ISHM: May 19 – 25, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • Federal Police, PMU Accused of Detaining and Abusing Civilians – On May 18, Iraqi photographer and filmmaker Ali Arkady released an article that provided evidence of war crimes, including torture and targeted killing, committed by the Iraqi Federal Police’s Emergency Response Division (ERD). Arkady witnessed a father and son being tortured, and reportedly also received videos from ERD colleagues depicting similar abuses. Six days later, the Iraqi Interior Minister, Qasim al-Araji, ordered an investigation into these allegations against the ERD. In April 2017, Human Rights Watch accused some groups within the PMU of committing abuses against civilians, including arbitrary detention and torture. more…
  • Displacement from Western Mosul as Military Operations Grind On – On May 25, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 377,406 individuals are currently displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area as a result of operations to clear the city of ISIS militants. On the same day, Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported that 8,562 civilians had returned to their homes in both eastern and western Mosul during the previous week. During the same period, 46,000 individuals fled western Mosul between, mostly from neighborhoods in northwest Mosul where fighting between the ISF and ISIS militants is ongoing. This widespread upheaval has posed serious challenges for humanitarian responders. On May 21, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that IDP movement from camps to urban or semi-urban areas in eastern Mosul is increasing as camp conditions deteriorate and summer temperatures rise. The UN has focused primarily on providing increased camp capacity for IDPs, and announced on May 23 that a new facility, al-Salamiyah 1 Camp, had opened 30 kilometers south of Mosul. Yet, the Iraqi government estimates that over 11,000 IDPs left camps and resettled in eastern Mosul between May 11 and May 18. Planning for reconstruction and civilian returns in Mosul is still in its early stages, and conditions in liberated areas remain harsh. more…
  • Iraqi Security Forces Push into Last ISIS Neighborhoods in Western Mosul – On May 21, Iraqi Federal Police confirmed that its forces were in the process of creating a combat plan for clearing ISIS from the last two neighborhoods it controls in western Mosul’s Old City. On the same day, Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service confirmed that it had cleared ISIS militants from 47 out of the 74 residential districts in western Mosul. The fighting, however, has left large parts of the city in ruins. The UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) reported that, between April 26 and May 11, over 171 residential buildings were severely damaged or completely destroyed in northwest Mosul. UN-Habitat also estimates that over 3,000 residential and commercial buildings in Mosul were severely damaged or completely destroyed since August 2016. The battle’s final stages are expected to witness the heaviest fighting in coming weeks. Meanwhile, PMU launched operations to clear ISIS militants from areas in west Ninewa Province, including the Qairawan region and villages west of Baaj, along the Iraq-Syria border. more…
  • Iraqi Kurdish Forces Repel ISIS Attack in Tuz Khurmatu; Militants Shift Command to Hawija – On May 19, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces confirmed that they successfully repelled a series of ISIS attacks on Peshmerga positions in the district of Khurmatu, 55 kilometers south of Kirkuk. The attacks occurred between 2 AM and 5 AM, resulting in two Peshmerga killed and 14 wounded, as well as an unknown number of ISIS casualties. This attack comes amid reports that ISIS shifted its command center from Tal Afar and Baaj to Hawija, in Kirkuk Province. Over the past week, several high-level ISIS desertions have been reported from Hawija as militant morale collapses. more…
  • Security Situation in Diyala Continues to Unfurl – Security conditions across Diyala Province have continued to deteriorate over the past week, with ISIS returns to previously-cleared areas and rising insurgent threat. On May 25, Uday Alkhaddran, Mayor of Khalis, a town 15 kilometers north of Baquba in Diyala Province, announced that ISIS militants had redeployed to three previously-cleared villages along the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din. One day earlier, Member of Parliament from Diyala Province, Furat al-Tamimi, called for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to directly address the unfurling security situation in the province, insisting that over 30,000 families suffer “anxieties and horrors daily because of killings and aggression” by tribal conflict and ISIS militants. His statement comes after dozens of protesters gathered in Abu Sayda, 30 kilometers northeast of Diyala’s provincial capital, Baquba, to demand greater security surveillance and protection from tribal conflict and ISIS militants. more…
  • Major Suicide Attacks in Baghdad, Basra – On May 21, a series of ISIS orchestrated suicide bombings at checkpoints in Baghdad and Basra killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens. While Baghdad has seen continued insurgent violence, such a major attack in Basra is uncommon. Two days later, as a reprisal for these attacks, the Iraqi Air Force confirmed that it killed 20 ISIS militants, including officers who were thought to have orchestrated the attacks in Basra and Baghdad. 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.


