ISHM: January 27 – February 2, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • President Trump’s Executive Order Banning Travel, Refugee Resettlement Condemned by Iraq – The Iraqi Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel and refugee resettlement ban issued on January 27. The resolution called for a reciprocal ban on admissions of U.S. citizens to Iraq. Citing potential detriment to ongoing security and humanitarian operations, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that he would not enforce the resolution, but has joined a chorus of Iraqi officials to condemn the ban. Former Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily called the ban a “betrayal” and stated that it is incongruent with Mr. Trump’s promise of support for Iraq in the battle against ISIS. Reports of Iraqi citizens detrimentally impacted by the ban have been widespread, including one reported by Shafaaq news on the separation of a 2-year-old Iraqi boy in the United States for medical treatment from his parents, who temporarily traveled to Iraq and now cannot return for his procedure. (see our statement on the Executive Order) more…
  • PMUs Repositioning in Ninewa as Plans for Western Mosul Continue to Develop – On January 27, Popular Mobilization Units aided by the Iraqi Air Force were assigned to clear ISIS militants from the city of Tal Afar, 70 kilometers west of Mosul. Later in the week, airstrikes on militant positions in the city reportedly killed 62 ISIS militants and destroyed several missile launchers. PMUs began operations to clear the road between Tal Afar and Sinjar, a 50 kilometer stretch, as well as the road between Mosul and Sharqat. In anticipation of impending operations to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants, the Iraqi Air Force dropped millions of leaflets over that part of the city on January 30, warning residents to prepare. Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul, a spokesman for Mosul operations, announced on February 2 that operations will continue into the west after an order is received from commander-in-chief Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The plan is expected to involve Army units and Iraq’s elite Counter-terrorism Service approaching from the east and Federal Police from the west, while PMUs and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga continue to interdict ISIS supply chains west of the city. more…
  • IDPs Continue to Repopulate Eastern Mosul as Conditions Worsen in the West – Approximately 36,000 IDPs have returned to their homes in eastern Mosul and the surrounding area, including at least 10,000 individuals in the past week. Returns are actively encouraged and in some cases incentivized by government officials (despite lingering concern over IED placement and lack of access to basic necessities) in order to make room for anticipated displacements from western Mosul. In that half of the city, ISIS militants recently instituted a curfew, and continue to restrict water, food, and other essentials as a result of interdicted supply lines. The desperate situation has led some families to pay smugglers to transport them across the Tigris River by boat, but ISIS militants are torturing and executing anyone caught trying to escape. more…
  • Facing Outsized Need, Government and Aid Agencies Forced to Restrict Relief – The World Food Program announced on January 27 that funding shortages and payment delays from donor countries have forced the international agency to cut its donation of monthly food rations in half, seriously affecting up to 1.4 million displaced Iraqis. Separately, the World Health Organization may soon be forced to restrict its work in assisting IDPs from Mosul as only $14 million of a requested $65 million has been received (approximately 21%). On January 29, the Kurdistan Regional Government issued a statement pleading for international assistance to “minimize a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the lack of proper shelter and medical care for civilians” also due to funding shortfalls. more…
  • Diyala Province Sees Significant Uptick in Violence – Relatively peaceful portions of Diyala Province have seen a significant uptick in attempted IED attacks over the past few weeks, raising concern of a new level of ISIS infiltration of the area. On January 31, Police Chief of Diyala Province, Major General Jassim al-Saadi, reported the start of operations to clear ISIS militants from several districts in the northern part of the province. Police forces have reported several encounters with ISIS militants at a checkpoint on the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces, and early last week, ISIS militants used IEDs to attack electric infrastructure in Qarah Tebah, 80 kilometers northeast of Baquba, which cut power to over 80,000 homes. more…
  • After Extended Vacancies, Defense and Interior Ministers Approved – On January 29, the Iraqi Parliament approved Qasim al-Araji to be Minister of the Interior and Irfan Hayali to be Minister of Defense. Araji is aligned with the Iranian-backed Badr Corps while Hayali has served in various positions in the Ministry of Defense since 2006. The position of Interior Minister has been vacant since July 2016, following the resignation of Mohammed al-Ghabban prompted by the July 3 bombing of the Karadah neighborhood of Baghdad. The position of Defense Minister has been vacant since August 2016 after Parliament passed a vote of no confidence, ousting Khaled al-Obeidi from the post. This week, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also put forward Inam al-Obeidi to be Minister of Commerce, Najim al-Din Mohsin to be Minister of Industry, and then Yusif Ali al-Sadi to be Minister of Industry – all of whom were rejected by Parliament. 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.

