ISHM: August 25 – 31, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Abadi Declares Tal Afar “Liberated” from ISIS – On August 31, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Tal Afar, the militant group’s last urban stronghold in Ninewa Province, saying “I declare to you that Tal Afar has joined the liberated Mosul, and [is] returned to the homeland.” Operations to clear Tal Afar took less time than anticipated – days instead of several weeks – though it remains unclear how many ISIS militants have successfully fled to surrounding villages or to Syria. Iraqi Security Forces originally believed that as many as two thousand militants were in the city before operations began, but only several hundred were confirmed killed in recent operations. more…
  • Despite Military Success, More Displacements and Abuse of Tal Afar Civilians – UNHCR opened a new displacement site at Nimrod in Ninewa Province, in response to the large number of newly displaced civilians fleeing Tal Afar. The site received two thousand IDPs in its first day, and nearly 10 thousand are expected to be transferred from Hamam al-Alil. To reach the camps, IDPs must travel several hours on foot to mustering points where they are then bused to safety. IDPs often reach mustering points suffering from severe dehydration and exhaustion. Making matters worse, the UNHCR reported incidents of extortion and mistreatment of those IDPs by security officials who often accuse them of ISIS affiliations or sympathies. more…
  • Hawija May Be Next for Security Forces as Atrocities Continue – On August 25, ISIS militants in Hawija burned alive eight civilians, including a baby, after they attempted to flee the ISIS-controlled city in Kirkuk Province. ISIS atrocities have raged in the town since 2014, yet security operations have not yet made a concerted effort to enter and clear it. 150,000 civilians have fled Hawija over the past three years, though it has become increasingly difficult and dangerous to do so. On August 27, Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim, released a statement voicing concern that “Kirkuk [Province] might not be next” on the Iraqi Security Force’s list of priorities after Mosul and Tal Afar. Military and political leaders in Kirkuk have pushed for months for more resources to fight ISIS and clear the city, with little success. more…
  • IEDs Roil Baghdad – Concern that ISIS is transitioning to a more traditional insurgency were solidified this week after a string of IED attacks killed or wounded dozens in Baghdad. On August 28, at least 12 people were killed by a vehicle-based IED in Sadr City, a predominantly Shia neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, and at least four others were killed by a similar attack in the south of the city. Security officials closed the Karradah neighborhood in central Baghdad to private vehicles following the attacks. Karradah was the site of the July 2016 bombing that killed more than 300. Baghdad’s Security Committee issued a warning that ISIS may try to disrupt this coming weekend’s Eid al-Adha celebrations and encouraged vigilance. more…
  • Forced Returns to Anbar Province; Jordanian Border Reopens – On August 25, the UNHCR reported that 92 displaced families from western Anbar were forcibly evicted from an IDP camp outside of Baghdad during the first week of August, when the camp was closed on the presumption that IDPs based near Baghdad should return to their places of origin. Forced relocations are leaving evicted families vulnerable, with considerable concern for their health and safety as military operations against ISIS militants continue in the western Anbar cities of Qa’im, Rawa, and Ana. On August 30, the Anbar border with Jordan was reopened after nearly three years given relative improvements to security and safety in that portion of the region. more…
  • Kirkuk Provincial Council Votes to Participate in Kurdistan Region Independence Referendum – Kurdish members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted to allow Kirkuk Province to participate in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s impending referendum on independence, scheduled for September 25. Turkish and Arab factions of the council expectedly boycotted the vote and believe that Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic region whose governance should not be sided with the KRG. more…
  • Militia Storms Diyala Provincial Council Over Attempts to Dismiss Governor – On August 27, over 40 gunmen associated with a Shia militia stormed the Diyala Provincial Council to protest attempts to dismiss Diyala Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi over charges of corruption. Earlier that day, dozens of protesters called for his ouster. Tamimi belongs to the influential Badr Organization, a Shia political bloc whose associated militia has been effective in the ongoing fight against ISIS. Police forces eventually cleared the Council of the militants and no casualties were reported. Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri said of the incident that such attempts to influence the political process will provoke “disorder and security chaos.” Diyala Province continues to experience ongoing security threats from insurgent militants and random ISIS-led attacks. 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.

