ISHM: April 6 – 12, 2018

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Key Takeaways:

  • Attack on Political Party Headquarters in Anbar Prompts Conversation on Election Security – On April 8, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest inside the headquarters of the Sunni-affiliated al-Hal party in Hit, Anbar Province. Two policemen were killed and nine civilians injured, including a candidate for the al-Hal party, Zeinab Abdul Hamid. UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, condemned the bombing and called on the Iraqi authorities “to ensure the security of the political parties, representatives, candidates, and voters.” The following day, Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri met with Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji to discuss security and counterterrorism plans during the lead-up to the May 12 elections. more…
  • Diyala Security Chief Transferred to Basra Amid Protests – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the transfer of Diyala Province Police Chief, Major General Jassim al-Saadi, from Diyala to Basra Province. The transfer was denounced by Diyala Provincial Council Chairman Ali al-Daini and several Members of Parliament for the Province, who accused the Prime Minister of ordering the transfer for political reasons ahead of May elections. Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri also called on Abadi to reconsider the transfer. Dozens of protesters demonstrated in front of the Provincial Council in Baquba and blocked portions of the Baghdad-Kirkuk road, demanding that Saadi remain in Diyala. The well-respected Saadi is widely recognized for bringing the tumultuous security situation in Diyala under relative control. His transfer to Basra comes two months after 20 thousand members of the Iraqi Security Forces were redeployed from the Ninewa Plains to Basra, where violent crime and tribal clashes are a concern for the oil and import region’s foreign investors. Major General Faisal al-Abbadi arrived in Diyala on April 9 to take over Saadi’s responsibilities and pledged “zero tolerance for terrorism or organized crime” in his new post. more…
  • Baghdad Security Tightened During Shia Pilgrimage – Baghdad Operations Command has ramped up security in the city’s northern district of Kadhimiya, where hundreds of Shia pilgrims commemorating the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in 799 A.D. will gather on April 12 and 13. In 2016, ISIS militants attacked the shrine site during the annual pilgrimage, killing 18 at the time. more…
  • Peshmerga Return to Disputed Areas Remains in Dispute; Trump, Abadi Speak About Syria – Commander of the southern axis of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, Wasa Rasul Karkuki, said that “all efforts have been made for the return of the Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas because of the re-emergence of armed groups, especially within Kirkuk Province…but the Iraqi government has not requested the return of the Peshmerga yet.” Major General Maan Saadi, head of security in Kirkuk Province, said that “so far we have not been notified and have not received any information in this regard.” Reports indicated that Parliament’s Security Committee is divided on the issue of whether Peshmerga forces should be allowed to deploy outside of the KRI, though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has indicated in previous weeks that they will not. The Peshmerga were ordered to withdraw from the border areas between Iraqi Kurdistan and greater Iraq following the September 2017 referendum on Kurdish independence and have remained mostly within the KRI since. In other news, Abadi spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on April 8 about the reported chemical attack in Syria against civilians, and the need to work together to defeat ISIS remnants in eastern Syria. more…
  • UNAMI, UNICEF Issue Humanitarian Response Plans for Iraqi Kurdistan – UNICEF published its 2018-19 Iraq Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The report indicates that Iraq currently hosts more than 250 thousand Syrian refugees, 97 percent of which are located in Iraqi Kurdistan. The report projects only slight decreases in the refugee population over the next two years. The publication coincided with a high-level joint conference among the Kurdistan Regional Government, UN Assistance Mission to Iraq, and regional NGOs about humanitarian needs and conditions in the KRI, held on April 10. 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.


Attack on Political Party Headquarters in Anbar Prompts Conversation on Election Security

On April 7, Major General Maan Saadi, head of security for Kirkuk Province, announced the implementation of a new security plan to protect citizens during the Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12, 2018. Saadi explained that more than 2,500 members of the Iraqi Security Forces would participate in the process of securing voting centers.

On April 8, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest inside the headquarters of the al-Hal party in Hit, approximately 63 kilometers north of Ramadi, in Anbar Province. Two policemen were killed and nine civilians were injured, including a candidate for the al-Hal party, Zeinab Abdul Hamid. This is the first suicide attack targeting the headquarters of a political party in view of Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12, 2018.