President Trump’s Executive Order Banning Travel, Refugee Resettlement Condemned by Iraq

On January 28, United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order limiting immigration and the granting of refugee status from several Muslim majority countries, including Iraq. Mac McEachin, a national security policy associate at the International Refugee Assistance Project, criticized the order as a “tactical error” because of its broadness. Indeed, the order overlooks programs utilized to build security and intelligence networks throughout Iraq. One such program allows interpreters and informants to come to the United States in exchange for their assistance. McEachin contends that prohibiting this will alienate many Iraqis helping U.S.-led international coalition forces combating the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), making efforts to expel the group from Iraq that much more arduous.

On January 31, the Iraqi Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, instituting their own reciprocal ban. While the reciprocal ban will not be implemented, as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi does not want to jeopardize the ongoing security and humanitarian operations, its proposal demonstrates the impact President Trump’s new policy is having on the internal politics of Iraq. A deteriorating relationship between the two countries will harm security efforts.

On January 31, certain Popular Mobilization Units called on the government to expel all U.S. nationals. Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr blasted Trump’s decision, stating that it was “arrogant” to not expect similar treatment elsewhere and encouraged Iraqi Parliament to retaliate. Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki took a more measured response, requesting that the Trump administration reconsider its policy regarding Iraqi nationals and called the new policy, “surprising.” Maliki continued to state that it is necessary for the two countries to maintain strong bilateral relations while the fight against ISIS continues. Maliki’s response is noteworthy as he postures for Iraq’s upcoming 2018 elections as a viable alternative to Moqtada al-Sadr and Prime Minister Abadi.

On January 31, former Iraqi ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily, who himself is affected by the new policy, called the immigration ban a “betrayal” and stated that it affects “Iraqis from every walk of life,” claiming that it goes too far. Faily also stated that President Trump’s promise of support for Iraq in the battle against ISIS is incongruent with the travel ban, and that this tension demonstrates the United States’s lack of forward thinking and clarity concerning what they ultimately “want Iraq to be.”

On February 1, Iraqi families separated due to President Trump’s executive order on immigration are already experiencing the tragic effects of the legislation. A two year old Iraqi boy named Dilbreen and his father were flown to the U.S. so that Dilbreen could receive medical treatment after a heater exploded in the refugee camp in which he was living. He suffered severe burns and now risks losing his sight. After his first round of surgery, his father flew back to Iraq to welcome the birth of his youngest son, but has not been able to re-enter the U.S. since President Trump’s executive order was signed. Dilbreen cannot have his second surgery, one that could save his eyesight, without his parents present. The nonprofit organization Road to Peace helped Dilbreen get the proper medical attention he needs, and are currently working with lawyers to try and get special visas for Dilbreen’s family before his next surgery which is scheduled for February 5.

PMUs Repositioning in Ninewa as Plans for Western Mosul Continue to Develop

On January 27, Abdel Amir Yarallah, Commander of Operations to clear Mosul of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, stated in a panel discussion of security leaders that as the fight for Mosul continues, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the Iraqi Air Force would be assigned to clear Tal Afar, 70 kilometers west of Mosul. He explained that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), police, and federal Counter-Terrorism Services (CTS) are tasked with clearing the west side of Mosul, and local police and volunteers are assigned to secure territory already cleared of ISIS.

On January 28, the Joint Special Operations Command of the ISF issued an arrest warrant for Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Ninewa Province. Nujaifi is the head of the Ninewa Guards, a PMU, and is a controversial political figure in part due to his friendship with Turkey, as well as the Kurdish President, Masoud Barzani.   

On January 29, French and Iraqi security forces showed reporters a warehouse in east Mosul containing mustard gas and more than a dozen surface-to-surface missiles. The warehouse is located approximately two kilometers east of the Tigris. Evidence of other chemical weapons has been found south of Mosul, as well as in the University laboratories.