Abadi Declares Tal Afar “Liberated” from ISIS

On August 27, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), in cooperation with a range of Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), cleared the city of Tal Afar of ISIS militants, just eight days after they launched an offensive into the city.The rapid success of the operation highlighted both the breakdown of ISIS’s command structure in the city, and the increasing competence of the Iraqi forces in the three-year war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al- Sham (ISIS). An estimated 259 militants were killed in the process, and many more were suspected of fleeing into Syria. Following the success of the operation, many Iraqi commanders are calling for the government to open more fronts against ISIS. Iraq’s military had previously chosen to clear one city at a time, but many now feel that they can operate effectively against the organization on multiple front’s to speed the demise of ISIS’s so-called caliphate. Hawija, in Kirkuk province, is the largest city still under ISIS’s control in Iraq, although the organization also controls several border towns in Anbar province.  While ISIS members were ousted from Tal Afar, fighting continued in nearby towns, forcing the Iraqi military to postpone a declaration of victory.

On August 28, ISIS fighters ousted from Tal Afar regrouped in the town of al-’Ayadiya, 11 kilometers northwest of the city, where they were offering stiff resistance to advancing Iraqi-aligned forces. It was unclear how many militants were left in the town, but they appeared well-organized and unlikely to flee. The Iraqi forces are holding off on officially declaring victory in Tal Afar until al-’Ayadiya is retaken.  

On August 30, Iraqi forces retook the eastern half of al-’Ayadiya, the town where ISIS militants from Tal Afar regrouped two days before. Iraq’s Federal Police and the elite rapid-response division of the ISF worked together to retake the area, according to a press release by Iraqi General Abdul Amir Yarallah, the commander of the operation to retake Tal Afar. Roughly half of al-’Ayadiya is now under Iraqi control, and fighting continues in the western portion of the town.

On August 29, the General Commander of Kurdish Peshmerga Forces announced that the Peshmerga had killed 130 ISIS militants attempting to flee Tal Afar into Syria. The day before, Iraqi military sources estimated that 249 militants were killed within Tal Afar itself. Prior to the operations to clear the Tal Afar, the ISF believed as many as 2,000 militants were in the city – it is unclear if the rest managed to flee successfully, or if the estimates were severely off to begin with.

On August 30, Iraqi forces finished clearing al-’Ayadiya of ISIS militants, effectively concluding the battle for Tal Afar that began less than two weeks ago. The announcement that al-’Ayadiya was completely retaken came from a statement released by a PMU battalion, which emphasized that the final operation was a collaboration between the ISF and PMU forces.

On August 31, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Tal Afar, saying “I declare to you that Tal Afar has joined the liberated Mosul and returned to the homeland.” Although the town was under Iraqi control since Monday, Abadi waited to make his statement until Iraqi forces had finished clearing surrounding neighborhoods. Tal Afar was the last urban outpost of ISIS in the Ninewa province, and Abadi’s press release not only declared the city, but the entire province to be under Iraqi government control as of Thursday. While ISIS controls no significant territory in Ninewa, they continue to conduct attacks in the province, and a decades-long demining and rebuilding operation lies ahead for the Iraqi government.

Despite Military Success, More Displacements and Abuse of Tal Afar Civilians

On August 27, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) opened a new displacement site in the Ninewa Province, in response to the large number of newly displaced people fleeing Tal Afar. Military operations began in the Islamic State of Iraq and al- Sham (ISIS) – held city last week, in order to root out the final remnants of the organization from the city. The displacement camp, Nimrod, located 55 kilometres from Tal Afar, accepted around 2,000 individuals on it’s opening day. An additional 9,000 individuals from the Hammam al- Alil displacement camp are expected to transfer in within the coming days. The camp is expected to accommodate around 22,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Tal Afar. One of the first arrivals to the camp described it as “a castle” in comparison to how they were living under ISIS control. However, water sanitation, hygiene, and electricity services are still not available, but are expected to be installed shortly.

On August 27, Sijad Najim Ojail, an Iraqi cameraman who worked for Karbala TV, was killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast, while accompanying  Iraqi troops during their battle against ISIS militants in Tal Afar. In July, the Federation of Arab Journalists announced that a total of 47 Iraqi journalists were killed and 55 others were wounded while accompanying Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) during military operations in the Ninewa Province.

