ISHM: March 22 – 28, 2019

ISHM LOGOKey Takeaways:

  • Ninewa Governor Arrested for Corruption Following Ferry Sinking; Iraqi Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Iraqi Politicians Condemn U.S. Recognition of Golan Annexation – On March 22, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammed Halbusi to discuss the ferry accident near Mosul last Thursday. On March 26, a court in Ninewa province issued an arrest warrant for Akoub accusing him of corruption and other crimes. On March 27, the judicial police arrested Akoub. On March 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi traveled to Iraq, in his first foreign visit since assuming office, and met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Among other matters, the two leaders discussed counter-terrorism efforts and a potential electricity deal. On March 24, Mahdi and Sisi were joined by Jordanian King Abdullah II. During the tripartite summit, the leaders agreed in principle that Egypt will join an Iraqi-Jordanian project of constructing an oil pipeline that would pump oil from Basra to Aqaba, Jordan. Under the agreement, the pipeline would be extended to Egypt. On March 26, politicians across different parties in Iraq condemned President Trump’s tweet calling for recognizing Israel’s annexation of the the Golan Heights. On March 25, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammed Halbusi met with United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in Washington, DC. more…
  • ISIS Continues to Carry out Attacks Despite Government Countermeasures; Turkey Bombs PKK Targets in Northern Iraq; Disagreements regarding PMU Presence in Ninewa – On March 23, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed a resident of Haditha, al-Anbar province, and injured another while they were scouring for truffles in western Anbar province. On March 24, a group of three suicide bombers of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham detonated their vests following a clash with Iraqi security forces near the village of Girzark, in the Sinjar district of Ninewa province. Iraqi media reported that six Islamic State fighters were involved in the attack. On March 24, the Iraq parliament voted on a resolution calling for the redeployment of Iraqi Security forces to Ninewa province under unified command. On March 25, ISIS fighters attacked the Alas oilfield in Salah ad-Din province. On March 26, an Iraqi officer was killed by a gunshot fired by an ISIS militant in northeastern Diyala province. On March 27, TRT World News reported that the Turkish military conducted an airstrike last week that targeted a meeting between senior officials of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) at a camp near the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq. On March 27, Sheikh Muzahi al-Hewitt, a spokesperson for the Arab tribes of Iraqi Kurdistan, claimed that the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) are attempting to create a false sense of popular support in Ninewa for the PMUs by forcing tribal sheikhs to back a memorandum asking the Iraqi government and parliament to keep the PMUs in the disputed area of Ninewa province. more…
  • First Mass Grave of Yezidis Exhumed as 21 Kidnapped Yezidis Return to Sinjar from Syria; More IDP Returns in Anbar; Floods Cause Damage Across Iraq; Donors Pledge Additional Support for Iraq Stabilization –  On March 21, the United Nations Investigate Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by the ISIS (UNITAD) announced the completion of the five-day exhumation process of a Yezidi mass grave in Kocho, Sinjar. This is the first such exhumation in the Sinjar region. On March 23, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced that 21 Yezidi women and children have returned to their homes in Ninewa province after being held by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Baghouz, Syria near the Iraqi border. On March 24, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MOMD) announced that 267 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their area of origin in al-Qaim and Saqlawiya, al-Anbar province. On March 25, Kurdistan 24 reported heavy rain throughout the Kurdistan Region and Iraq  caused a great deal of damage and some casualties. On March 26 and March 28, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) announced that the Government of Denmark will make an additional $11 million contribution and the Japanese government will make an additional $1.6 contribution to the organization to help reduce the danger caused by explosive hazards in areas liberated from ISIS. On March 28, The European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) announced a new program in Iraq  that would support local priority actions of each governorate. 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.


Ninewa Governor Arrested for Corruption Following Ferry Sinking; Iraqi Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Iraqi Politicians Condemn U.S. Recognition of Golan Annexation

On March 22, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammed Halbusi to discuss the ferry accident near Mosul last Thursday. The leaders stressed the need for a full investigation into mismanagement of local authorities and the importance of  compensating the families of the victims. On March 24, the Iraqi Parliament voted to conduct a complete investigation into who is responsible for the capsizing of the ferry. The parliament also fired the Ninewa Governor Nofal al-Akoub and his deputies after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi requested his dismissal. On March 26, a court in Ninewa province issued an arrest warrant for Akoub accusing him of corruption and other crimes; the court also banned him from traveling. On March 27, the judicial police arrested Akoub.

