ISHM 52: February 26 – March 3, 2016

ISHM LOGOKey Takeaways:

  • Over the past week, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), tribal forces, and the US-led international coalition clashed in severe battles against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the provinces of Anbar, Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din, and Ninewa.
    1. In Anbar, Commander of Anbar tribal forces Ghassan al-Ethawi said that ISIS is currently holding 170 civilian families hostage to be used as human shields. Commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Fallujah Col. Mahmud Mourdi al-Jumaili reported that ISIS militants started to dig tunnels underneath the city of Fallujah in attempt to avoid the heavy bombardment by the ISF and U.S.-led international coalition air forces.
    2. In Kirkuk, fighting intensified between Turkmen PMUs and ISIS fighters in the city of Taza following a heavy rocket attack by ISIS against the city. Schools in Taza have been shut down due to security conditions.
    3. In Salah ad-Din, ISF and PMU forces launched several operations against ISIS across the province and successfully recaptured the villages of Taha al-Azawi and Albu Wasmi (in southern Sammara).
    4. In Ninewa, US-led international coalition airstrikes hit ISIS locations in northern and southern Mosul, reportedly killing more than 30 militants and resulting in the deaths of five civilians.
  • As plans develop to liberate Mosul from ISIS, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that the U.S. military is developing proposals for expanded American participation in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford added that Iraqi leaders have provided their plan for Mosul to Lt. Gen. Sean Macfarland, the top U.S. commander for Iraq and Syria. Also this week, Secretary Carter announced that U.S. Delta Forces have deployed to Iraq to help organize and carry out raids against ISIS locations in Mosul.
  • The ISF completed plans for the operation to liberate the city of Hit and its Kubaisa district, located in eastern Ramadi, from ISIS. Anbar Police Department instructed the citizens of Hit and Kubaisa to evacuate their homes within 48 hours before the operation begins. It remains unclear whether residents have the ability to evacuate or are being held by militants against their will.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad released a statement warning against the potential collapse of the Mosul Dam and recommending precautionary measures, including the establishment of evacuation zones for people who live along the 300-mile flood path. Currently, there are 1.5 million people whose lives are in danger. The Economist referred to the dam as a “watery time-bomb” and called it the “most dangerous dam in the world.” In a public statement, the office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi downplayed the risks, claiming, “the chances of the dam collapsing are very slim.” Earlier this week, the Iraqi government signed the contract with Trevi, an Italian soil foundation engineering company, to repair the dam at the cost of $300 million.
  • A World Food Program report revealed this week that the humanitarian situation in Anbar province is rapidly deteriorating due to the continuing conflict and limited humanitarian access to affected populations, particularly in Fallujah which has remained under siege for over a year. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart E. Jones announced this week that the United States is contributing an additional $20 million in emergency food assistance for displaced families in Iraq. Also this week, Minister of Migration and Displacement Jassim Mohammed said that he expects that military operations to liberate Mosul will displace another 200,000 Iraqi civilians.
  • Baghdad witnessed the bloodiest attack so far this year when ISIS fighters launched a horrific double bombing assault on a public market in al-Sadr City (in eastern Baghdad). The Associated Press reported that 73 civilians were killed and more than a hundred were injured.
  • The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported that 670 Iraqis were killed and another 1,290 were injured in acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict in Iraq in February. Though the overall casualty figures dropped from those in January (849 killed, 1,450 injured), the month of February was marked by the viciousness of some of the attacks, such as the double bombing on a market in al-Sadr City, and another that targeted a funeral.
  • Last week, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) claimed that ISIS attacked Sinjar on February 25 with chemical weapons, exposing tens of Peshmerga fighters and local residents.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Association announced that Iraq was the second-largest contributor to growth in global oil supply in 2015, behind the United States. Including exports from Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq’s oil production averaged over 4 million barrels per day, up from 3.3 million barrels per day in 2014. Despite increased production, due to plummeting prices, Iraq’s oil revenues in 2015 barely eclipsed $49 billion, $35 billion less than in 2014. As oil revenue accounted for 93% of Iraq’s government budget in 2014, this sharp decline highlights the economic challenges Iraq will face in 2016.