Federal Police, PMU Accused of Detaining and Abusing Civilians

On May 18, Iraqi photographer and filmmaker Ali Arkady released evidence of war crimes, including torture and targeted killing, that the Emergency Response Division (ERD) of the Iraqi Federal Police committed. In October 2016, Arkady began a project in which he documented the ERD’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Arkady followed Captain Omar Nazar, a Sunni, and Haider Ali, a Shia official, and planned to film them throughout the operation to clear Mosul of ISIS militants, demonstrating that Sunnis and Shias can work side by side in the fight against ISIS. Nazar and Ali were to be the “heroes” of the film. On October 22, Nazar’s men captured two young men suspected of having ties to ISIS. Later, a soldier told Arkady that the prisoners were tortured for three days and then killed. From this incident on, Arkady documented horrific incidents of rape, torture, and targeted killing committed by the ERD. In Hamam al-Alil, Arkady witnessed a father and son being detained. The father was hung to the ceiling by his arms and beaten, all while Arkady filmed. Arkady witnessed other similar incidents and reported that ERD officers sent him videos of prisoners being tortured or killed, and videos of prisoners’ corpses after their deaths. After Arkady finished documenting the ERD’s actions, he fled Iraq with his family. He reports that he fears for his safety, as he has received threats for exposing the ERD’s crimes.

On May 22, Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) “arbitrarily detained” and tortured at least 100 men in April 2017. HRW interviewed several men who were detained by PMU forces as they fled their village of al-Hadar, 90 kilometers southwest of Mosul. The men reported that PMU forces detained them for 15 days in a school building, interrogated them for possible ties to ISIS, and beat them with thick metal cables before they were released. Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, strongly condemned the incident stating, “Authorities should do all in their power to ensure that families fleeing the fighting around Mosul are able to get to safety, not tortured in secret facilities,” adding “While there may be grounds to detain some people fleeing the fighting who are suspected of criminal acts under ISIS’s rule, they have to be given their rights under Iraqi law. That includes the right not to be ill-treated.”

On May 24, the Iraqi Interior Minister, Qasim al-Araji, ordered an investigation into the recent allegations that members of the ERD detained, tortured, and killed civilians throughout the operation to clear Mosul of ISIS militants. Iraqi photographer and documentary filmmaker Ali Arkady was embedded with the ERD and documented the alleged incidences. The Interior Ministry issued a statement explaining that it ordered the investigation in order to “conduct a clear and fair inquiry…[and] to take legal measures against those who are negligent if the investigation proves so.”


Displacement from Western Mosul as Military Operations Grind On

May 19 May 20  May 21 May 22 May 23 May 24 May 25
Total IDPs No data No data 375,282 No data 374,064 No data 377,406
Daily Net Change No data No data -948 No data -1,218 No data +3,342

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

On May 18, the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the JICA Alumni Association-Iraq hosted a conference regarding urban planning and post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation in Mosul. In 1974, a “master plan” for Mosul was developed to guide the city’s growth through the year 2000; however, a new plan has yet to be developed. This lead to the increased growth of informal settlements in Mosul, resulting in “pockets of poverty and informality.” The lack of a master plan for Mosul also created grievances and disaffection between groups as only certain members of society were granted access to land and basic services, leaving many of Mosul’s residents susceptible to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). While no definitive plans were developed, Dr. Erfan Ali, head of UN-Habitat in Iraq, cited integrating Mosul’s periphery populations and making space for returning residents as major steps that must be taken in order to ensure a successful post-conflict Mosul.

On May 20, Agence France-Presse (AFP) interviewed Muwaffaq al-Obeidi, a 70-year-old man, who refuses to leave his home in western Mosul despite the fact that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are fighting ISIS militants just a few hundred meters down the road. Obeidi reported that the fountain in the courtyard is littered with debris and tile, the porch roof is peppered with holes, and a rocket left destruction in its wake when it pierced the roof and two floors of the house before being lodged in the basement. Last week, ISIS militants forced Obeidi from his home as the ISF advanced through the neighborhood. When Obeidi returned, he found a parked car in his garage and rockets in his cellar. “I’m sure it was a car bomb,” he explained. Despite that his neighborhood is cleared of ISIS militants, few residents remained. Obeidi noted, “Everyone is gone. I cried when I saw people passing, carrying wounded people, 90-year-olds.” However, Obeidi explained that he takes great pride in his home stating, “I built my house in 1985. I have been working since I was 10 years old — this house is the fruit of 60 years of effort,” adding “My house is my life, my country, my well-being.”