On March 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi traveled to Iraq, in his first foreign visit since assuming office, and met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Among other matters, the two leaders discussed counter-terrorism efforts and a potential electricity deal. On March 24, Mahdi and Sisi were joined by Jordanian King Abdullah II. Mahdi’s goal in this summit was to increase economic investment in Iraq from the other nations. Combatting terrorism was again a major issue under discussion. During the tripartite summit, the leaders agreed in principle that Egypt will join an Iraqi-Jordanian project of constructing an oil pipeline that would pump oil from Basra to Aqaba, Jordan. Under the agreement, the pipeline would be extended to Egypt. All three leaders also restated their nations’ support for the rights of Palestinians, including the establishment of an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

On March 25, United States President Donald Trump recognized Israel’s annexation of the the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 War. Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim tweeted that “Iraq regards the occupied Golan as an authentic Syrian territory.” On March 26, Muqtada al-Sadr released a statement condemning Trump’s decision as “contrary to the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, the United Nations and other international organization, which violate human norms” and stressing that the Golan is Syrian territory. On March 26, the State of Law Coalition stated that “America must respect international resolutions and stay away from the policy of double standards.”

On March 25, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammed Halbusi met with United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in Washington, DC. The leaders discussed counter-terrorism efforts, reconstruction of areas affected by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq, and assisting displaced Iraqis.


ISIS Continues to Carry out Attacks Despite Government Countermeasures; Turkey Bombs PKK Targets in Northern Iraq; Disagreements regarding PMU Presence in Ninewa

On March 23, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed a resident of Haditha, al-Anbar province, and injured another while they were scouring for truffles in western Anbar province. ISIS militants carried out several similar attacks in the region last month.

On March 23, a unit of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) carried out an operation against a group of fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in al-Mu’tasim north of Baghdad. The operation resulted in the deaths of two ISIS militants. PMU forces also seized weapons abandoned by ISIS fighters at the scene.

On March 24, a group of three suicide bombers of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham detonated their vests following a clash with Iraqi security forces near the village of Girzark, in the Sinjar district of Ninewa province. Iraqi media reported that six Islamic State fighters were involved in the attack. Haider Shasho, the Commander of the Êzîdxan Protection Force (HPE) in Sinjar that the militants came to Iraq fleeing the battle in Baghouz in Syria. An Iraqi security officer was injured in the explosion.

On March 24, the Iraq parliament voted on a resolution calling for the redeployment of Iraqi Security forces to Ninewa province under unified command. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Adel-Abdul Mahdi, vowed to take measures to close the  unofficial headquarters of non-state armed actors in the province. The Parliament also expressed support for efforts to stop smuggling in the area and for reconstruction projects to encourage the return of displaced persons to Ninewa.

On March 25, fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked the Alas oilfield in Salah ad-Din province. The North Oil Company police, with the help of units of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), countered the attack and killed several ISIS militants. The wounded fighters fled to an unknown location. The number of casualties and injuries has not been reported.

On March 26, the Wall Street Journal reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), continues to evade search operations by the U.S. army and intelligence agencies. Iraqi security officials quoted in the report suspect that he fled to a stretch of desert located along the Iraqi-Syrian border. al-Baghdadi abandoned all forms of technology that could be used to detect his whereabouts, such as phones and computers, and relies on a small circle of trusted ISIS members. Keeping such a low-profile has prevented al-Baghdadi from remaining involved in day-to-day ISIS operations, which has caused speculation about the affect his capture would have.

On March 26, an Iraqi officer was killed by a gunshot fired by a militant of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in northeastern Diyala province. A security source reported that the shot  was fired on the outskirts of the town of Qarah Tapah in the province.