On August 28, the UNHCR reported on the harrowing and exhausting journey that many displaced families endured while fleeing the city of Tal Afar in search of safety. The journey of those who have reached safety during their journey from Tal Afar to mustering points could only be described as “trepidation.” Families fleeing faced long treks on foot in the blistering heat, which sometimes lasted up to three days. Families were forced to sleep without shelter, food, and drink unsanitary water during their journey to stay alive – relying on the kindness of strangers to survive. “We followed the Tigris River. We had no food. We drank from the river. I gave my children water from the river because we had nothing else with us,” said a Haiza, a mother of thirteen, who safely was able to reach the Badoosh mustering site with all her children. She recounted the horrors of walking past bodies lying among the route. “The people were just lying there, men and women.” Many of those who arrived to mustering points are being bused to nearby IDP camps. The large majority of civilians preemptively fled the city before intense fighting began, after hearing the horrors experienced by civilians in Mosul during military operations. “It was loud and we were afraid the house would collapse on us, so we left with only the clothes we had on,” she said. Before she fled the city, Haiza and her children lived only on bread to eat and 250 liters to last them for two months. Conditions in Tal Afar had gotten worse prior to the liberation of the city, with reports indicating that food, water and medical supplies have almost diminished as military operations were under way. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) announced that they had essentially cleared the entire city on August 27.

On August 29, while military operations in Tal Afar are still ongoing in one final northern district,  the city has been officially cleared of ISIS militants. Prior to military operations, 10,000- 40,000 civilians were believed to be trapped within the city. As ISF forces began to enter the city and retake large control over numerous districts, new estimates indicated that there had only been a few thousand civilians trapped. Without access to the city, verification estimates of civilians confined in the city was near impossible, yet now that ISF forces control most of the city, there is only believed to be a small population of civilians remaining. Officially, estimates indicate that about 42,000 had fled the city as of April 2017, yet many believe that there are thousands who have fled that are unaccounted for. After the ISF forces reached the city center on August 26, there were reports that an additional 1,500 Iraqis were displaced due to fighting, and safely reached the Bshar checkpoint. About 90 civilians received medical treatment upon arrival, with numerous civilians being sent to the hospital with more serious cases of dehydration and exhaustion. Families reaching mustering points will be placed at the new displacement site, Nimrod, located 55 kilometers from Tal Afar, with the UNHCR reporting that thousands more will be transferred from the Hammam al- Alil displacement camp, located 25 kilometers south of Mosul.

On August 29, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that following the conclusion of military operations in Tal Afar, reports of denial of access to safety, arbitrary arrests and harassment continue, particularly to those fleeing Tal Afar. The majority of those who fled the city were shot at by extremists,and reported on the city’s slim supply of food and clean water, and absence of medical services and electricity. Families who have fled also report of experiencing detention by both ISIS militants and ISF forces,  the latter of whom have accused many IDPs of having affiliations with armed extremist groups. In addition, many IDPs who reached mustering sites reported of extortion and mistreatment by security officials. The number of IDPs who have fled Tal Afar during the eight- day span of military operations, have been considerably low in comparison to previous weeks. This week an average of less than two hundred individuals transferred through the Hammam al- Alil displacement site daily, compared to the tens of thousands who had crossed through last week. Families from Tal Afar who wish to head east to family and relatives in Mosul are being prevented from doing so. A formal declaration by military officials have dictated that no IDPs from Tal Afar will be allowed access into Mosul.

On August 30, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq (DSRSG) Gyorgy Busztin, visited Mosul congratulating Iraq on the military defeat against ISIS in Tal Afar. While in Mosul, Busztin called upon reconciliation following reports of mistreatment of IDPs escaping Tal Afar, stating: “I urge and encourage all parties to continue in their efforts to reconcile the various components of Ninewa and to actively contribute to Iraq’s better future.”

On August 31, the Iraqi Red Crescent announced an official increase in the number of displaced families from Tal Afar to more than 2,400 families.