Major Battles Against ISIS in Iraq

On February 26, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) carried out large-scale military operations in Nuaimiya, 18 kilometers southeast of Fallujah. The operation killed 27 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and destroyed three vehicles equipped with mounted machine guns.

On February 26, Anbar tribal forces killed 40 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Albu Obaid and Albu Bali, 19 kilometers north of Ramadi. The commander of the Anbar tribal forces announced that “intelligence sources believe that there are 70 ISIS militants in Albu Obaid and Albu Bali who are holding 170 families hostage to be used as human shields, most of whom are women and children.”

On February 26, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) bombarded the city of Taza, just south of the city of Kirkuk, with 13 rockets, wounding 3 civilians. Turkmen Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) responded to the attack by firing mortar rounds at the ISIS militants’ position.

On February 26, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) aircraft bombed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants west of al-Siniyat District, just north of Tikrit. The strikes killed “dozens” of ISIS militants and destroyed four vehicles.

On February 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed Hussein Allawi, a leading Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) military official, in Albu Daij, south of Fallujah. The operation also killed 19 ISIS militants, clearing the city.

On February 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) repelled an attack perpetrated by six suicide vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) in the city of Hamdania, west of Ramadi. The suicide bombers were targeting the ISF headquarters in the city and ISF soldiers also killed nine other ISIS militants attempting to sneak into the city.

On February 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) destroyed nine underground tunnels in the city of Fallujah. Colonel Mahmud Mourdi al-Jumaili of the ISF reported that outside activity in Fallujah is almost non-existent as the vast majority of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) activity has moved underground to avoid bombardment by Iraqi and international forces.

On February 27, Turkmen forces thwarted a massive attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on the town of Bashir, south Kirkuk. The battle lasted for more than six hours and resulted in the deaths of 37 ISIS militants and the injuring of 20. On the Turkmen side, one soldier died and four were injured.

On February 27, the International Coalition bombed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) convoy in the village of Khorsabat, 17 kilometers north of Mosul. The strike killed seven members of ISIS.

On February 28, the International Coalition bombed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) positions in Qayyarah, south of Mosul. The airstrike killed 12 ISIS militants and destroyed six cars.

On February 29, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared a factory in Hamdania, west of Abu Ghraib. The operation killed 16 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters and destroyed five vehicles and a rocket launcher.

On February 29, the International Coalition bombed a site near Mosul, killing and injuring more than 30 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants (most of whom were Syrians) and destroyed 40 trucks used by ISIS to ferry supplies between Raqqa and Mosul. However, the strike accidentally killed five civilians, an unknown number of which were children.

On March 1, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clashed with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) at Haditha, 170 kilometers west of Ramadi, killing 40 militants. However, ISIS militants carried out two suicide bombings, killing four ISF soldiers, including Brigadier General Ali Abboud, and injuring seven others.

On March 1, The General Directorate for Education in Kirkuk province announced that schools in Taza, south of Kirkuk, will be discontinued for two days due to the ongoing bombardment by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

On March 1, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) cleared the villages of Taha al-Azzawi and Albu Named, west of Samarra, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation killed four ISIS militants and destroyed one rocket-equipped vehicle.

On March 2, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) soldiers repelled an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on an ISF base in Nuaimiya, 22 kilometers south of Fallujah. The clash resulted in the deaths of 13 ISIS militants as well as the destruction of four vehicles mounted with machine guns and a rocket launcher, all of which were owned by ISIS.

On March 2, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) aircraft dropped leaflets on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)-controlled areas of Jazirat Samarra (south of Samarra), Tal Afar (northwest of Mosul), and Hīt (west of northwest of Ramadi), warning civilians of imminent operations by the ISF to recapture their areas. The leaflets included instructions on how the civilians may best avoid getting in harm’s way during the operations.

On March 2, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) freed 50 families that were being held captive by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) near al-Layin, north of Samarra. The ISF soldiers evacuated the families to safe areas without giving details as to where that may be.

On March 2, the International Coalition bombed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) base in Kabarli, 405 kilometers north of Mosul. The base was completely destroyed and killed seven ISIS militants.