On May 21, the Ministry of Health and the Departments of Health in Ninewa, Dohuk, and Erbil Provinces launched a UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO)-supported polio vaccination campaign to vaccinate 332,000 underserved children in Mosul and the surrounding area. The five-day campaign targeted children under the age of five in nine newly accessible areas in Ninewa, and 16 displacement camps in Ninewa, Erbil, and Dohuk. Musani Altaf, WHO representative in Iraq, highlighted the importance of the campaign stating “This is an emergency campaign aimed at boosting the immune system of children from Mosul who for more than 2 years had limited access to vaccine preventable diseases including polio… With more children now accessible, WHO and its partners are doing everything possible to maintain the gains attained over the years while prioritizing Iraq’s polio free status.”

On May 21, the Iraqi government reported that 551,223 individuals have fled western Mosul since the operation to take that part of the city began on February 19, 2017, with a total of 516,382 individuals still currently displaced from western Mosul. Iraqi government figures also put the total number of individuals displaced since October 17, 2016 at 727,373 individuals. In addition, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that trauma rates from Mosul remain “high.” Between October 17, 2016 and May 20 some 12,500 patients were referred to hospitals in Mosul and the surrounding area for emergency treatment. Roughly half of those cases were from western Mosul.

On May 21, UNICEF reported that 3.5 million school-aged children in Iraq are not currently attending school, leaving them at increased risk of child labor, early marriage, and recruitment into armed or extremist groups. The UNICEF-supported report, “Child Poverty in Iraq” reported that 20% of “poor” children who dropped out before completing primary school did so due to economic hardship, noting that displaced children are affected the most. Nearly 40% of displaced families are affected by poverty as there are few employment or income-generating opportunities in displacement camps. The report also concluded that 90% of children in areas “heavily-affected” by violence are not attending school. UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, stated “Children in Iraq are suffering from protracted periods of conflict. Without equitable access to quality education, children are at risk: we are talking about losing a generation of children,” adding “Investing in education is meeting a fundamental human right for every boy and girl, and is essential for a country’s development and is the best possible medicine against extremism.” UNICEF requested US$ 32 million to supports its education programs in Iraq for 2017, of which only half has been funded.  

On May 21, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that internally displaced persons (IDP) movement from camps to urban or pre-urban areas in eastern Mosul is increasing. IDPs cite soaring temperatures, which make living in the tents incredibly uncomfortable, and the lack of employment or income generating activities as major reasons to move to eastern Mosul. The Iraqi government estimates that over 11,000 IDPs left camps and resettled to eastern Mosul between May 11 and May 18. The UNHCR requested US$ 578 million to support Iraqi refugees and IDPs in 2017, of which only 21% has been funded.

On May 22, journalist Ghadi Sary released civilian testimony of the ways in which ISIS militants shattered daily life by implementing strict economic control, prosecuting women and minorities, and arbitrarily torturing, detaining, and punishing civilians for even the smallest of “crimes.” Maha, a 36-year-old woman, told Sary that ISIS militants beat to death a seven-year-old girl because she “violated Sharia law” when she went to a shop by herself to purchase sweets. Hussein, a 30-year-old man, was detained for nine days and flogged because he had a satellite dish on his roof. Other residents report that ISIS militants flogged, tortured, and detained shop owners if they sold cosmetics or women’s accessories. ISIS militants also banned importing meat and chicken, forcing residents to rely on local produce–a practice that left thousands in Mosul starving. Despite these impossibly strict rules and disproportionate punishments, life in eastern Mosul has started to return to normal since it was cleared of ISIS militants in January 2017. Sary reported that colorful clothing and cosmetics can now be purchased freely, and that shisha can be found in bustling cafes. However, Sary also noted that, while the eastern part of the city is showing sign of revival, full economic recovery is “a long way off.”