On April 8, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, condemned the terrorist suicide bombings which targeted the offices of the al-Hal political party in the city of the Hit in Anbar Province. This terrorist attack caused a number of casualties and injured a female candidate running for Parliament. According to a statement, Kubis “calls on the Iraqi authorities to ensure the security of the political forces, representatives, the candidates and the voters in the runup to the 12 May elections.”

On April 9, Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri received Iraqi Minister of the Interior Qassim al-Araji to discuss security measures for the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12, 2018. Jabouri said that “we hope that all the security services will be responsible, especially after the victories they have achieved on terrorism.” He stressed the importance of providing citizens with a stable environment to exercise their right to vote and the need to prevent terrorist attacks, which aim to destabilize citizens’ security and the country’s stability.

On April 12, Alsumaria conducted street interviews about youth participation in the coming May elections, in which several of those interviewed acknowledged a desire for ‘change.’ In Iraq, 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25, indicating the importance of the youth vote in elections.


Diyala Security Chief Transferred to Basra Amid Protests

On April 7, Diyala Provincial Council Chairman Ali al-Daini announced the issue of orders from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to transfer the Provincial Police Chief, Major General Jassim al-Saadi, to Basra Province. Daini said, “The transfer of the Diyala Police Chief around the election stage needs to be reexamined, as Saadi has achieved significant results in enhancing Diyala’s security and has succeeded in supporting stability during his leadership of the police force.” On April 5, Major General Jassem al-Saadi revealed the result of a “qualitative” military operation in the northeast of Diyala. General Saadi stressed that the operation was covert and in a region with complex terrain, pointing out that “the operation showed the combat capabilities of the police to combat terrorism and overcome the complexities of the land.” Saadi has served as Diyala Police Chief since May 8, 2015, after his predecessor was transferred to the Basra Operations Command.

On April 8, a Member of the Parliament (MP) for Diyala Province, Ghaida Kambash, described the transfer order of the Provincial Police Chief as a “typical political decision,” and said that the federal government held every responsibility of any deterioration of the security in Diyala. Kambash said, “The Diyala Police Chief, Major General Jassem al-Saadi, has proved efficient in managing the security file and has succeeded in eradicating organized crime, including kidnapping networks and ending most of the criminal cells.” She also added that “Diyala is crucial for the success of the coming election, and it is undergoing great challenges. The transfer of the Diyala police chief under these circumstances is a political decision, not a professional one, because professionalism requires an assessment of the security situation in any decision.”

On April 8, Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reconsider the decision to transfer Diyala Police Chief, Major General Jassem al-Saadi, to Basra. Jabouri released a statement saying that “In view of [Saadi’s] great efforts and his outstanding role in carrying out his duties in maintaining the security and stability of Diyala Province, we call on the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces [Abadi] to reconsider the issue of the transfer of Diyala police chief.”

On April 8, the Mayor of Khalis District in Diyala Province, Uday al-Khaddran, said that demonstrators protesting the decision to transfer Diyala Police Chief Major General Jassem al-Saadi to Basra, have blocked the Baghdad-Kirkuk road. The road was reopened after several hours of occupation by the demonstrations.

On April 8, the spokesman of Diyala Police Colonel Ghaleb al-Attiyah released a statement saying that “The Diyala police chief, Major General Jassem al-Saadi, issued strict instructions to prevent the closure of any roads across the Diyala area and the reopening of blocked roads immediately, as well as the arrest of those who contravene the orders.” Attiyah called on all demonstrators “to comply with the directives of the police leadership for the public good.” Several main roads in Diyala were blocked by protesters in opposition to the decision to transfer the Diyala Police Chief to Basra.

On April 8, the President of the Diyala Provincial Council, Ali al-Daini, said that the council decided to delay the implementation of the order of transfer the Diyala Police Chief to Basra Province. Daini said to the press, “The Diyala Council held an emergency session this afternoon in the presence of most of its members dealing with the issue of the transfer of Diyala Police Chief to Basra, and the public opinion repercussions to this decision.” The emergency meeting resulted in three unanimous decisions by the members of the Council: to delay the implementation of the transfer order, to establish a delegation to meet with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to explain the view of the provincial council with respect to the decision, and to instruct security officials to arrest anyone who blocks any roads within the territory of Diyala.

