ISHM 57: April 1 – 7, 2016

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  • On Monday, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched 5 suicide bomb attacks on an Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) military checkpoint near al-Baghdadi, northwest of Ramadi, killing 11 ISF members and injuring 4 others. On Tuesday, the head of Hit’s District Council announced that, with the help of US-led international coalition air support, ISF and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) have cleared ISIS from 70% of the nearby town of Hit. Held by ISIS since October 2014, Hit sits on the Euphrates River along a major supply route used by ISIS. Meanwhile in Ninewa province, joint security forces, including ISF, PMUs, anti-ISIS tribal fighters, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and US-led international coalition forces, continued to make slow progress against ISIS with the retaking of the village of al-Nasr, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, being among the most notable gains.
  • Last Friday, Rajeh Barakat al-Issawi, a tribal leader and member of Anbar’s Provincial Council, said that 6,000 displaced families have returned to Ramadi. Today, UNHCR in Iraq reported that the total number of returning families to Ramadi has now reached 7,000. This week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) received a donation of US$4.5 million (4 million EUR) from the Federal Republic of Germany to promote community policing in areas cleared of ISIS. The IOM also received US$4 million from the Government of Japan to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Syrian refugees in Iraq, along with host communities.
  • The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reports that in March more than 1,100 Iraqis were killed and another 1,560 were injured. Those numbers include 575 civilians killed and 1,196 injured. This marks a rise in violence from February’s totals of 670 fatalities (including 410 civilians) and 1,290 injured (including 1,050 civilians).
  • One day after Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi’s March 31 announcement of his nominees for a new streamlined cabinet of 16 ministers, his choice for the Ministry of Oil, Nizar Numan, withdrew his candidacy. Dr. Numan said that his nomination “should have been cleared with the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani, and within a political agreement” with the central government in Iraq. Yesterday, the nominee for the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Ali Alawi, also withdrew his candidacy, warning that the political “bickering” will doom the comprehensive reform effort. It is important to mention that this week, PM Abadi received a US congressional delegation that included Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce. The delegation confirmed the US support of the Prime Minister’s reform plans and his anti-corruption measures.
  • This week, a delegation of Iraqi businessmen met for two days in Amman, Jordan to sign the Iraqi Economic Forum (IEF), which calls for Iraq’s openness to foreign investments, accelerated reconstruction efforts, and further involving women in economic development. However, Iraq’s economic crisis continues. A scholar from Baghdad University, Shurooq Kadhem, revealed that the poverty rate in Iraq now exceeds 22 percent. A public official with Iraq’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) indicated that there are approximately seven to eight million Iraqis who are in urgent need of assistance through poverty relief programs.
  • Kurdistan’s Ministry of Health launched a polio vaccination campaign in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The campaign is targeting more than 876,000 children under age of five, including IDPs and refugee children in camps across the Kurdistan region.
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that tens of thousands of civilians are at risk of mass starvation in the besieged city of Fallujah and being prevented from escape by ISIS. Supply routes to the ISIS-held city have been cut since March. While Iraqi security forces have created escape corridors for residents seeking to leave the city, ISIS militants have executed residents who attempt to escape. Meanwhile, according to one official, at least 140 residents who he was in touch with have already died from starvation, including children and the elderly. Residents are reportedly resorting to eating bread made of ground date seeds and soup made with grass. Whatever food that remains in the city is being sold at exorbitant prices. One mother reportedly drowned herself and her children out of despair. Iraqi security forces must prioritize either providing necessary aid to the civilians who remain in Fallujah, or doing more to help the remaining civilians escape and seek shelter elsewhere.

The Battle Against ISIS in Iraq

On April 1, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared al-Basatin, al-Asklat, and Da’rat al-Murur, villages both north and south of the city of Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. ISF soldiers killed 19 ISIS militants, including four suicide bombers.

On April 1, Joint Forces with air support from the International Coalition cleared the al-Askari neighborhood of the city of Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, of ISIS militants. The operation has killed 60 militants thus far. The head of the Hit District Council, Mohammed Mohanad al-Hiti, announced that in 48 hours he expected the city to be completely under Iraqi control.

On April 2, ISF killed a total of 41 ISIS militants in three different operations in Ninewa province. Twenty three ISIS militants were killed by artillery near Makhmour, 72 kilometers south of Mosul, 6 were killed in a failed suicide bombing on the front lines south of Mosul, and 12 were killed near the village of al-Nasr, near al-Qayyarah.

