekrkof, Northeast of Baghdad01
03/08/17Madain, South of Baghdad14
03/08/17Rasheed, Southeast Baghdad25
03/08/17Hajaj, North of Tikrit26At least 25
03/07/17Arab Jabour, South of Baghdad02
03/07/17Ghazaliyah, West Baghdad01
03/07/17Bob al-Sham, North of Baghdad03
03/07/17al-Houra, North of Baghdad11
03/06/17Hor Rajab, South of Baghdad12
03/06/17Yusufiya, South of Baquba14
03/06/17Mahmudiya, South of Baghdad02
03/06/17Toael, West Baghdad15
03/05/17Sabah al-Bor, Northwest of Baghdad13
03/04/17Buhriz, South of Baquba20
03/04/17Zaidan, West of Baghdad03
03/04/17Taji, North of Baghdad01
03/04/17Shaab, Northeast Baghdad02
03/03/17Moshahda, North of Baghdad13
03/03/17Al-Firat, Southwest Baghdad02
03/03/17Makasib, Southwest Baghdad04
03/03/17Kraow, Northwest of Kirkuk City11


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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