On April 8, the Mayor of Baquba, Abdullah Hamid al-Hayali, announced the start of public service projects at a cost of more than half a billion Iraqi dinars (approximately half a million USD) in Baquba and its environs. Hayali added that “the allocation of funding of these projects…comes from the Diyala administration, after the break of the projects about  three years ago.” Hundreds of public service projects in Diyala were suspended in 2014 because of economic and security challenges. On March 28, the Diyala Council voted to spend 4.5 billion Iraqi dinars (approximately US$ 3.8 million) to finance service projects in all vital sectors within Diyala.

On April 9, dozens of residents of Diyala Province protested in front of the Provincial Council, opposing the decision to transfer the Police Chief of the Province to Basra. An anonymous source revealed that “dozens of Diyala residents demonstrated in the evening in front of the Provincial Council building and near the police headquarters in the center of Baquba to protest against the decision to transfer the police chief, Major General Jassem al-Saadi to Basra.” The head of the Security Committee in the Diyala Provincial Council, Sadiq al-Husseini, announced that Major General Faisal al-Abbadi has taken over the position of Diyala Police Chief.

On April 10, the new Police Chief of Diyala, Major General Faisal al-Abbadi, vowed “zero tolerance of terrorism and organized crime.” He also called on residents to cooperate with the new administration, saying that “The security of Diyala is safe…and we will work to increase stability and work with the local governments to resolve the issue of the return of displaced persons and secure liberated areas.” General Abbadi arrived in Diyala on April 9.


Baghdad Security Tightened During Shia Pilgrimage

On April 8, the Baghdad Operations Command set the dates for visiting the shrine of Shia Imam Musa al-Kadhim on occasion of the festival that commemorates his death. The shrine is located in Baghdad’s northern district of Kadhimiya and pilgrims would be allowed to visit the shrine on April 12 and 13, 2018. In 2016, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed 18 pilgrims participating to the festival by detonating a parked car which was full of explosives. To increase security, the Baghdad Operations Command also decided that large cargo vehicles would not be allowed to enter Baghdad during the activities. The commemoration of the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim is an important Shia religious event and pilgrims come on foot from different parts of Iraq. Musa al-Kadhim is the seventh Shia imam and his imamate lasted for 35 years. He was born in Medina in 745 A.D. (128 Hijri) and died in Baghdad in 799 A.D. (183 Hijri), after being imprisoned for fours years and poisoned during his imprisonment by the then ruler Harun al-Rashid.

On April 9, the Baghdad Operations Command issued a warning for those attending the Imam Musa al-Kadhim activities. Pilgrims were advised to be vigilant and to avoid coming in to contact with suspicious bags or packages.

On April 10, rumors circulated among visitors to the Imam Musa al-Kadhim shrine concerning the presence of an IED in the area. A woman was wounded after being stepped on by the panicking crowd. An anonymous source said that “strict security measures” were taken after the incident.

On April 10, eight Iraqi provinces announced the suspension of official works for April 12, on occasion of the commemoration of Imam Musa al-Kadhim’s death. The provincial councils of Dhi Qar, Wasit, Maysan, Babil, Basra, Muthanna, Diwaniyah and Karbala decided to cancel the work day to honor the religious festival. Additionally, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi decided to disrupt the official working hours to honor the event, with the exception of the security services and institutions.


Peshmerga Return to Disputed Areas Remains in Dispute; Trump, Abadi Speak About Syria

On April 6, Shafaaq News reported that the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were discussing plans concerning the return of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk Province and the disputed areas from which they withdrew in October 2017. According to the article, the plan would envisage the deployment of the Peshmerga to the outskirts of the cities which are more vulnerable to attacks. Wasa Rasul Karkuki, commander of the southern Kirkuk axis of Peshmerga forces, said that “all efforts have been made for the return of the Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas because of the re-emergence of armed groups, especially within Kirkuk Province, which indicates that Peshmerga can counter terrorism.” Karkuki also specified that “the Iraqi government has not requested the return of the Peshmerga yet, but it has agreed to do so during its meetings with the International Coalition.”

On April 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi contacted the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and former KRG President, Massoud Barzani for the first time since the Kurdish independence referendum in September last year, to express the condolences for the loss of his nephew, Delvan Barzani. Delvan was the brother of KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and died on Monday of a heart attack.

On April 8, Shakhawan Abdullah, member of the Iraqi parliamentary Security Committee, affirmed that Iraqi Members of Parliament (MPs) could not agree on a position concerning the return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas. Abdullah said that “the leaders in the Iraqi Parliament are divided on this and there are some who refuse for electoral motives,” adding that coordination between Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga, as well as the redeployment of Peshmerga forces, are necessary in order to maintain security in the disputed areas.