On January 30, Iraqi Air Force planes dropped millions of leaflets on western Mosul, warning civilians to prepare for the oncoming operation by the ISF. There has not yet been an official announcement stating when the anticipated operation to clear western Mosul will begin.

On January 29, Sami al-Masoudi, a PMU leader, announced that the road from Mosul to Sharqat (100 kilometers south of Mosul) has been cleared. Masoudi reported the deaths of dozens of ISIS militants during the process of clearing the road.

On January 31, the Military Intelligence Directorate reported air strikes on Tal Afar, 50 kilometers west of Mosul, resulting in the deaths of 62 ISIS militants. The dead reportedly include Russian citizens, and the air strikes also destroyed ISIS equipment such as missile-carrying platforms.

On January 31, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed a budget memorandum noting adjustments to the current 2017 defense budget, in due to “new requirements driven by acceleration of the campaign against ISIS.” These adjustments may include shifting funding from “lower priority programs” as well as adding new funding to support existing armed forces structures and readiness.

On February 1, PMUs in Ninewa Province began an operation to clear the road between Tal Afar and Sinjar, a 50 kilometer stretch starting 75 kilometers west of Mosul. Joint Operations Command has tasked the PMUs involved in Ninewa with clearing Tal Afar and the surrounding areas. The same day, the Iraqi Air Force killed 20 militants and destroyed various equipment in airstrikes 20 kilometers west of Tal Afar.

On February 1, a missile strike by PMUs killed Abdul Karim, an ISIS leader, on the outskirts of Tal Afar. Karim was the leader responsible for the treatment of Yazidi captives, as well as the bombings of multiple Shia mosques.

On February 1, PMUs and Kurdish Peshmerga forces joined up between Sinjar and Tal Afar, west of Mosul. Brigade 53 of the PMUs and portions of the Peshmerga will form a joint cover of the area, helping prevent retreat by ISIS militants from Mosul.

On February 2, Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul, a spokesman for Joint Operations Command, announced the completion of plans to clear western Mosul, mentioning that they include using the U.S.-led international coalition as air support and relying on PMUs and Peshmerga to stop ISIS supply chains to the west. Rasoul stated that the operation to clear Mosul is now waiting on the order from the Commander in Chief, Prime Minister Haider al-abadi. U.S.-led international coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorian stated that while it is still expected to be a violent fight, many of the more experienced and efficient leaders of ISIS have been killed, weakening the ISIS military structure.

IDPs Continue to Repopulate Eastern Mosul as Conditions Worsen in the West

Jan. 27 Jan. 28 Jan. 29 Jan. 30 Jan. 31 Feb. 1 Feb. 2
Total IDPs 158,772 160,422 161,208 162,600 163,176 164,178 161,178
Daily Net Change -234 +1,650 +786 +1,392 +576 +1,002 -3,000

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Displaced from Mosul and Surrounding Areas Since Military Operations Began on October 17.
Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM).

On January 28, the Chaldean Church of Iraq announced that 1,300 Christian families have expressed their desire to return to their homes in Baqufah 31 kilometers north of Mosul, Telskuf 33 kilometers north of Mosul, and Batnay 27 kilometers north of Mosul. Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants looted and destroyed many Christian churches and homes, leaving many Christian residents unable to return to normal life. Chaldean Church representatives also called for humanitarian assistance from the United States, the European Union, and the Iraqi government in the form of investment in jobs and reconstruction of homes and infrastructure.

On January 29, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) reported that more than 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their homes in eastern Mosul. IRCS teams registered a total of 10,125 returnees from Khazar camp, located 47 kilometers northeast of Mosul, and Hassan Sham camp, located 32 kilometers east of Mosul. IRCS teams also distributed 1,000 ready-to-eat meals, 350 food parcels, blankets, mattresses, and stoves to IDPs still housed in Khazar camp. Established in 1932, the IRCS is an “independent national humanitarian society” that seeks to provide relief to those suffering in times of “peace, war, natural disasters, and non-natural disasters” by providing medical assistance and disaster relief, searching for missing persons, and providing first aid training to volunteers to prepare them for emergency situations.

