ISHM: March 31 – April 6, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • ISIS Militants Launch Surprise Attack in Tikrit, Killing 30 – On April 4, at least 10 ISIS militants dressed as police officers attacked a police checkpoint in Tikrit, targeting security forces and civilians in the area. The fighting extended into the morning of April 5, resulting in at least 30 fatalities, including five of the attackers. One day after the incident, 250 members of the Badr Organization PMU deployed to the center of Tikrit to boost security. Local officials have stated that, after this force augmentation, the security situation in Tikrit is stable. The attack in Tikrit comes after a week of operations across Salah ad-Din Province in an attempt to restore security to that area. more…
  • Iraqi Security Forces Establish Evacuation Corridors for Civilians in Western Mosul; Civilian Casualties, Atrocities Continue – In a significant departure from previous shelter-in-place policies in both western and eastern Mosul, the Iraqi Federal Police announced on April 3 that it established an evacuation corridor for civilians in Mosul’s Old City. This route is reportedly designed to allow civilians to leave the area before Iraqi Security Forces advance toward the al-Nouri Mosque. A sharp rise in the number of civilian casualties during operations to clear western Mosul may prompt local residents to use the new corridor. However, ISIS militants have executed civilians who attempt to flee; on April 3 Qayyarah South Hospital received the bodies of 20 women and children who were killed while trying to reach ISF positions. Further adding to this confusion, the Iraqi Air Force dropped thousands of leaflets over ISIS-controlled areas in western Mosul, Anbar Province, and Hawija on April 5, urging civilians to stay in their homes. These actions come after the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported on April 1 that 543 civilians were killed in Iraq during the month of March, the vast majority of which were in Ninewa Province. The same day, the U.S.-led international coalition revealed that coalition airstrikes unintentionally killed at least 229 civilians in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, although this figure does not include civilian casualties from the March 17 incident in western Mosul (previously reported in ISHM). more…
  • Operations in Western Mosul Progress Slowly; ISIS Bombards Eastern Mosul – As Iraqi Security Forces continue their operations to clear western Mosul of ISIS, militants have responded by firing indiscriminately into previously cleared areas in both eastern and western Mosul. On April 6, ISIS shot down an Iraqi helicopter, killing the two pilots. Elsewhere in Ninewa Province, airstrikes against ISIS positions continue, primarily in the areas surrounding Tal Afar and Baaj, southwest of Mosul. more…
  • Security Forces Restart Offensive in Anbar as IDPs Flee Toward Qa’im – On April 2, approximately 10,000 civilians fleeing ISIS-held areas reached Qa’im, 20 kilometers from the Syrian border in western Anbar Province. As of December 2016, there were 14,000 IDPs in Qa’im, and the recent arrivals have strained the town’s humanitarian capacity. One day later, Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition warplanes struck ISIS positions in areas around Qa’im. On April 4, a large contingent of tribal fighters, supported by the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, launched an operation to clear a 40 kilometer area in western Anbar, marking the relaunch of combat ground operations to clear militants from the province. more…
  • Local Officials Raise Kurdish Flag Over Kirkuk, Sparking Row with Ankara – On April 3, Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim met with a delegation from the Kurdish Ministry on Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, one week after reaching an agreement to raise the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi flag over Kirkuk’s government buildings. Immediately following this week’s meeting, the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted to demand a referendum on Kirkuk joining the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. On April 4, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s Chief of Public Relations met with UNHCR coordinator for Kurdistan, Monica Noro, to obtain a UN endorsement for Kirkuk’s flag-raising decision. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weighed in on the issue, stating that the cost of maintaining the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk would be “high” and that Turkey would “cut off” relations with Iraqi Kurdistan if the flag is not lowered. more…
  • Jared Kushner Visits Iraq with Gen. Joseph Dunford – On April 3, Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor and son-in-law to U.S. President Donald Trump, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to discuss the fight against ISIS and post-ISIS U.S. troop levels in Iraq. He accompanied the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford. 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.

ISIS Militants Launch Surprise Attack in Tikrit, Killing 30

On April 2, the Salah ad-Din Directorate of Intelligence and Counterterrorism dismantled a network of militants transporting car bombs to Tikrit, 190 kilometers north of Baghdad. The report released by the Directorate did not specify numbers or names of those arrested.

On April 2, Iraqi Air Force planes killed at least 40 suspected terrorists in airstrikes on a camp near Samarra, 120 kilometers north of Baghdad. Samara is currently hosting around a million and a half pilgrims commemorating the death of Imam Ali al-Hadi.

On April 3, unidentified gunman shot and killed an Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) leader known as Abu Karim in the Sharqat area, 300 kilometers north of Baghdad. The killing is notable, as it took place in an ISIS-held area.

On April 4, at least 10 ISIS militants dressed as police officers attacked a police checkpoint in Tikrit, 175 kilometers north of Baghdad, targeting police and firing on civilians in the area. The fighting extended into the morning of April 5, killing over 30 people and wounding at least 40 others. Some of the casualties were likely caused by two of the attackers detonating suicide vests they wore. After the explosion and clashes killed five of the attackers, police implemented a curfew, in part to help locate the other five militants.