On April 8, Reuters reported that U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi about a reported chemical attack in Syria against civilians, and the need to work together to defeat Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the White House said. “The leaders also discussed accelerating the campaign to defeat remnants of ISIS and the need to work together to counter other threats in the region,” according to a White House readout of the call. The readout added that the leaders discussed the “alarming reports of possible chemical attacks near Damascus.”

On April 9, Major General Maan Saadi, head of security in Kirkuk Province, spoke about the possible redeployment of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas. Saadi said that “so far we have not been notified and we have not received any information in this regard, and all that is happening now is negotiation, according to the data we have.”

On April 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Iraq will take “all the necessary measures” to prevent ISIS militants from carrying out cross-border attacks from Syria. During a press conference in Baghdad, Abadi said that “[ISIS] are present in eastern Syria, at the Iraqi border. I will take all the necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq”, adding that he communicated Iraq’s position to U.S. President Donald Trump during a phone conversation on April 8. Abadi said that he asked Iraq’s military command “to lay out all possible plans, as I am keen to protect Iraqi citizens” from cross-border attacks.


UNAMI, UNICEF Issue Humanitarian Response Plans for Iraqi Kurdistan

On 10 April, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the United Nations (UN), and their  partners held a high-level joint conference on the priority needs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. According to a statement, the KRG and the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre have provided a conducive environment for the work of the United Nations agencies and international NGOs towards meeting the humanitarian needs of Iraqis. In 2018, the Humanitarian Response Plan is requesting US$569 million to respond to the needs of 3.4 million of the most vulnerable in Iraq. MInister of the KRG, Karim Sinjari, said “With the help of its international partners, the Kurdistan Regional Government has been able to provide critical humanitarian assistance, safety, and security to over 1.5 million internally displaced Iraqis and 250,000 Syrian refugees. With continued support and collaboration of the international community, we can and are committed to do even more for the 1.1 million displaced people and 248,000 refugees still hosted in our region until safe, voluntary and dignified return is made possible.”

On April 11, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published its 2018-2019 Iraq Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan (3RP) in response to the Syria crisis. The report indicates that Iraq continued to host Syrian refugees and to admit new arrivals on humanitarian grounds, and “97 per cent of the Syrian caseload is located in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) […] The vast majority of Syrians in Iraq are of Kurdish ethnicity.” Thousands of Syrian refugees are admitted through the only official border crossing at Peshkabour and at unofficial border crossings every year. The report suggests that the number of refugee admissions will decrease to 245,000 individuals in 2018, and to 240,000 individuals in 2019. Considering the current landscape in Syria, where the level of destruction of infrastructure is high, basic services and livelihood opportunities remain minimal, and population displacement continues as the security situation has not improved significantly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is neither promoting nor facilitating refugee returns to Syria. The report also assesses that “The majority of Syrian refugees in the KRI enjoy a favorable protection environment as authorities have granted residency permits, freedom of movement and the right to work. Despite budget constraints and the economic crisis, the KRG and host community remain solid partners.”

On April 11, the delegations and senior officials from participating Arab countries held a preparatory meeting ahead of the 29th annual Arab Summit scheduled for April 15 in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Last year’s participants included Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Mahjoub, said that a decision on whether to allow Qatar to participate in the Summit was still underway. Also, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia agreed to condemn Turkish military interventions in Iraqi territory. Mahjoub said that “the meetings of delegates and senior officials were consensual on most of the issues on the agenda and the flexibility and wisdom of the chairmanship had a good impact on the progress of the work.” The agenda for the summit would be set out during the preparatory meeting.

On April 11, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry announced the addition of a draft resolution in support of displaced persons to be introduced at the upcoming Arab Summit. Spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Mahjoub, said that “Iraq succeeded in the meeting of delegates to the Arab Summit to add a draft resolution to support the displaced in Arab countries and displaced Iraqis in particular. The General Secretariat of the League of Arab States has commissioned a mechanism to achieve this support.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
04/12/2018Tarmiyah, 56 kilometers north of Baghdad01
04/12/2018Khanaqin, 178 kilometers northeast of Baghdad01
04/11/2018Baqubah02
04/11/2018Ramadi02
04/08/2018Tal Afar, 77 kilometers west of Mosul11
04/08/2018Hit, 63 kilometers northwest of Ramadi29

 

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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