Hawija May Be Next for Security Forces as Atrocities Continue

On August 25, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) burned eight civilians, including one baby, to death after they attempted to flee the militant-controlled city of Hawija, located in 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk. ISIS arrested the eight civilians and sentenced them to death by burning, as they were placed in iron cages, doused with black oil and lit ablaze. ISIS has controlled Hawija since 2014, but while military operations to clear the city have not officially been declared, airstrikes have been reported, targeting armed extremists groups. Although facing execution from ISIS,150,000 civilians have fled Hawija in the past three years, with many more expected to continue, as Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are setting their sights on clearing the city, following the recent liberation of Tal Afar.

On August 27, Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, leader of the influential Ubaid tribe in Kirkuk province, called for greater communication and cooperation between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad to accelerate the process of clearing Hawija, in the southwest of Kirkuk province. Hawija is an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab town, and Assi’s statement came in an interview with a local news station, in which he argued that squabbles between Baghdad and Erbil had left Kirkuk’s Arabs stranded, with no partners to rely on as they sought to retake Hawija and end what is widely believed to be an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the city under ISIS rule.

On August 27, Najmaddin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk, released a statement saying that he and the Peshmerga forces in his province were ready and willing to begin working with the Iraqi military to clear Hawija, a city in southwest Kirkuk that has remained under ISIS control since 2014 and is now the largest urban outpost of the organization in Iraq. In the same statement, Karim voiced concerns that “Kirkuk [province] might not be next” on the ISF’s list of priorities, saying that the information he had received from Abadi did not indicate new resources would be allocated. Military and political leaders in Kirkuk have pushed for months for more resources to fight ISIS and retake the city, with little success. Following the conclusion of operations in Tal Afar, Hawija is one of only a few major urban areas left to be retaken in Iraq.

On August 29, a local source in Kirkuk province alleged that senior members of ISIS’s leadership in Hawija were attempting to negotiate a peaceful surrender to the security forces that have surrounded the city. It was unclear if leaders were negotiating a deal for themselves only, or if the surrender would allow all ISIS members to leave peacefully, but it appeared to drive a wedge through ISIS ranks in the city, with some members wanting to stay and fight, and others fearing they would be left out of a peace deal.

On August 29, the KRG Foreign Minister reiterated the KRG’s commitment to the fight against ISIS, and rebuffed concerns that the September 25 referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence would undermine the anti-ISIS campaign. He said that if the referendum takes place, the KRG would take “no provocative action” against Baghdad, and would continue to host IDPs for as long as it took to secure the territory from whence they were displaced.

On August 30, Kirkuk’s police forces arrested 97 people on terrorism-related charges in the province. According to Kirkuk’s police chief, 88 of the suspects were arrested for stealing and stockpiling weapons, one for forgery, and eight faced more serious terrorism charges “in accordance with Article IV of the Anti-Terrorism Law,” which requires life sentences or capital punishment for convictions.

IEDs Roil Baghdad

On August 28, a car bomb killed at least 12 people when it exploded in Sadr City, a predominantly Shia neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. At least 28 more were injured, and the death toll is expected to rise in the coming days. The attack, which the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for, was the deadliest improvised explosive device (IED) incident in Iraq since an ISIS suicide attack killed 14 civilians in a displacement camp in Anbar nearly two months ago. Following news that Iraqi forces had retaken nearly all of the ISIS-held city of Tal Afar, the attack reinforced concerns that ISIS would transition to a more traditional insurgency that could continue to destabilize Iraq in the months and years to come.

On August 28, a roadside IED in southern Baghdad killed four civilians and injured eight more, while another bomb in northern Baghdad injured two civilians. The attacks, which took place on the same day that another vehicle-based IED (VBIED) killed 12 people in Sadr City, marked one of the deadliest days in months for Baghdad, a city that experiences IED attacks on a near-daily basis, but rarely ones that claim so many lives. It was unclear if ISIS had deliberately coordinated the attacks. The high casualties led the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)  to issue a statement condemning the acts of terror “in the strongest possible terms.”

On August 28, security forces closed Karradah Street in central Baghdad to private vehicles for roughly eight hours, in response to security concerns after the recent increase in IED attacks in the city. The street, which is the main thoroughfare of the predominantly Shia commercial district of Karradah, was partially reopened in June of this year after a VBIED attack in July 2016 killed over 300 people. Security forces said the street would remain open to public transit buses with proper identification.

