ISHM 56: March 25 – 31, 2016

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Latest Takeaways:

  • Last Friday, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and anti-ISIS tribal forces cleared the Kubaisa sub-district, 60 kilometers west of Ramadi, killing dozens of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters. On the same day, ISF forces pushed ISIS out of the towns of al-Zaghareed and al-Tali’a, north of Fallujah. To the west of Ramadi, PMU forces cleared ISIS from the villages of al-Mu’airam and al-Hawdha. Over the past week, ISIS lost five of its top military commanders in Anbar, Salah ad-Din, and Ninewa provinces. While Iraq’s joint security forces and the U.S.-led international coalition continue to report steady advances against ISIS throughout Iraq, ISIS still holds Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city prior to the mass exodus of more than half its residents), much of Fallujah, areas west of Hawija, and other strongholds in the provinces of Ninewa, Anbar, and Salah Ad Din.
  • This week, Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights member Fadel al-Gharawi announced that more than 500 families have fled fighting in Mosul since the start of military operations to retake the city from ISIS began earlier this month. Meanwhile, a provincial council member in Diyala announced that another 360 displaced families have returned to their homes in Jalawla (aka Jalula), a subdistrict northeast of Diyala’s provincial capital of Baquba and 30 kilometers west of Khanaqin. According to a local official, a total of more than 4,000 families have returned to Jalawla so far. Also in Diyala, a group of young Iraqis have launched a campaign titled “We Can” to distribute medical supplies to victims of ISIS’s chemical weapons attacks of the village of Taza.
  • Last Friday, ISIS carried out a suicide bombing attack during a soccer match in al-Eskandaryia stadium, in northern Babil. The suicide bomber detonated himself during the award ceremony killing more than 40 and injuring over 100 people. ISIS claimed the attack shortly after.
  • United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Iraq this week alongside World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Islamic Development Bank President Ahmed Mohammed. All three leaders reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to supporting Iraq through its multifaceted challenges. Addressing Iraq’s Parliament in Baghdad, Jim Yong Kim announced that the World Bank has allocated $350 million “to local authorities to help restore basic infrastructure and public services to Iraqi citizens in territories freed from Da’esh’s control.” Da’esh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
  • Last Sunday, ISF and PMU forces with the assistance of anti-ISIS tribal fighters in Anbar launched an operation to liberate the city of Hit, located 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, from ISIS’s control. The U.S.-led international coalition provided air support as ground forces approached the city from the south and east sides.
  • This week, ISIS executed 33 civilians who attempted to flee Fallujah and threatened to kill anyone else who tries to escape the besieged city. This once again raises concerns about ISIS’s use of noncombatants, including families with children, as human shields.
  • Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced today his slate of nominees and proposed a new structure for the Cabinet of Ministers. The new structure will merge ten ministries into five, including the Ministry of Finance with Planning, the Ministry of Industry with Trade, the Ministry of Transportation with Communications, the Ministry of Youth with Culture, and the Ministry of Water Resources with Agriculture. Prime Minister Abadi is awaiting the approval of members of the parliament of his new structure. This week, the Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr camped inside Baghdad’s Green Zone to protest corruption. This move was widely met with skepticism as Sadr’s own ministers have a reputation of being among the most corrupt. Furthermore, Sadr’s chief demand — that Prime Minister al-Abadi replace Iraq’s current government with technocrats of Sadr’s own choosing — is seen by many as a clear grab for power. Nevertheless, due to concerns about the protest and possible unrest, there are reports that Iraqi security forces have had to divert men from the front lines of the fight against ISIS to provide additional security in Baghdad.

Joint Security Forces’ Steady Advances Against ISIS

On March 25, Iraqi Security Forces cleared the town of Kubaisa, Anbar province, 60 kilometers west of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reportedly killed “dozens” of ISIS militants, destroyed four vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, and were welcomed with joy by the village’s civilian population.

On March 25, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the two towns of al-Zaghareed and al-Tali’a near Saqlawiyah, 17 kilometers north of Fallujah, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. ISF soldiers killed “dozens” of ISIS militants and destroyed two vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs).

On March 25, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) bombarded Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) positions on the outskirts of al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul. The artillery strikes killed 25 ISIS militants and destroyed a base.

On March 26, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) repelled an attack on the Ajil oilfield, east of Tikrit, Salah ad-Din province, by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The attack killed 30 ISIS militants and destroyed four of their vehicles but also caused the death of one ISF soldier.

On March 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) aircraft killed ISIS officer Muhammad Ahmad al-Shalaan Abu al-Harith al-Daesh. The strike took place south of Makhmour,Erbil province, 82 kilometers south of Mosul.