The United States to Expand Its Role in the Liberation of Mosul

On February 27, Head of the Turkmen Front, MP Arshad al-Salih, called on the government to allow Turkmen forces to take part in liberating Ninewa. He said the Turkmen are native to the province and are eager to provide their knowledge of the land, weapons, and equipment in the fight for its freedom.

On February 29, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced on a news conference that the U.S. military is developing proposals for expanded American participation in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, as plans develop to liberate Mosul, ISIS capitol in Iraq, from the terrorist organization. During the same conference, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Iraqi leaders have provided their plan to attack Mosul to Lt. Gen. Sean Macfarland, the top U.S. commander for Iraq and Syria.

On February 29, the Council of Ninewa voted unanimously against the involvement of Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) in the liberation of their province. This vote conflicts with Prime Minister Abadi’s February 20th assertion that PMUs would play a role in liberating Mosul. In response to the Council’s vote, a spokesman for the PMUs, Karim al-Nuri, said that the decision to involve PMUs would be made by Abadi in his authority as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

On March 1, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter stated that Delta Force soldiers were on-the-ground in Iraq to help organize opposition forces and to sever communications and supplies lines. Carter stressed that the force will carry out raids, hold territory, and free detained individuals held by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Iraqi Military Prepares to Clear Hit and Kubaisa from ISIS

On February 28, a senior military source reported that military leaders had completed drawing a plan to liberate Hit and Kubaisa in eastern Ramadi from Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The source said the campaign would begin “within days”.

On February 28, the Anbar Police Directorate moved on the city of Hit and Kubaisa with loudspeakers instructing inhabitants to leave within 48 hours so as not to be caught up when security forces storm the city.

On March 1, the International Coalition bombed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Hīt, 110 kilometers west of Baghdad. The attack killed 14 militants and and destroyed two vehicles carrying heavy weapons.

Mosul Dam: The Most Dangerous Dam in the World

On February 28, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad released a statement and four-page fact sheet projecting the danger presented by collapse of the Mosul Dam. The statement says the U.S. recommends these precautions out of “an abundance of caution” but warns that there are no indications of when a breach might occur. The fact sheet outlines recommended precautions including evacuation zones for people along the 300-mile flood path. It projects that the 500,000-1,470,000 Iraqis in the highest-risk areas will not survive unless they are able to evacuate to higher ground. In addition to direct loss of life, the flood would jeopardize Iraq’s entire electrical grid and two-thirds of its wheat production. The Economist newspaper referred to the dam as a “watery time-bomb” and called it the “most dangerous dam in the world.”

On February 28, the Information Office of the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi released a statement that minimized the risk of the Mosul Dam’s collapse and offered the Iraqi government’s report on necessary precautions for those living in the potential food area. The report based its estimates on water levels of 319 meters at the time of dam failure. However, it stressed that the water is unlikely to reach that depth and as it is only 307 meters at present.

On March 2, the government of Iraq signed a contract with Italian company TREVI Group to repair the Mosul Dam at the cost of nearly $300 million.

The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

On February 26, the Governor of Anbar Suhaib al-Rawi announced that approximately 631 internally displaced families have returned back to the Alsidikah area, east of Ramadi. Al-Rawi said that the “security forces and governmental departments secured the area of explosive devices” and provided the families with services essential to restoring their stability.

On February 26, the Department of Displacement and Migration in Diyala province announced the distribution of aid to displaced families in the areas north of the capital city, Baquba, while emphasizing their continued support for these families. The director of the Department said that the aid included oil heaters and oil in addition to a “number of food baskets, which amount to 160 food parcels”.

On February 29, a youth group in Najaf province launched an aid initiative titled the “Wall of Solidarity” to assist displaced families and those in need, while attributing the rise in poverty and unemployment rates in the community to poor economic policies. The initiative included the collection of clothing and other essentials.

On February 29, a World Food Program report revealed that the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating in Anbar province due to the continuing conflict and limited access to provide assistance to the affected population. There are reports of food and fuel shortages across the province, in particularly the Fallujah district which has been besieged for over a year and is also experiencing high food prices in local markets.