On August 29, three more IED attacks killed two people and injured seven more in Baghdad. ISIS did not immediately claim responsibility for the attacks, and it was again unclear if the blasts, which went off in three different neighborhoods, were coordinated. The attacks come on the same day that security forces stopped a vehicle-based IED attack south of the city.

On August 29, a VBIED injured two civilians on Falastin Street in eastern Baghdad, several kilometers from the site of the VBIED attack the day before in Sadr City. The attack underscores the security challenges Baghdad faces as ISIS transfers its resources away from administering and defending its so-called caliphate and into insurgency operations.

On August 30, Baghdad governor Atwan al-Atwani announced an extensive security plan to prevent terrorism and crime in the capital during Eid al-Adha celebrations this weekend. The news comes after a particularly violent week in Baghdad, with several high-casualty IED attacks taking place across the city. Atwani said the plan would focus on securing commercial areas, religious sites, and entertainment venues that might be targeted by terrorists, and emphasized many proactive measures, such as undercover officers and using intensified intelligence-gathering program, that would be implemented to preemptively stop attacks. The Iraqi Council of Ministers announced on the same day that September 1-5 would be a national holiday to celebrate Eid.

On August 31, two armed attackers killed three Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) soldiers and wounded four more in an attack on a checkpoint in Abu Ghraib, a neighborhood ten kilometers west of Baghdad. The attackers were not identified, and reports did not specify if they escaped. The attack comes on the same day that two separate IED attacks in Baghdad killed one person and injured seven more, including three soldiers on patrol in the city. In the past, ISIS had made efforts to scale up attacks during Eid celebrations and other holidays, though the organization has only claimed responsibility for one attack in Baghdad this week.

On August 31, a member of Baghdad’s Security Committee warned that ISIS was likely to target Eid al-Adha celebrations in Baghdad for terrorist attacks. He stressed that measures were being taken to limit the dangers, but acknowledged that ISIS members had managed to enter the city with car bombs and explosives to conduct attacks recently, and that citizens should be vigilant and aware of the danger posed by the organization.

Forced Returns to Anbar Province; Jordanian Border Reopens

On August 25, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed extreme concern regarding the escalation of forced evictions and relocations from internally displaced persons (IDP) camps outside of Baghdad. The UNHCR is reporting that many IDPs from western Anbar are reportedly subject to harassment and discrimination as a result of perceived affiliations with terrorist groups. IDPs from western Anbar are also subject to multiple and intrusive security screenings, severe movement restrictions, and separation and detention from others within displacement sites. In addition, the UNHCR has been made aware of about 92 IDP families, originally from western Anbar, who were forcibly evicted from the Asia displacement camp during the first week of August, when the camp was shut down on the presumption that IDPs based in Baghdad should return home. Many IDPs located in Baghdad are unable to return to their places of origin due to protection concerns, armed groups, explosive hazards and infrastructure failures. Forced evictions and relocations are leaving =evicted families extremely vulnerable, especially concerning with considerable concerns for their basic  health and safety needs. Displacement from western Anbar has been occurring in waves sincefrom about 2014, yet due to recent unofficial military operations in the region, an increasing number of people are fleeing the district, heading east into the country. Many of the IDPs who have fled western Anbar are single males, escaping to avoid being forced into joining and fighting with armed extremist groups. Often times, many IDPs are forced to pay hefty fees to smugglers to get transported to displacement camps in the eastern portion of the province. Here, many single male IDPs who fled their homes from armed extremist groups face severe protection concerns, due to perceived affiliations for being associated with extremist groups. Intensive security screening and movement restrictions are imposed on these men. At the Kilo 18 displacement camp in the Anbar province, single men who arrive are isolated to a single portion of the site, are not allowed to leave, and are not issued with a “security coupon,” which is issued to IDPs who have successfully passed security screenings. Increasingly, reports indicate that these men have been living in internment like conditions, with a high risk of subjective detentions and arbitrary disappearances.

On August 29, the senior commander of Iraqi forces in Anbar announced the beginning of an operation to “inspect” the western desert of the province, in order to clear the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) remnants from the area. His statement did not clarify if these operations would involve engaging with ISIS militants in Qa’im, Rawa, or Ana, the three border towns the organization still controls in the province. Following the collapse of ISIS in Tal Afar, many commanders in the Iraqi military are feeling emboldened to redouble their efforts against the group.