On January 29, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) discovered a mass grave containing the corpses of 27 civilians, including children, in the village of al-Kibati located on the outskirts of northeastern Mosul. ISF believe that ISIS militants executed the civilians. Details about the victims including their identities, ages, and circumstances of their deaths are unknown.  

On January 29, an anonymous source reported that ISIS militants are forcing women to wear Afghan military uniforms and carry weapons in the Salahal neighborhood in western Mosul. ISIS militants are also forcing men to take up arms and participate in the fight against the ISF. Reports indicate that ISIS militants killed at least three women in the al-Rifai neighborhood when they refused to comply.

On January 29, the WHO, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the Iraqi Ministry of Health have partnered to ensure that children in newly cleared areas of Mosul and the surrounding area have access to vaccinations, particularly the polio vaccination. Due to ISIS violence, many children in eastern Mosul were not able to receive the health services they needed, including vaccinations. In December 2016, the WHO, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health launched an emergency initiative that provided more than 540,000 children with polio and measles vaccines. They plan to launch additional campaigns in 2017 to provide 600,000 Iraqis in Mosul and an additional 6 million Iraqis throughout Iraq with the polio vaccine.  

On January 30, Save the Children, a UK-based non-governmental organization (NGO) established in 1919, estimated that nearly 350,000 children could be trapped in “siege-like” conditions in western Mosul, and that there are currently no safe routes for families to flee. Supply routes to western Mosul have been cut off for months and bridges connecting eastern Mosul to western Mosul have been destroyed. Families in western Mosul face starvation and artillery fire if they stay, and face possible kidnapping and execution if they try to flee. Humanitarian access to western Mosul remains unavailable, however, Save the Children is currently operating out of Hammam al-Alil, a town located 25 kilometers south of Mosul, providing psychological support, water, and educational services to children in the town and in eastern Mosul.  

On January 30, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported that 3,200 IDPs were able to return to their homes in eastern Mosul, adding that it expects to see the number of returnees increase in the coming weeks. The ministry provided 26 trucks and 11 buses to transport the IDP families and their belongings from Khazar camp, located 47 kilometers northeast of Mosul, and Hassan Sham cap, located 32 kilometers east of Mosul.

On January 31, civilians who have escaped western Mosul recalled living conditions inside the city and their desperate journey to eastern Mosul. Residents of western Mosul face food shortages, soaring prices for basic household items, water and petroleum shortages, little to no access to health services, and the ongoing threat of ISIS violence. Residents have resorted to digging wells to collect ground water, however, this water is often contaminated. In addition, ISIS militants execute anyone they catch trying to flee the city, which has led some to entrusting smugglers to help them escape, paying US$200 at minimum to make it across the Tigris by boat. The UN and its partners predict that the humanitarian situation will get worse in the coming weeks as operations to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants begin.

On January 31, an IED killed three children in western Mosul when they tried to enter a booby-trapped home. ISIS militants often booby-trap homes that have been vacated by IDPs as an act of revenge against the returnee families, and in order to make clearing neighborhoods of IEDs more difficult.  

On January 31, an anonymous source reported that ISIS militants have issued a curfew for residents in western Mosul. Residents are prohibited from leaving their homes from five o’clock in the evening until five o’clock in the morning. While residents do not know the reason for the new curfew, some speculate that ISIS militants use this time to transfer weapons across western Mosul.

On February 1, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reiterated the great need for additional emergency sites for IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area. Chief of Mission for the IOM, Thomas Lothar Weiss, announced that IOM will partner with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration to design the new emergency sites. The designs will include an improved drainage system and tent structure.

On February 2, IOM reported that 161,178 IPDs are displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area since operations to clear the city of ISIS militants began on October 17, 2016, a net increase of 2,172 IPDs since January 26. Seventy percent of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area are housed in emergency camps, 15% live in private settings, 14% live in emergency sites, and 1% live in critical shelter arrangements. Cumulatively, nearly 200,000 IDPs have been impacted by the crisis in Mosul since it began in October 2016. However, to date nearly 36,000 IDPs have returned to their homes.