On March 27, TRT World News, an outlet financed by the Turkish government, reported that the Turkish military conducted an airstrike last week that targeted a meeting between senior officials of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) at a camp near the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq.  A close aide to the PKK’s commander, Riza Altun, was injured, and three members of the PKK were killed in the blast. The Turkish government considers the PKK a terrorist organization and conducts operations against PKK camps regularly.

On March 27, Sheikh Muzahi al-Hewitt, a spokesperson for the Arab tribes of Iraqi Kurdistan, claimed that the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) are attempting to create a false sense of popular support in Ninewa for the PMUs by forcing tribal sheikhs to back a memorandum asking the Iraqi government and parliament to keep the PMUs in the disputed area of Ninewa province. Al-Hewitt urged the Iraqi government to remove the PMUs from the disputed territories. He claims that they increase sectarian tension and create instability in these areas.


First Mass Grave of Yezidis Exhumed as 21 Kidnapped Yezidis Return to Sinjar from Syria; More IDP Returns in Anbar; Floods Cause Damage Across Iraq; Donors Pledge Additional Support for Iraq Stabilization

On March 21, the United Nations Investigate Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by the ISIS (UNITAD) announced the completion of the five-day exhumation process of a Yezidi mass grave in Kocho, Sinjar. This is the first such exhumation in the Sinjar region. The victims’ remains and other evidence were sent to the Medical-Legal Directorate in Baghdad. The investigation team retrieved remains of up to 30 people, but the exact number will be determined after forensic analysis in Baghdad. UNITAD hopes to identify the bodies and remains of victims, so they can be returned to their family members.

On March 23, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced that 21 Yezidi women and children have returned to their homes in Ninewa province after being held by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Baghouz, Syria near the Iraqi border. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have declared the territorial defeat of ISIS after the liberation of the last pocket of territory the extremist group held  in Baghouz. Over 3,300 Yezidis have returned to Iraq from an estimated 6,417 kidnapped or missing.

On March 24, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MOMD) announced that 267 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their area of origin in al-Qaim and Saqlawiya, al-Anbar province. The IDPs were living in the Amiriyat Fallujah Camp and the town of Habbaniya in al-Anbar before their return. MOMD in partnership with the Transport Ministry facilitated these returns and plan to continue this program until all IDPs have returned home.

On March 25, Kurdistan 24 reported heavy rain throughout the Kurdistan Region and Iraq  caused a great deal of damage and some casualties. Heavy rainfall increased water levels in rivers, lakes, and tributaries and contributed to floods. This rain can result in the rooftops of homes collapsing on families. On March 26, Alsumaria News reported that three villages in the al-Saybah district in Basra are completely flooded. On March 26, Rudaw reported the flooding has weakened a temporary bridge over the Little Zab River connecting Iraq to the Kurdistan Region. Many fear that the bridge can collapse at any moment due to the heavy flow of water passing under the bridge.

On March 26 and March 28, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) announced that the Government of Denmark will make an additional $11 million contribution and the Japanese government will make an additional $1.6 contribution to the organization to help reduce the danger caused by explosive hazards in areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Danish donation will be a multi-year contribution from 2019 to 2021 and it will bring the total contribution from Denmark to $26 million.

On March 27, Almada reported that the independent Iraqi Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) accused the Iraqi Justice Ministry of trying to conceal human rights violations in prisons. Officials in charge of the Taji Correctional Prison reportedly prevented the Commission’s team from entering the prison to monitor the situation there, in violation of Iraq’s Law no. 53 (2008), which allows the IHCHR to conduct unannounced visits to prisons and detention facilities to interview staff and detainees. The IHCHR received many complaints and pleas from families of inmates held at Taji prison regarding conditions in the facility.

On March 28, The European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) announced a new program in Iraq  that would support local priority actions of each governorate. The EU will fund the program over four years for a total of 47.5 million Euros. The program also aims to support governance decentralization through a number of projects. The program will be implemented in Anbar, Basra, Duhok, Erbil, Missan, Ninewa, Salah al- Din, Sulaimaniyah, and Thi Qar governorates.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs March 22, 2019 - March 28, 2019

The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
DateLocationDeathsInjuries
03/24/19Daquq, Kirkuk Province10

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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