On May 23, the UNHCR reported that the al-Salamiyah 1 Camp, located 30 kilometers south of Mosul, is now open and can host a total of 11,000 individuals. In addition, tents are being pitched at the al-Salamiyah 2 Camp, adjacent to its counterpart, and will eventually be able to host a total of 30,000 individuals. UNHCR’s representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, emphasized the importance of constructing new camps stating, “Recent arrivals are clearly exhausted and traumatized, often with no belongings with them, apart from the clothes they are wearing. Many have survived eating just one meal a day – often only flour and water, or boiled grass and leaves. When they arrive, they are provided with a hot meal, a tent, mats, a cooking stove and the basic household and kitchen essentials necessary to live in the camp.” The UNHCR has built a total of 12 IDP camps in response to the large scale displacement from Mosul and the surrounding area.

On May 23, the UNHCR reported that 46,000 individuals fled western Mosul between May 19 and May 23, mostly from neighborhoods in northwest Mosul where fighting between the ISF and ISIS militants is ongoing. In addition 1,700 individuals were registered at the newly-opened al-Salamiyah 1 Camp, located 30 kilometers south of Mosul. Each family received a tent and basic household items including kerosene, mattresses, and blankets upon their arrival. According to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), 326,230 IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area and housed in displacement camps and emergency sites, while the remainder are sheltered in host communities and informal sites such as abandoned buildings. Camps built by the Iraqi government and UN humanitarian partners are able to immediately host some 63,000 IDPs.

On May 23, ISIS militants executed 13 civilians in the al-Sarjkhana neighborhood in western Mosul as they tried to flee the city. On the same day, Mosul residents reported that an airstrike from an unnamed source killed 18 civilians and nine ISIS militants in the Haderet al-Sada neighborhood in the Old City. Allegedly, the victims were killed as they lined up to purchase meat that ISIS militants were selling to residents.

On May 25, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported that over 8,000 IDPs returned to their homes in Mosul over the past three days. A total of 8,562 individuals returned to neighborhoods in both eastern and western Mosul with assistance from the Ministry of Transportation and the Joint Special Operations Command.

On May 25, an anonymous source in western Mosul reported that ISIS militants refused to distribute food to a family in the Bab al-Jadeed neighborhood when they refused cooperate with the militants. Reportedly, the family was ordered to plant improvised explosive devices (IED) in the street in order to slow the ISF’s advance; however, when the family refused, ISIS militants detained them and refused to allow food distribution to their home.

On May 25, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 377,406 individuals are currently displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area as a result of the operation to clear the city of ISIS militants which began on October 17, 2016, a net increase of 2,166 IDPs since May 18. Fifty-nine percent of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area are housed in emergency camps, 24% live in private settings, 14% live in emergency sites, and 3% live in critical shelter arrangements or are unaccounted for. Cumulatively, 501,270 IDPs have been impacted by the operation in Mosul since it began in October 2016. However, to date, 123,864 individuals have returned to their homes.


Iraqi Security Forces Push into Last ISIS Neighborhoods in Western Mosul

On May 21, Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) confirmed that it had cleared Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from 47 out of the 74 residential districts in western Mosul. Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander in the CTS, stated that CTS is responsible for killing hundreds of ISIS militants and that official tallies will be given once the fighting is over.

On May 21, a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike killed Mohamad Mejbal al-Jawari, ISIS’s head of administrative affairs in Ninewa and Raqq, in the Zanjili neighborhood of western Mosul.

On May 21, Iraqi Federal Police confirmed that its forces are in the process of creating a combat plan for the invasion of ISIS’s last stronghold in western Mosul’s Old City. ISIS militants only control four districts in the Old CIty; however, these districts are densely populated, necessitating a “delay in the invasion” until districts in the northwest are cleared.

On May 21, using information gleaned from satellite imagery, the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) reported that, between April 26 and May 11, over 171 residential buildings were severely damaged or completely destroyed in northwest Mosul. UN-Habitat also estimates that over 3,000 residential and commercial buildings in Mosul were severely damaged or completely destroyed since August 2016. Satellite imagery only identifies extensively damaged properties, thus the total number of damaged buildings in Mosul could be higher.  

On May 22, U.S. Army Colonel Patrick Work, the commanding officer of the U.S. 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, and the 1,800 U.S. soldiers assisting in the battle for Mosul, provided an update on the final stages of the battle to clear Mosul of ISIS militants. Work confirmed that the worst fighting will be in the last stages, saying that operations will become “extremely violent.” Although Work refrained from providing a concrete timeline, he did corroborate the Iraqi government’s signaling that Mosul will be cleared of ISIS by the end of Ramadan. Work added that ISIS holds only 5 square miles of Mosul, which happen to be the cramped Old City. The Old City’s narrow roads and dense population means that Iraqi forces will not be able to rely on air strikes and bombs lest they kill civilians or damage property. While Work did not provide numbers of the remaining ISIS militants, the elite Iraqi CTS suggested that roughly 350 ISIS militants remain in the city.