On April 5, Ahmed al-Jubouri, Governor of Salah ad-Din Province, attributed recent security breaches in his jurisdiction to a lack of security personnel, coupled with the continuing presence of ISIS in Sharqat and neighboring Hawija. Jabouri asked Prime Minister Abadi to allow young people to join Iraqi Security Force (ISF) ranks in volunteer positions to fill in gaps left by ISF troops who relocated to Ninewa and Anbar.

On April 5, 250 members of the Badr Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) deployed to the center of Tikrit, following terrorist activity in the city on April 4. Salah ad-Din Security Council member Mahdi Taqi reported that, with these extra forces, the security situation in Tikrit is now stable. Later that day, police, in conjunction with PMU fighters, killed a militant in a raid on 40th street in Tikrit.

On April 6, Ahmed Al-Jubouri reported that Salah ad-Din security forces killed six suicide bombers in two towns north of Tikrit, with a seventh blowing himself up, killing three people. Jubouri stated that the seven militants infiltrated Salah ad-Din from the Hawija area, with three heading to Mazra’a (40 kilometers north of Tikrit) and the other four to Abu Taama (35 kilometers north of Tikrit).

On April 6, PMU fighters near Baiji (70 kilometers north of Tikrit) repelled an attack by ISIS militants The PMU reported killing 14 militants, wounding two, and destroying three VBIEDs.

Iraqi Security Forces Establish Evacuation Corridors for Civilians in Western Mosul; Civilian Casualties, Atrocities Continue

March 31 April 1 April 2 April 3 April 4 April 5 April 6
Total IDPs No data No data  302,430 No data  304,152 No data  314,268
Daily Net Change No data No data +15,180 No data +1,722 No data +10,116

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Displaced from Mosul and Surrounding Areas Since Military Operations Began on October 17.

On March 31, the government of Japan donated US$ 4,347,100 to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to “mitigate the threat of explosives” and “promote social stabilization for the people of Iraq.” With the funds, UNMAS will implement risk education programs, mine clearing operations, and first-responder training programs in Iraq. According to UNMAS, over 2,400 explosive incidents occurred in Mosul since October 2016. Mr. Fumio Iwai, Ambassador of Japan to Iraq, stated “this assistance shows Japan’s strong and faithful commitment to addressing stabilization in the liberated areas as part of a new package of humanitarian, counter-terrorism and community stabilization support to Iraq amounting to around US$ 100 million.”

On March 31, a woman going by the alias Amal Ibrahim, described that she ran a secret clinic out of her home under Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) rule in Mosul. Ibrahim explained that many doctors fled the city, making it difficult for patients to find medical care. Because ISIS militants forbade women from working, Ibrahim held office hours early in the morning or late at night, risking her life to treat others. ISIS militants executed civilians in Mosul for committing lesser crimes. Ibrahim explained, “Seven of my neighbours were tortured and slaughtered because they made mobile phone calls to people outside of Mosul. One of the victims was only 16 years old.” After Ibrahim escaped from Mosul, she fled to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Kirkuk Province where she now works in a mobile clinic, providing medical assistance to camp residents. Most of Ibrahim’s patients are from Hawija and suffer from malnutrition, anemia, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. She explained that many of her patients also suffer from psychological trauma. Safia, a 42 year old woman from Hawija stated, “As a woman, I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own. One time I crossed the street – only crossed the street. After that, they arrested my son and flogged him with an electric wire 25 times. For allowing his mother to cross the street. Another time they shaved his head only because he was joking with his friend…Life was so difficult that sometimes we hoped to die.” Ibrahim noted that it is her goal to provide more than just medical care explaining, “I always say to them: there comes a day when you will go back home and get your life back. I try to put this hope inside their hearts.”

On April 1, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported that a total of 543 civilians were killed and another 561 wounded in acts of “terrorism, violence and armed conflict” in Iraq during the month of March. Ninewa Province recorded the largest number of casualties with 541 fatalities, followed by Baghdad Province with 84 fatalities, and Salah ad-Din province with 38 fatalities. UNAMI considers its figures to be the “absolute minimum” number of civilians casualties. UNAMI received “several” reports of incidents that resulted in civilian deaths in Mosul; however, UNAMI was unable to independently verify them. In addition, UNAMI received reports of large numbers of civilians fatalities due to secondary effects of violence including exposure to the elements, and lack of food, water, and access to health services. UNAMI was not able to verify the reports and they were excluded from the findings.

On April 1, the U.S.-led international coalition revealed that coalition airstrikes unintentionally killed at least 229 civilians in Iraq and Syria since operations against ISIS started in August 2014; however, the figure does not include the number of civilians the U.S.-led international coalition airstrike on western Mosul on March 17 killed, as an investigation into the incident is still ongoing. The U.S.-led international coalition’s figures are much lower than other groups’ estimates. Airwars, a not-for-profit transparency project “ aimed both at tracking and archiving the international air war against so-called Islamic State and other groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya,” estimates that coalition airstrikes killed at least 2,831 civilians in Iraq and Syria since August 2014. It is important to note that Airwars gleans its casualty reports from a variety of sources including news sources, non-governmental organizations, social media sites, and YouTube footage. Airwars is unable to independently verify all information on alleged airstrikes or civilian casualties.