Facing Outsized Need, Government and Aid Agencies Forced to Restrict Relief

On January 27, the World Food Programme announced that it halved its donation of monthly food rations, affecting 1.4 million Iraqis, due to funding shortages and payment delays from donor countries. Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) are concerned that the rations are insufficient, noting that in some cases, “they are giving an entire family the food supply of one person.” The World Food Programme, a UN partner and voluntarily funded, provides food aid in emergency situations caused by war, civil conflict, or natural disasters.

On January 29, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that 161,208 IDPs are currently displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area since operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants began on October 17, 2016. UNOCHA also reported that water scarcity is the greatest concern for residents in eastern Mosul. UN humanitarian partners are sending 1,300 m3  each day to civilians, however, this measure is only a temporary solution. In Ninewa and Dohuk Provinces, the World Health Organization (WHO) also donated 15 Interagency Emergency Health Kits enough to treat 15,000 patients, as well as medical supplies and antibiotics enough to treat 38,000 patients. The WHO requested $65 million for its work in Mosul and the surrounding areas, of which $14 million, or 21%, has been received.

On January 29, 17 boys ages 11-17 detained by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since July 2016 claimed that they were subjected to torture and abuse during their imprisonment. The boys are some of the 183 children who have been detained by the KRG on suspicion of involvement with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). They claim that KRG security forces “held them in stress positions, burned them with cigarettes, punched and kicked them, beat them with plastic pipes and cables, and shocked them with electricity.”  All 17 boys fled areas of Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Kirkuk Provinces, and were detained after they arrived at Debaga camp, located on the outskirts of Erbil, or Hassan Sham camp, located 32 kilometers east of Mosul. While several of the boys admitted to joining ISIS, they joined to make money for their families, or were forced to join. In interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch researchers, many boys revealed that they were forced to sign false confessions, or sign confessions written in Kurdish or while blindfolded. Other boys admitted to confessing to crimes they did not commit in order to end the torture and abuse they experienced.

On January 29, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) called for increased international assistance to “minimize a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the lack of proper shelter and medical care for civilians fleeing Mosul.” The Kurdistan region currently hosts over one million Syrian refugees and 720,000 Iraqi IDPs as a result of the war in Syria and ISIS violence in Iraq, a 32% increase in the region’s population. The KRG needs additional medical supplies, hospital beds, intensive care units, and practitioners to handle the volume of cases its hospitals see. The hospitals in the Kurdistan region not only treat civilians, but Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Peshmerga. Despite the construction of five new emergency sites in the Kurdistan region, there will not be enough space for all IDPs if displacement continues at the current rate. The KRG also has security concerns regarding the large number of IDPs flooding into the region. Each IDP is screened before being admitted to an IDP camp or emergency site; a time and resource-consuming task. The KRG is concerned that its security services will be overwhelmed by the number of people that must be screened, diverting resources from other security concerns, like preventing conflict between the various religious and ethnic groups who have fled to the Kurdistan region. Without additional international assistance, the potential for a “humanitarian catastrophe” will increase.

On January 29, Peshmerga forces received 300 IDPs as they fled their homes in ISIS-controlled areas of Hawija, 66 kilometers west of Kirkuk. The majority of the displaced were women, children, and elderly. They were taken to a camp located 15 kilometers east of Kirkuk.

On January 29, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration distributed thousands of liters of kerosene and cooking oil, and hundreds of food packages to IDP families throughout Iraq. IDPs in the Amiriyah Fallujah camp located 72 kilometers south of Ramadi, and Bzeibiz camp located 87 kilometers south of Ramadi received over 23,000 liters of oil and over 500 aid packages that included food and blankets. In Baghdad, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration distributed 300 aid packages.

On January 30, IDPs sheltered in the Habbaniya Hotel, located 40 kilometers east of Ramadi, described the desperate conditions in which they live. The former five-star hotel, located adjacent to the Habbaniya lake, is home to thousands of IDPs displaced from Anbar. The hotel used to feature restaurants, bars, a nightclub, gardens, and swimming pools, but now lacks running water, electricity, and medical facilities. The building is at risk of collapse due to deterioration and lack of upkeep, and is no longer considered a safe place for people to live. Residents complain of illnesses caused by environmental pollution and contaminated water, and because of the close quarters, diseases spread quickly through the hotel. More than 1,000 displaced families currently live in the hotel.