On April 3, the joint forces of the ISF and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) cleared the al-Amarat neighborhood of southwestern Hit. The operation killed 22 ISIS militants and destroyed 5 vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs).

On April 3, Head of Hit District Council Mohammed Mohannad al-Hiti warned that ISIS was beginning to mobilize its militants to attack the town of al-Baghdadi, northwest of Ramadi, and other recaptured areas nearby. President al-Hiti elaborated, saying he believed that intelligence shows that ISIS may advance on the town so as to bolster its supply lines with areas farther west, such as al-Qa’im and Rutba.

On April 3, the ISF cleared the Aqnan area west of Hit of ISIS militants. The operation resulted in the deaths of 20 ISIS militants, three mortars, and three VBIEDs. In addition, ISF soldiers killed Nory Mofleh Saud Namrawi, a judge practicing Sharia law under ISIS.

On April 3, the International Coalition bombed a group of ISIS militants near al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul. The strike killed 30 militants and wounded dozens of others.

On April 4, five suicide bombings rocked the town of al-Baghdadi. The attacks were composed of two VBIEDs at an apartment complex and three terrorists wearing belts of explosives at a checkpoint. The bombings killed 11 ISF soldiers and wounded four others.

On April 4, the ISF cleared the Amina area of western Hit of ISIS militants. The operation killed 18 ISIS militants and resulted in the raising of the Iraqi flag over the area.

On April 4, the ISF cleared the neighborhoods of al-Basayir and al-Mulemin in central Hit of ISIS militants. The operations killed “dozens” of ISIS militants and destroyed many civilian and ISIS-owned vehicles.

On April 4, ISF and PMUs cleared the village of al-Nasr, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, of ISIS militants. Joint forces are currently working to remove improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from houses and roads. However, the operation saw the death of PMU commander Faris Sabawi, who was seriously injured during the battle.

On April 5, the Anbar Operations Command reported that ISIS is beginning to mobilize for its second attack in 24 hours on the town of al-Baghdadi. The ISF have heightened security in the town and at its entrances.

On April 5, the ISF evacuated over 1,000 families from different areas in the Hit district. The families have been taken to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Kilu and the al-Wafa sub-district, just west of Ramadi, to be provided with food and humanitarian aid.

On April 5, Head of Hit District Council Mohammed Mohannad al-Hiti announced that joint security forces, with air support from the International Coalition, now have control of over 70% of the city of Hit. ISIS reportedly only controls about 5 square kilometers of the city and will soon be dealt a final blow as joint security forces soldiers prepare to cross the Euphrates River.

On April 6, Major General Najim Abed al-Jubouri, commander of the Ninewa Operations Center, reported that joint forces of the ISF, Peshmerga, tribal forces, and PMUs have killed 70 ISIS militants and wounded dozens more in recent military operations near the village of al-Nasr. It is also important to note that these operations saw the destruction of seven ISIS car bombs containing chlorine gas.

On April 6, the International Coalition bombed a training site for ISIS snipers in central Mosul near the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri. The strike killed 50 ISIS militants and completely destroyed the site.

On April 7, the International Coalition bombed ISIS positions in the town of al-Mahana near Makhmour, 72 kilometers southeast of Mosul. The strike resulted in the deaths of 35 ISIS militants, including foreigners who came to Iraq to join the terrorist organization.

On April 7, the International Coalition bombed a tunnel used by ISIS to move between the villages of al-Nasr and Mawazin. The strike killed 40 ISIS militants who were within the tunnel and completely destroyed the tunnel itself.

On April 7, joint security forces cleared the areas of al-Shafuqa and al-Basatin of downtown Hit of ISIS militants. The operations killed dozens of ISIS militants and are clearing the streets of the areas of IEDs.

On April 7, the International Coalition bombed a laboratory where ISIS has reportedly been manufacturing chlorine gas-filled rockets in the village of Saidiyah, near the town of al-Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul. The strike killed 30 ISIS militants and completely destroyed the chemical weapons laboratory.


Thousands of Displaced Iraqis Return to Their Homes

On April 1, a tribal leader and member of Anbar’s Provincial capital, Rajeh Barakat al-Issawi, announced the return of 6,000 displaced families to the city of Ramadi within the past 48 hours, adding that more groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be arriving shortly. Issawi further said that, “all safe areas of Ramadi have been cleaned from IEDs, booby-trapped houses have been dismantled, and roads have been rehabilitated.”