On August 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the Trebil border crossing with Jordan would be reopened the next day. Iraq’s border with Jordan has been closed since ISIS militants seized the area in 2014. It is the only land crossing between Jordan and Iraq, and its reopening marks the end of a years-long campaign to retake and secure the area from ISIS.

On August 29, Jordanian Interior Minister Ghaleb al-Zubi announced that Jordan and Iraq will reopen their border Trebil crossing on their 180 kilometres (110 miles) long shared border. The crossing has been closed for two years: issues began in 2014 when Iraqi troops were pulled out of the area due to militant insurgents, then in July 2015 the border was closed to commercial trafficking when Iraqi forces launched an offensive against militants. Zubi said last week that “The opening of the crossing is of great importance to Jordan and Iraq. It is a crucial artery.”  

On August 30, Iraq Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji, celebrated the opening of the Trebil border crossing, noting that reviving the border crossing is a major symbolic victory, and “means we have told the world we are greater…than any terrorist group.”  Many hope that resuming border traffic will help bring normalcy and stability back to Iraq’s Anbar province. In addition, this move could help stimulate Jordan’s sluggish economy: since the border closed in 2015, their exports dropped by over two-thirds.

On August 30, the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) announced that it had killed 94 ISIS members in a series of airstrikes on Qa’im, a border town in western Anbar that has been under ISIS control since August of 2014. The dead included a former ISIS leader in Tal Afar, though the IAF’s press release did not clarify how or when he arrived in Qa’im. The IAF also said that they destroyed several vehicle based improvised explosive devices (VBIED)s traveling to the town from eastern Syria. Qa’im is one of several towns in western Anbar that has been targeted by the IAF for regular bombing missions in preparation for its eventual recapture by the Iraqi military forces.

Kirkuk Provincial Council Votes to Participate in Kurdistan Region Independence Referendum

On August 28, Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim reaffirmed that the September 25 Kurdistan independence referendum will take place in the province. The Kirkuk provincial government is divided on the issue: the majority of Kurdish officials, who dominate the Brotherhood bloc in Kirkuk’s provincial government, are adamantly for the referendum. On the other hand, most Arab and Turkmen factions staunchly side with Baghdad, and threaten to boycott any attempts on implementing the referendum, including the provincial government’s vote to support the Kurdish referendum, scheduled for this Sunday.

On August 29, the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) voted in favor of holding the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) independence referendum within the Kirkuk region, a stance pushed by the Kurdish-led Brotherhood faction of the council.  Of the 41 seats that comprise the Council, 26 members attended the vote, with 24 voting in favor, and two abstaining. Ahmad Akari, head of the Brotherhood, asserted that no other Kirkuki institution is “more legitimate” than the KPC to decide whether or not to hold the referendum, adding that “Kirkuk is an inseparable part of Kurdistan.” The Kirkuk region lies in the disputed areas, claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, and faces intense pressure to side with one or the other.

On August 29, the Turkmen faction in the KPC, the Turkmen Front, called on supporters to boycott the independence referendum.  Hassan Toran, an Iraqi MP and leader of the Turkmen Front, called the KPC’s support of the referendum “dangerous,” and unconstitutional. In addition he accused the Brotherhood of making a “unilateral” decision, and that no one party in the Council should determine the future of Kirkuk. Toran called on Iraqi leaders to stand against the KPC vote, and to support the Turkmen faction and their campaign to dismantle the Brotherhood.

On August 30, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani announced that he will resign if Kurdistan votes ‘No’ in the upcoming referendum. Most Kurdish officials are expecting an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote. Earlier, he had announced that neither he or a member of his family will run in the presidential election scheduled for November 1, regardless of the referendum outcome, saying that “I will respect the will of the people, and I will have no further responsibility.” Barzani has been in power since 2005, has twice extended his term by two years, and in 2015 refused to step down altogether, provoking the outcry from opposition and the eventual shutdown of Parliament.

On August 30, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned Kirkuk’s decision to hold the Kurdistan referendum, saying that it has “aborted all hopes on finding a solution to end the crisis with the region.” He added that “This move to escalate has introduced more challenges and differences and perhaps fighting between the people in the disputed area.” In addition, both Turkey and Iran, who both have large Kurdish population within their borders, strongly denounced Kirkuk’s decision to participate in the referendum.