On January 30, the Ministry of Labor announced that it planned to implement a series of programs to help integrate children affected by violence back into society. Ammar Menem, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor noted that collaboration with international organizations and civil society groups would be necessary implement the programs. Menem stressed the need for continued assistance with providing basic needs, particularly to returnee families, and noted that organizations such as the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) would be instrumental in providing those services. Details regarding the programs have not yet been released.

On January 31, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that many basic services and infrastructure in Jalawla and Saadiya, located 88 kilometers north of Baquba in Diyala Province, have been restored. The UNHCR partnered with Youth Activity Organization (YAO), an Iraqi NGO, and installed 10 transformers in both locations which restored the power grid, two garbage trucks, and spare parts for five trucks used to clear roads of debris. The Italian government donated more than EU€ 400,000 (approximately US$ 432,000) to fund the project. According to Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s representative in Iraq, providing basic services such as electricity and garbage collection can “make the difference between remaining displaced or coming home.” Jalawla and Saadiya were cleared of ISIS militants in 2015, however, many families chose not to return because 50% of infrastructure and private property was damaged in Saadiya, and 75% of infrastructure and private property was damaged in Jalawla.

On January 31, an improvised explosive device (IED) killed a woman and injured a civilian in Fallujah, 52 kilometers east of Ramadi. The woman was trying to gain entry to her home after being displaced by ISIS violence when the IED exploded. ISIS militants often booby-trap homes that have been vacated by IDPs as an act of revenge against the returnee families, and in order to make clearing neighborhoods of IEDs more difficult.

On February 1, The UNAMI reported that a total of 403 civilians including police were killed and another 924 were injured in Iraq during the month of January due to “acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict.” Baghdad recorded the highest number of casualties with 572 civilian casualties. Ninewa Province recorded a total of 472 civilian casualties, and Anbar Province recorded a total of 143 civilians casualties. Figures reported should be considered the minimum number of casualties. Reporting in Anbar Province is difficult because many reporting services were disrupted due to increased violence in the area. In addition, the UNAMI received dozens of reports of large numbers of civilians killed by secondary effects of violence including exposure to the elements and diseases, and lack of access to health services as people fled their homes. These reports could not be independently verified and were not included in final figures.

On February 1, Governor of Kirkuk Najm al-Din Karim announced that a new IDP camp will be built to service IDPs fleeing Hawija and will consist of 2,500 tents. Minister of Displacement and Migration Jassim Mohammad estimates that Kirkuk has received nearly 30,000 IDPs from Hawija and the surrounding area and according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Kirkuk has received over 370,000 IDPs from conflict areas throughout Iraq. Mohammed indicated that recent budget changes, including cuts to state employee salaries, will be redistributed to fund projects to restabilize areas cleared of ISIS militants and to “ensure the return of displaced persons.”

Diyala Province Sees Significant Uptick in Violence

On January 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) forces repelled an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attack in the Tal Khasiba area of Salah ad-Din, 40 kilometers east of Tikrit, killing 18 militants and wounding 21 others. Hassan al-Sufi, a leader in the Popular Militarization Unit (PMU) of Hawija district, stated that ISIS is increasing its offensives in the province.

On January 27, Ammar al-Jabouri, a member of the Provincial Council of Diyala, announced that the power in the Qarah Tebah area, 80 kilometers northeast of Baquba, has been restored. ISIS militants used an improvised explosive device (IED) to take out electricity towers in the region on January 23, causing an estimated 80,000 people losing electricity for five days.

On January 28, a local source reported that the government-owned company Hammurabi has decided to postpone its operations in Diyala Province for two months due to security concerns. The decision follows the kidnapping of three of its employees last month.

On January 29, militants attacked a security checkpoint north of Baquba, killing a soldier. When reinforcements arrived to search the area, the militants had fled.

On January 29, Major General Jaasim al-Saadi, Police Chief of Diyala Province, announced that police discovered four explosive devices in Khalis, 15 kilometers north of Baquba, and seized an explosives cache in the Muqdadiya area, 35 kilometers northeast of Baquba. Police forces also reported an encounter with militants at a checkpoint on the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces, resulting in the police chasing the militants into the surrounding hills.