On April 1, the Government of Japan donated US$4 million to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq to support internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. Around US$3.5 million will be used to fund the IOM project: Integrated Emergency Response and Community Revitalization plan for Internally Displaced Persons, Returnees, and Host Communities across Iraq. The project largely focuses on building transitional shelters from local materials for IDPs and returnee communities; providing primary, maternal and child health care to communities that have limited access to health service through mobile medical teams; and conducting community-based social cohesion activities. Another US$500,000 will be used for the project “Emergency and Livelihood Assistance to Syrian Refugees in Iraq,” which aims to help vulnerable Syrian refugee and host community households in Iraq.

On April 4, the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) launched a three-month campaign to raise US$2 million for an emergency relief program that will aid the thousands of displaced families in Anbar province over a period of six months. Head of QRCS Disaster Management, Aiham al-Sukhni, said that there are plans to “provide shelter and non-food aid for 4,000 families at a cost of US$650,000, clean water and hygiene facilities for 8,000 families (US$500,000), medical care and health education for 8,000 families (US$650,000), and food packages for 8,000 families (US$200,000).

On April 4, the United Nations (UN), in light of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, expressed concern for the safety of civilians returning home to liberated areas that are contaminated with explosives. The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said that “the level of IED contamination in newly liberated areas is unparalleled,” while affirming the UN’s commitment to helping Iraqis rid themselves from the threat of mines and other remnants of war.

On April 4, 365 families returned to the Jalula district located in the northeast of the provincial capital of Baquba, Diyala province. Director of Jalula, Yacoub Yusuf, said that this is the last wave of returnees from al-Oruba neighborhood. Next Saturday there will be a second wave of returnees from al-Talee’a al-Thaniya neighborhood.

On April 5, the Government of Germany donated 4 million euros to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Iraq in order to promote community policing in liberated areas as part of its project, “Strengthening Community Policing in Iraq,” which will run between March 2016 and December 2017. Through community policing in Iraq, the IOM facilitates efforts that advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in liberated areas. The project will be implemented in the provinces of Anbar, Babil, Baghdad, Basra, Diyala, Dohuk, Erbil, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Sulaimania.

On April 6, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s office reported that a letter from new Chinese Ambassador to Iraq Chen Weiqing indicated China will increase aid to Iraq by 160 million yuan (US$24.7 million).


Iraqi Casualties in March Up from February

On April 1, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) recorded a total of 1,119 fatalities (including 575 civilians) and another 1,561 injured (including 1,196 civilians) in acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict in Iraq in March 2016. The overall casualty figures are up from February, when a total of 670 Iraqis were killed and 1,290 were injured. The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, expressed concern over the continuing violence and loss of life and injury in Iraq.


Two Nominees for Prime Minister Abadi’s New Cabinet Withdraw their Candidacies

On April 1, Nizar Numan, nominee for the position of Iraqi Oil Minister, withdrew his candidacy on the grounds that it had not been cleared with the Kurdish presidency.

On April 1, Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Migration and Displacement Raed al-Dihalki called on Prime Minister Abadi to reconsider merging the Ministry of Migration with the Ministry of Labor on the grounds that a single ministry would not be sufficient to manage the displacement and unemployment crises.

On April 4, Prime Minister Abadi received a US congressional delegation including Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce and Committee member Lois Frankel, as well as US Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones. The delegation expressed US support for Iraqi reforms, international capital recovery, and anti-corruption measures.

On April 6, Ali Alawi withdrew his nomination for the position of Minister of Finance and Planning due to “bickering” between political factions which he says will inevitably doom the comprehensive reforms.


While the Iraqi Economic Forum Kicks off, Poverty Rate Exceeds 22%

On April 2, Governor of Muthanna, Abdulhassan Ziyadi, said the Russian LUKOIL company began drilling the first exploration oil well south of Samawa.

On April 4, twelve representatives of Iraqi industry, banking, and international commerce met for two days in Jordan to sign the Iraqi Economic Forum (IEF) into being. The IEF seeks to open the Iraqi economy to foreign investment and development. In addition to calling for accelerated reconstruction, the IEF urged parliament “to adopt a national program to support women and to find investment opportunities for women.”