On May 23, Iraqi military engineers completed the installation of a floating bridge across the Tigris RIver to reconnect east and west Mosul. The bridge will help with troop and resource deployment as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) initiate their final push to clear Mosul of ISIS militants. Iraqi Colonel Haitham al-Taie informed Reuters that the bridge will help Iraqi reinforcements get to the front of the fighting, and to help civilians fleeing the battle reach safety.

On May 23, Italy confirmed that an additional 500 of its Special Forces soldiers were sent to protect the Mosul Dam. The dam had been cleared of ISIS militants in 2016. The soldiers are not in an offensive role–they are defending the dam to deter ISIS attempts to retake it and to protect the roughly 300 Italian engineers working on its maintenance. This move is likely in response to ISIS threats to destroy the dam, which would cause vast damage to cities all along the Tigris, including Baghdad.

On May 23, an unnamed Iraqi paramilitary leader stated that pro-government militias cleared the Qairawan region to the west of Ninewa of ISIS militants. The militia in question was a faction of the Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which have been fighting ISIS alongside government forces since 2014.

On May 23, a U.S.-led international coalition airstrike killed seven ISIS militants as they left a hideout in western Mosul. Iraqi Air Force Lieutenant Yazan Abdul-Kafi confirmed to Iraqi media that the airstrike destroyed the militant’s hideout and their truck.

On May 23, spokesman for the Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri, announced the start of a second round of operations to liberate villages west of Baaj, along the Iraq-Syria border in Ninewa Province. Amiri suggested that the operations will be “quick and swift.” Various PMUs, such as the Badr Organization, have been responsible for clearing territory west of Mosul of ISIS militants since operations to clear that city began in October, 2016.

On May 24, Federal Police official Raed Shakir Jawdat announced that the Federal Police took control of a building in the Old City portion of western Mosul used by ISIS militants as a Sharia court. Police found evidence of civilian detention and torture inside the facility. During the surprise operation, six ISIS militants were killed and several vehicles destroyed.

On May 24, Amnesty International issued a statement describing how the U.S. military had failed to adequately monitor US$ 1 billion worth of arms transfers to Iraq, according to a declassified 2016 Department of Defense audit. The document revealed that the U.S. military “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of equipment passing through Kuwait and Iraq, destined for the Iraqi Army. Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, said “This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region.” The report was subsequently shared through Iraqi media.

On May 25, PMUs successfully cleared ISIS militants from several villages northeast of Baaj in Ninewa Province. According to a statement, 20 ISIS militants were killed in the PMU operations, which will set the stage for further advancement toward the city of Baaj.


Iraqi Kurdish Forces Repel ISIS Attack in Tuz Khurmatu; Militants Shift Command to Hawija

On May 19, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces confirmed that they successfully repelled a series of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacks on Peshmerga positions in the district of Khurmatu, 55 kilometers south of Kirkuk. According to Mekdad Majid, a member of the Fifth Brigade of the Peshmerga forces, ISIS attacked Peshmerga positions sporadically between 2 AM and 5 AM. Although Majid did not specify, he claimed that many ISIS militants were killed or wounded, adding that two Peshmerga forces were killed and 14 were wounded in the fighting.

On May 23, an anonymous source embedded within ISIS confirmed to Iraqi media that the militant organization was shifting its Iraqi headquarters to Hawija. ISIS leadership fled to Hawija, according to the source, as Iraqi forces closed in on Mosul. Before the transition ISIS senior officers were split between the Ninewa cities of Tal Afar and Baaj.

On May 25, Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) spokesman Jabbar Maamouri reported that three ISIS leaders fled Hawija with their families and were intercepted in Kirkuk Province. According to Maamouri, ISIS militants from Hawija set up roadblocks and searched nearby villages for the deserters. Maamouri said that the desertions are a sign of “the collapse of morale” among militants.

On May 25, Sadiq al-Husseini, Chairman of the Security Committee of Diyala Province, reported that fellow ISIS militants killed the temporary leader of ISIS in Hawija, along with two of his companions. Husseini suggested that the infighting is a result of losses ISIS has experienced in Kirkuk and Diyala Provinces.