On August 30, Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, condemned Kirkuk’s decision to hold the referendum, saying that “the decision of Kirkuk to participate in the referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, is wrong, provocative, and unacceptable.” He emphasized that the international and regional communities are against the referendum, including Iraq and the UN, and that the decision will be detrimental to the regional efforts to eradicate ISIS.

Militia Storms Diyala Provincial Council Over Attempts to Dismiss Governor

On August 27, dozens of demonstrators in the Diyala Province gathered in Mehrot and Ahoiesh, located 33 kilometers northeast, and 25 kilometers northwest of Baquba, respectively. In They cut off the main road between Baquba and Muqdadiyah in protest against what a spokesman called, “the spread of the phenomenon of corruption and and the lack of services and law” in the region. They demanded the dismissal of Diyala Governor Muthana al-Tamimi, who they accuse of corruption, and admonished the Provincial Council for their role in “the rampant corruption in government department and the disappearances of imports at border crossing points.”

On August 27, head of the Diyala Provincial Council, Ali Al-Dani, welcomed a delegation representing the anti-corruption demonstrations that took place in Mehrot and Ahoiesh. In a statement, Dani noted that during the meeting he will “question the demands that corrupt officials be dismissed in accordance with the law, and how to deal with the repercussions of the deterioration of [social] services in some areas of Diyala.”

On August 27, over 40 gunmen belonging to a Shia militia faction stormed the Diyala Provincial Council in order to prevent the conservative-led attempt to dismiss Diyala Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi. Earlier that day, dozens of protesters called for the dismissal of Tamimi, accusing him of corruption, serving his own interests over that of his people, and failing to execute his job properly. Tamimi belongs to the Badr Organization in the Iraqi Parliament, a Shia political party whose military forces have been prominent in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of al-Sham and Iraq (ISIS). Police forces eventually cleared the Council of militants, and no casualties were reported.

On August 27, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri criticized Babil province for enacting a ban that would prevent displaced Sunnis from returning to their homes. He stated that “the duty of the state is to return displaced peoples to their homes,” and that “any decision issued by Parliament of the Provincial Council to not allow the displaced to return to their areas goes against the Constitution, morals, and nobility.” In addition, Jubouri cited the recent attack at the council of Diyala, arguing that the political conflict in any province will provoke disorder and security chaos.

On August 29, head of the Diyala Council Ali al-Dani commented on the recent attack at the Diyala Council, warning against “bullying” by militants, and their use of illegal mobilization, as a new threat to the security of the province. He stated that “buying weapons in illegal manners has become a tool for some parties to put pressure [on their opponents] in order to obtain gains, and this frustrates the citizens of Diyala, who are looking forward to a new phase after the end of the Islamic State of al-Sham and Iraq (ISIS) era.” In recent weeks, Diyala has witnessed an intensification of political strife between parties.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

08/31/17Balad, 40 km southwest of Samarra26
08/31/17Zafraniya neighborhood, southeast Baghdad14
08/31/17Tarmiya district, north of Baghdad03
08/29/17Suweib district, south of Baghdad23
08/29/17Sha'ab district, north of Baghdad01
08/29/17Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad03
08/29/17Al-'Ayadiya town, northeast of Tal Afar13
08/29/17Falastin Street, eastern Baghdad02
08/28/17Tarmiya district, north of Baghdad02
08/28/17Sadr City, eastern Baghdad1228
08/28/17Road between Hit and al-Baghdadi, western Anbar01
08/28/17Abi Saida, 30 km northeast of Baqubah10
08/28/17Yusifiya district, south of Baghdad48
08/27/17Jisr Diyala, southeast of Baghdad12
08/27/17Abu Dashir district, south of Baghdad23
08/27/17Al-Shurta al-Rabia neighborhood, southwest Baghdad35
08/26/17Mullah Abdullah town, 40 km northeast of Hawija26
08/26/17Shuhda al-Bayaa' neighborhood, southwest of Baghdad 10
08/26/17Road to Saudi border, 430 km south of Ramadi16
08/25/17Tarmiya district, north of Baghdad 14
08/25/17Hit, 70 km west of Ramadi04
08/25/17Karma, 10 km east of Fallujah15


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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