On April 5, official Iraqi statistics revealed that the poverty rate in Iraq currently exceeds 22%, meaning that there are approximately seven to eight million impoverished Iraqis that should be targeted by poverty relief programs, according to Jamal Bilal, Director General of the Social Protection Authority. Experts attribute the high poverty rate in recent years to low oil prices and an unclear government strategy for tackling unemployment.

On April 5, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission to Iraq Christian Josz confirmed that despite a mis-estimation of Iraqi oil production and revenues for 2015, the IMF had not changed its intent to move forward with negotiating a US$15 billion aid package to be disbursed over three years. Initial reports estimated an average 3.3 million barrels exported per day at an average price of US$56/barrel. He corrected these figures to 3 million barrels and US$48/barrel, representing a 27% (US$14 billion) reduction in revenues.


A Campaign to Fight Polio in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

On April 3, Iraqi Kurdistan’s Ministry of Health launched a vaccination campaign against polio in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), highlighting that the campaign targets more than 876,000 children under age of five, including internally displaced children and refugees and will last for four days.


Tens of Thousands of Civilians in Fallujah At Risk of Starvation

On April 7, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch (HRW) Joe Stork stated, “The people of Fallujah are besieged by the government, trapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and are starving.” Stork added, “The warring parties should make sure that aid reaches the civilian population.” Since the recapture of the nearby provincial capital Ramadi in Anbar province by government forces in late December 2015, and the al-Jazira desert north of Fallujah in March 2016, supply routes have been cut off from the city. Tens of thousands of civilians from an original population of more than 300,000 remain inside Fallujah. Iraqi activists have reported that people have been reduced to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups made from grass, and the little food that remains is being sold at very high prices. In late March 2016, a Fallujah medical source told HRW that starving children arrive at the local hospital each day and that most foodstuffs are no longer available at any price. While the laws of war do not prohibit sieges of a belligerent’s military forces, they do prohibit starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare, which is a war crime. HRW also reported that civilians in Fallujah have suffered considerable harm from fighting, with an unconfirmed medical source saying that 5,769 combatants and civilians have been injured and 3,455 killed since January 2014. Approximately one-fourth of them were women and children. While the siege of Fallujah has stalled, PMUs have been focusing on rescuing civilians who attempt to escape starvation in the city.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
04/01/16Makhmour,
Southeast of Mosul
32
04/01/16Husseiniya,
North of Baghdad
18
04/01/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
26
04/01/16al-Suwaib,
Southeastern Baghdad
17
04/01/16Nahrawan,
Southeast of Baghdad
26
04/02/16Amiriyah,
Western Baghdad
17
04/02/16Dora,
Southern Baghdad
16
04/02/16Baladiyat,
Eastern Baghdad
10
04/02/16al-Tarmia,
North of Baghdad
49
04/02/16al-Saidiya,
Southern Baghdad
25
04/02/16al-Wardia,
South of Baghdad
25
04/03/16Taji,
North of Baghdad
28
04/03/16Yusufiyah,
South of Baghdad
14
04/03/16Hayy Al-A'amel,
Southwestern Baghdad
17
04/04/16Muthanna Bridge,
Northern Baghdad
17
04/04/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
14
04/04/16al-Khoura,
Central Basra
612
04/04/16Nasiriya,
South of Baghdad
424
04/04/16al-Gazaliyah,
Western Baghdad
26
04/04/16al-Za’franiyah,
Southeastern Baghdad
13
04/05/16al-Sha’ab,
Northeastern Baghdad
16
04/05/16Mahmudiya,
South of Baghdad
27
04/05/16New Baghdad,
Eastern Baghdad
29
04/05/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
15
04/05/16al-Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
17
04/06/16al-Wahda,
Southern Baghdad
17
04/06/16al-Sebaa,
Central Baghdad
16
04/06/16Hayy al-Raay,
Southwestern Baghdad
24
04/06/16al-Shuhada,
Southern Baghdad
16
04/06/16al-Adhamiyah,
Northeastern Baghdad
12
04/07/16Abu Ghraib,
West of Baghdad
28
04/07/16'Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
23
04/07/16Husseiniya,
North of Baghdad
15
04/07/16Nahrawan,
Southeast of Baghdad
16
04/07/16Tobchi,
Western Baghdad
27
04/07/16Furat,
Western Baghdad
27

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s report (ISHM No. 57) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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