On January 30, an explosion killed a senior ISIS official and three of his subordinates on the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces. The source of the explosion is unknown, but the area where the explosion happened is a hotbed for violence between ISF and ISIS fighters.  

On January 31, the head of the security committee of the Diyala Provincial Council, Sadiq al – Husseini, announced that the ISF discovered and seized enough munitions to create 5 vehicle-based IEDs (VBIEDs). Joint security and PMU forces seized the materials roughly 130 kilometers northeast of Baquba from undisclosed persons. Police also defused three roadside IEDs in the Muqdadiyah district.

On January 31, the Army Chief of Staff visited Diyala Province, meeting with numerous security and government personnel. The main topic of discussion was the security situation in the Province, and how to clear out the remaining areas of ISIS militants still present.

On January 31, the Police Chief of Diyala Province, Major General Jassim al-Saadi, reported the beginning of operations to clear five areas of northern Diyala. Adnan al-Tamimi, head of the Muqdadiyah District Council, announced the beginning of a large operation to clear the district of ISIS militants. Diyala Province experiences a significant amount of violence from the continued presence of ISIS militants in the area.

On February 1, a local source in northeastern Diyala Province reported discovered a booby-trapped ISIS flag. The flag was found in the usually peaceful area between Kalar and Khanaqin, 115 kilometers from Baquba, causing concern as the gesture indicates a new level of ISIS infiltration.

On February 1, IEDs exploded early in the morning at the construction sites of two houses in the Hamrin Basin, 55 kilometers northeast of Baquba. The attack destroyed building materials but caused no casualties. On the same day, police in Kana’an, 20 kilometers east of Baquba, remotely detonated an IED that had been planted at a shopping mall.

After Extended Vacancies, Defense and Interior Ministers Approved

On January 29, Iraq’s Parliament approved two of four candidates put forward by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to fill vacant positions on the Council of Ministers: Shia nominee Qasim al-Araji for Interior Minister and Sunni nominee Irfan Hayali for Defense Minister. Parliament rejected the Prime Minister’s nominations of Inam al-Obeidi for the Ministry of Commerce and Shia Turkmen Najim al-Din Mohsin for the Ministry of Industry, reportedly due to sectarian reasons. Abadi then put forth another candidate for Minister of Industry, Yusif Ali al-Asadi, who was also rejected.

Hayali, a member of the Mutahidun faction, served as the assistant general manager of the Ministry of Defense civilian sector in 2006 and most recently resigned from his position as the Director for Development and Training for the fight against terrorism. Qasim al-Araji was previously a commander in the Badr Corps, a pro-Iranian faction in the Iraqi military “installed” with the Quds Force. In 1984, al-Araji was an officer in the Iraqi Army during the Iran-Iraq War. When Iran captured him, he pledged allegiance, from there, he received training under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as an alternative to execution or imprisonment. Upon completion of IRGC training, Araji was sent back to Iraq, where he became an official for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an organization opposed to Saddam Hussein. After Hussein’s ouster, his organization became an official political entity.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

01/26/17Bayaa, South Baghdad04
01/26/17Madain, Southeast of Baghdad15
01/25/17Central Ramadi, Anbar Province04
01/25/17Rusafi, Central Baghdad24
01/25/17Ghazaliyah, West of Baghdad03
01/24/17Masarif, East Mosul21
01/24/17Diyala Bridge, Southeast of Baghdad02
01/24/17al-Furat, West of Baghdad14
01/24/17Iskan, West Baghdad17
01/24/17Al-Nahda, Central Baghdad010
01/23/17Talibiyah, East Baghdad16
01/23/17Arab Jabour, South of Baghdad02
01/23/17Shaab, North of Baghdad
01/22/17Taji, North of Baquba14
East Baghdad
01/21/17Karma, East of Fallujah119
01/21/17Karma, East of Fallujah15
01/21/17al-Basatin, North of Baghdad04
01/20/17Suwaib, South of Baghdad13
01/20/17Karma, East of Fallujah13


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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