Security Situation in Diyala Continues to Unfurl

On May 22, four Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)-affiliated suicide bombers attacked the Kirkush military base, 45 kilometers east of Baquba in Diyala Province. Two of the attackers were killed instantly by the Iraqi Security Forces ISF), but a firefight between the remaining two attackers and Iraqi soldiers ended with “some” members of the security forces being killed and wounded before the remaining attackers were also killed. The Kirkush base is the largest in Diyala Province.

On May 23, the Security Council in Diyala Province announced that the four ISIS-affiliated suicide bombers who attacked the Kirkush military base on May 22 were Iraqis between the ages of 20 and 25. The Council refused to rule out the possibility that the attackers came to Diyala from Hawija, over 200 kilometers to the northeast in Kirkuk Province, but suggested that they were more likely to have been from Diyala.

On May 23, dozens of protesters in Abu Sayda, 30 kilometers northeast of Baquba in Diyala Province, demonstrated outside of the town’s police headquarters, demanding greater security surveillance and protection from tribal conflict and ISIS militants.

On May 24, Member of Parliament from Diyala Province, Furat al-Tamimi, called for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to directly address the unfurling security situation in the province. Tamimi insists that over 30,000 families suffer “anxieties and horrors daily because of killings and aggression” by tribal conflict and ISIS militants. The security situation in Diyala Province, particularly along its border with Salah ad-Din, has been of concern since at least October 2016, when the ISF normally stationed in the area were redistributed to Mosul.

On May 24, Iraqi Interior Minister Qassem al-Araji dismissed all of the senior leadership of the police force at Abu Sayda, 30 kilometers northeast of Baquba in Diyala Province. Members of Parliament for Diyala joined peaceful demonstrators in calling for ramped up efforts to enhance security in the region.

On May 24, commander of the Tigris Operations Lt. General Mazhar al-Azzawi announced that Iraqi Security Forces were conducting major operations in northeast Diyala Province, targeting ISIS militants camped out in and near the Hamrin Mountains. According to Azzai, the operations are intended to “secure remote areas and prevent the presence of ISIS cells.”

On May 25, Uday Alkhaddran, Mayor of Khalis, 15 kilometers north of Baquba in Diyala Province, announced that ISIS militants redeployed to three previously-cleared villages along the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din. Alkhaddran said that ISIS militants are exploiting an absence of security forces, noting that more villages in the surrounding area are vulnerable to further attacks.


Major Suicide Attacks in Baghdad, Basra

On May 21, a series of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)-orchestrated suicide bombings at checkpoints in Baghdad and Basra killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens. Officials believe that the bombings are in retaliation against the Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) advances in Mosul, who are preparing for the final push to clear the city. In Baghdad, a vehicle-based improvised explosive device (VBIED) killed 24 and wounded 20. Although security forces were able to kill one of the two attackers, the other was able to advance to the checkpoint. In southern Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated his VBIED at a checkpoint outside of Basra, killing 11 and wounding 30. In the same clash, another militant attempted to leave another explosive rigged vehicle at the same checkpoint; however security forces killed him before he detonated the explosive.

On May 23, Lieutenant General Jalil al-Rubaie, the commander of Baghdad Operations, announced a new military operation to “purge” the areas west of central Baghdad of ISIS militants. Specifically, the operation focuses on the areas of Nibai and Bani Zeid, and its participants will primarily search for explosive materials and wanted persons. The Baghdad Operations command periodically announces these types of operations to prevent ISIS from maintaining a foothold deep within Iraqi territory.

On May 23, the Iraqi Air Force confirmed that it killed 20 ISIS militants in a reprisal bombing for the recent suicide attacks in Basra and Baghdad on May 21. The Joint Operations Command reported that the airstrike targeted ISIS officers who were thought to have orchestrated the attacks in Basra and Baghdad, among other high-ranking individuals. According to Joint Operations Command, a group of ISIS leaders were meeting in the city of al-Qaim, which is an ISIS stronghold near the Iraq-Syria border.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
05/25/17Southeast Baghdad02
05/25/17Southeast Baghdad10
05/24/17North Baghdad03
05/24/17al-Maalef, Southwest Baghdad12
05/23/17North Baghdad02
05/22/17Kirkush Base, Diyala214
05/22/17Northeast Diyala21
05/22/17Abu Ghraib03
05/21/17Nuaimiya, Anbar810
05/21/17Tarmiyah, North Baghdad11
05/21/17Basra1130
05/21/17Abu Dsheer, Baghdad2420
05/19/17Southern Basra841

 

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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