On March 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) officer Abu Abdullah and four of his aides. The operation took place in the Makhoul Mountains, east of Tikrit.

On March 28, Popular Mobilization Units cleared the villages of al-Maymara and al-Humuda, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The operation killed 17 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and is a part of the larger operation to recapture the city of Hit from ISIS.

On March 28, the Ninewa Operations Command announced that soldiers have opened up three safe corridors between villages south of Mosul and Makhmour, 80 kilometers south of Mosul. Of particular concern are families still within the Sultan Abdullah and Haji Ali villages, who may be used as human shields by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in future clashes.

On March 29, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and tribal fighters killed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) military officer and three of his aides. The killing took place during clearing operations in the villages of al-Subayhat and al-Rufa, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah. Due to other recent high-profile deaths in the ranks of ISIS, it is important to note that last week, International Coalition airstrikes killed Haji Imam, also known as Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, in Syria.

On March 30, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) officer Salman Ali Abdul and eight of his aides in an artillery attack. The attack occurred in in the Tel Ashayer village near al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul.

On March 30, F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) bombed Camp Ghazlani, an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) infantry training camp just south of Mosul. The strike killed 20 ISIS militants.

On March 30, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed Abu Zainab, the commander of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) forces in the town of al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul. The artillery strike hit a gathering of ISIS militants in the town, killing Zainab and five others.

The Latest on the Displacement Crisis in Iraq

On March 25, staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed aid to more than 12,000 displaced people in west Ramadi, Anbar province, that have fled fighting in the nearby city of Hit. Malek Baklouti, head of the ICRC’s Ramadi office, said that he witnessed “unprecedented levels of destruction” in the city. Head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq, Katharina Kitz, added that they are also extremely concerned about “thousands more people fleeing to remote, desert areas with little or no access to food, water, or health care”.

On March 26, a youth volunteer team known as “We Can” in Diyala province launched an initiative for providing treatment and medicine for the victims of the Taza chemical attacks in Kirkuk province. Media coordinator for “We Can”, Alaa Vlaijah, added that “government and local agencies have expressed support for the campaign in a humanitarian step towards helping women and children and consoling the families of the victims”.

On March 28, Diyala Provincial Council member Amal Omran announced the return of 360 displaced families to their homes in central Jalula, northeast of provincial capital Baquba. The Director of Jalula, Jacob Yusuf Ali, stated that more than 4,000 families have returned to the district since the start of the IDP rehabilitation program five months ago.

On March 28, the head of the Erbil branch of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, Howry Ihsan, reported that 357 families have left their homes in Mosul in light of the military operations to clear the city toward the district of Makhmur in Arbil. Ihsan added that the Erbil branch teams deployed in the region were able to provide these families with shelter as well as distribute food items, milk and children’s footwear.

On March 28, a member of the Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights Fadel al-Gharawi, announced that more than 500 families have been evacuated from southern Mosul, Ninewa province, as a result of the military operations by the Iraqi Security Forces and the International Coalition to reclaim the city from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Al-Ghawari added that Ninewa will witness a major wave of displacement in the coming days, warning of a humanitarian disaster since more than two million civilians reside in this province. Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Migration and Displacement, Hunayn Qadu, called on the Ninewa Provincial Council and the Ministry of Displacement and Migration to “move quickly and establish camps in order to receive the displaced as the operations progress in Mosul”.

Soccer Stadium Bombing

On March 25, a suicide bomber exploded during a soccer game in al-Eskandariya, in northern Babil. The suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt during the awards ceremony of the amateur match. Although Iraqi sources have reported lower death counts, the New York Times reported 41 deaths and 105 injured persons, a number of whom were members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Fadel al-Gharawi, member of Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights, condemned the attack, which was later claimed by ISIS. Furthermore, the Babil Provincial Council declared a state of public mourning for three days in honor of the attack’s victims.

World Leaders Visit Iraq

On March 26, on a visit to Baghdad, Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon thanked the Iraqi Security Forces, the Peshmerga, the Popular Mobilization Units, and the regional tribes for fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and providing security to Iraq. He said his coordinated visit with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and President of the Islamic Development Bank Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Madani represented the international commitment to supporting Iraq through its multifaceted challenges. Ban Ki-Moon said the international community is ready to support Iraqi reform projects, which he emphasized must empower women and youth. In addition, he called on international partners to support development in Iraq. During the same event, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that the World Bank has allocated $250 million for reconstruction of areas destroyed by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in Iraq. Also, President of the Islamic Development Bank Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Madani announced that the Islamic Development Bank was ready to support rehabilitation and reconstruction projects implemented by the Iraqi government.