On February 29, the United States Ambassador to Iraq Stuart E. Jones announced that the United States is providing an additional $20 million in emergency food assistance to Iraq, a contribution that supports food purchases for family food parcels and immediate response rations for vulnerable Iraqis. With this new funding the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, is helping the UN World Food Program reach 1.5 million displaced and conflict affected Iraqis throughout the country.

On March 2, Minister of Immigration and Immigrants Jassim Mohammed announced that the anticipated effort to liberate Ninewa would result in an additional 200,000 displaced families.

Horrific Terrorist Attacks in Baghdad

On February 28, a double bombing rocked Sadr City, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The bombing resulted in 25 deaths and 71 injuries, making it the most bloody attack in the city of Baghdad in 2016 thus far. The next day, the Associated Press reported that the death toll had climbed even higher to 73, including those who had died in hospital overnight.

On February 28, influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on his “Peace Brigades” to prepare to defend Baghdad in response to attacks on the city carried out by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

Total Casualties for the Month of February

On March 1, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) revealed that a total of 670 Iraqis were killed and another 1,290 were injured in acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict in Iraq in February 2016. Although the overall casualty figures dropped from the 849 killed and 1,450 injured in January, the month of February was marked by the viciousness of some of the attacks, which included suicide bombers against places of worship, a market, and a funeral. Baghdad province was the worst affected, with 1,115 civilian casualties.

ISIS used chemical weapons in Sinjar

On February 26, The Kurdish Regional Government reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) used “chemical rockets” in Sinjar District. The attack affected Peshmerga and civilian targets.

Iraq: Second-Largest Contributor to in Global Oil Supply

On February 29, the U.S. Energy Information Association announced that Iraq was the second-largest contributor to growth in global oil supply in 2015, behind the United States. Including Kurdish exports, Iraqi oil production averaged over 4 million barrels per day, up from 3.3 million barrels per day in 2014. Despite increased production, Iraqi revenues from oil barely eclipsed $49 billion in 2015, $35 billion less than oil revenues in 2014. As oil revenue accounted for 93% of Iraq’s government budget in 2014, this sharp decline highlights the economic challenges Iraq will face in 2016.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
02/26/16Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
28
02/26/16al-Sha'ab,
Northeastern Baghdad
26
02/26/16al-Iskan,
Western Baghdad
15
02/26/16Dora,
Southern Baghdad
14
02/26/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
27
02/27/16Abu Ghraib District,
West of Baghdad
28
02/27/16Sheikh Omar Street,
Central Baghdad
15
02/27/16Bismayah New City,
Southeast of Baghdad
25
02/27/16City of Ramadi,
West of Baghdad
150
02/27/16Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
13
02/28/16al-Sab'
Central Baghdad
26
02/28/16Sayed Abdullah,
South of Baghdad
28
02/28/16Nairiyah,
Eastern Baghdad
17
02/29/16Sadr City,
Eastern Baghdad
7323
02/29/16al-Hamamiyat,
North of Baghdad
18
02/29/16Muqdadiyah,
Northeast of Baghdad
3550
02/29/16al-Turath,
Southwestern Baghdad
27
02/29/16al-Za’franiyah,
Southeastern Baghdad
27
02/29/16al-Subahat,
Western Baghdad
510
03/01/16Sabaa al-Bour,
North of Baghdad
27
03/01/16al-Swaib,
Southwestern Baghdad
16
03/01/16al-Layin,
West of Samarra
02
03/01/16al-Tarmia District,
North of Baghdad
23
03/01/16al-Layin,
West of Samarra
05
03/01/16Sharqat,
North of Tikrit,
418
03/01/16al-Mada'in District,
South of Baghdad
18
03/01/16Dora,
Southern Baghdad
24
03/02/16al-Atshana,
Central Mosul
20
03/02/16Nahrawan,
Southeast of Baghdad
28
03/02/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
16
03/02/16Baladiyat,
Eastern Baghdad
10
03/02/16Nahrawan,
Southeast of Baghdad
28
03/02/16al-Rashidiya,
Northern Baghdad
17
03/03/16Yusufiya,
South of Baghdad
29
03/03/16al-Jihad,
Southwestern Baghdad
14
03/03/16Dora,
Southern Baghdad
25
03/03/16Furat,
Western Baghdad
17

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC’s Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s final report (ISHM No. 52) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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