Iraqi Forces Launch Operation to Clear Hit from ISIS

On March 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and tribal fighters began the operation to take back the city of Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Joint forces are approaching the city from both the south and the east and will receive air support from the International Coalition. Already, the operation saw the clearing of the police headquarters of Hit, killing dozens of ISIS militants.

ISIS Executes Civilians in Fallujah

On March 30, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 35 people attempting to escape the city of Fallujah, 57 kilometers west of Baghdad. ISIS has threatened to “cut off the heads and destroy the homes” of anyone who attempts to leave the city.

Prime Minister Proposes New Structuring and List for Cabinet of Ministers

On March 31, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that his new cabinet will include 14 new ministers, while the Ministers of the Interior and Defense will retain their posts. Prime Minister al-Abadi also announced his plans for merging some ministries, including the Ministry of Finance with Planning, the Ministry of Industry with Trade, the Ministry of Transportation with Communications, the Ministry of Youth with Culture, and the Ministry of Water Resources with Agriculture. The Prime Minister called on the Council of Representatives — which must approve the changes — to “assist the government in completing the ministerial reforms and restructuring.”

The full list of new ministers nominated by Prime Minister al-Abadi includes:

Ministry of the Interior – Mohammad al-Ghabban (no change)
Ministry of Defense – Khalid al-Obeidi (no change)
Ministry of Finance and Planning – Ali Allawi
Ministry of Oil – Nizar Salim Numan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Sharif Ali bin Hussein
Ministry of Electricity – Ala’a Disher Zamil
Ministry of Higher Education – Abdul Razzal al-’Issa
Ministry of Education – Ali Salih al-Jubouri
Ministry of Justice – Mohammad Hussein Nasrallah
Ministry of Agriculture and Water – Hassan al-Janabi
Ministry of Transport and Communication – Yousif Ali al-Assadi
Ministry of Labor and Immigration – Wafaa Ja’far al-Mahdawi
Ministry of Health and the Environment – Alaa Ghani Mubarak
Ministry of Youth and Culture – Aqil Mahdi al-Gharban
Ministry of Housing, Construction, and Municipalities – Hoshyar Rasul Amin
Ministry of Industry and Trade – Vacant

Prime Minister al-Abadi said of his nominees: “They were chosen on the basis of professionalism, competence, integrity and leadership ability.”

Also this week, the Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr camped inside Baghdad’s Green Zone to protest corruption. This move was widely met with skepticism as al-Sadr’s own ministers have had a reputation of being among the most corrupt. Moreover, Muqtada al-Sadr’s chief demand — that Prime Minister al-Abadi replace Iraq’s current government with technocrats of al-Sadr’s own choosing — is seen by many as a grab for power. Nevertheless, responding to concerns of protests and unrest, there are reports that Iraqi security forces have had to divert men from the front lines of the fight against ISIS to provide additional security in Baghdad.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
target="_blank"03/25/16Nahrawan,
Southeast of Baghdad
26
target="_blank">03/25/16al-Bayaa,
Southern Baghdad
27
03/25/16Furat,
West of Baghdad
15
03/25/16al-Iskandariya,
South of Baghdad
41105
03/26/16al-Tuwaitha,
Southeast of Baghdad
15
03/26/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
22
03/26/16Abu Ghraib,
West of Baghdad
18
03/26/16al-Bayaa,
Southern Baghdad
16
03/26/16Hayy al-Raay,
Southwestern Baghdad
17
03/26/16al-Sulaikh,
Northern Baghdad
11
03/27/16Yusufiyah,
South of Baghdad
29
03/27/16Talbiyah,
Eastern Baghdad
16
03/27/16Taji,
North of Baghdad
13
03/27/16Tal Muhammad,
Eastern Baghdad
25
03/28/16Mahmudiya,
South of Baghdad
27
03/28/16al-Gazaliyah,
Western Baghdad
10
03/28/16Camp Sarah,
Central Baghdad
17
03/28/16al-Za’franiyah,
Southeastern Baghdad
26
03/29/16Tayaran Square,
Central Baghdad
723
03/29/16Sabaa al-Bour,
Northwest of Baghdad
210
03/29/16Tobchi,
Northwestern Baghdad
15
03/30/16al-Mashtal,
Eastern Baghdad
16
03/30/16Dora,
Southern Baghdad
12
03/30/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
16
03/30/16Sha'ab,
Northeastern Baghdad
27
03/31/16al-Nasr,
Eastern Baghdad
10
03/31/16Abu Ghar,
South of Nasiriya
01
03/31/16al-Tarmia,
North of Baghdad
37
03/31/16Abu Ghraib,
West of Baghdad
13
03/31/16Furat,
Southwestern Baghdad
26
03/31/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeast of Baghdad
15

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. 56) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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