On April 2, the the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the Iraqi government opened a new camp, Jadah 5 camp, 65 kilometers south of Mosul, which has already received 13,000 individuals between March 30 and April 1. In addition, between March 24 and March 30, more than 800 families displaced from western Mosul were transferred to Nargizlia 2 camp, 35 kilometers northeast of Mosul, marking a 50% increase of transfers to camps northeast of Mosul since the previous week. Three new IDP camps, Hassan Sham U2, 35 km east of Mosul, and Hammam Al-Alil 2 and As-Salamiyah 2 camps, 25 km south of Mosul, are under construction and will have a combined capacity of 100,000 IDPs. The UNHCR also reported that at least 26,000 IDPs from western Mosul have resettled with family or in abandoned buildings in eastern Mosul. The UNHCR requested US$ 578 million to support IDPs and Iraqi refugee in the region for 2017, of which only 5% has been funded.  

On April 3, the Iraqi Federal Police announced that it established a “safe corridor” to allow civilians in the Old City in western Mosul to evacuate before the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and police forces advance closer to the al-Nouri mosque. The plan is a major departure from the Iraqi government’s previous recommendation that civilians shelter-in-place; however, as civilian casualties increase in the densely-populated streets of the Old City, more civilians may use the evacuation routes to escape the city.

On April 3, Qayyarah South Hospital received the corpses of 20 women and children who were executed by ISIS militants for trying to flee western Mosul. An anonymous source reported security forces found the corpses and that they were in various stages of decomposition.

On April 3, ISIS militants fired Katyusha rockets targeting the New Mosul area in western Mosul, killing a woman, a child, and wounding 12 others. An anonymous source reported that the wounded were transferred to a hospital outside of Mosul and the dead were transferred to forensic units for identification.

On April 3, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) field coordinator Jonathan Whittall discussed the emergency trauma care that MSF teams provide at an MSF taruma field hospital south of Mosul. Whittall noted that the field hospital treats the “worst of the worst injuries,” also known as “red cases.” These are the most severe cases; ones in which the patent needs rapid, life-saving treatment that include “gunshot wounds, blast injuries, and severe burns.” Whittall explained that MSF teams have treated a “near-constant flow of patients” since the hospital opened earlier this month; a total of 1,296 cases. Other MSF trauma field hospitals in and around Mosul have treated over 2,000 cases in the last two months alone. Whittal explained that many cases never reach the field hospital noting, “For patients who are injured by airstrikes that happen deeper into areas controlled by IS, it seems that it can take a number of days before they are able to reach medical care in the south of Mosul. From what we understand, it is only when the front line moves through their neighborhood that they have a chance to reach medical assistance.” Whittal also noted that over the past several days, the hospital has been relatively calm. However, that does not mean that violence in western Mosul has stopped. He elaborated, “It is a sinister calm—air strikes are continuing but patients are not reaching us.”

On April 4, the U.S. government withdrew US$ 32.5 million in funds for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for 2017 because the agency allegedly participates in programs that implement “coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization” in China. UNFPA stated that the claims were “erroneous” explaining that all of its programs promote “the rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.” While the funding cut was aimed to address an alleged practice in China, the UNFPA works in Iraq to provide reproductive healthcare, youth civic engagement, gender equality, women empowerment, and provide support to IDPs, refugees, and host communities in Iraq. In 2015, the U.S. was the UNFPA’s fourth largest donor, contributing over US$ 30 million in core donations and over US$ 45 million earmarked for specific programs. In 2015 alone, the UNFPA allocated over US$ 17 million for initiatives and programs in Iraq. Without this funding, essential programs that support Iraqis will be lost.

On April 4, with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and government of Japan, community leaders in five displacement-affected areas in Ninewa Province are implementing peacebuilding initiatives to “promote dialogue and enhance social cohesion” within communities impacted by the IDP crisis. IOM and the University of Dohuk Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies trained “community peace builders” to work in Mahad, Zelkan, Ain Safni, Raabia, and Al-Qosh to conduct workshops and festivals to promote “inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue, women’s empowerment and civic engagement,” and social cohesion, among others. IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss praised the effort stating, “Supporting community-led peace building efforts is essential to helping bring communities together and strengthening their resilience. IOM Iraq is pleased to work together with local Iraqi authorities and the Government of Japan to support peace building efforts.” Hussain Ali, a peace builder working in Raabia stated, “When we organized the poetry festival we expected 40 participants, but more than 120 came. We were overwhelmed by the interest and people’s enthusiasm to participate. Following the event, participants asked for more festivals and more opportunities where people can express themselves and engage in dialogue. I am pleased to see the new connections that the event created for positive change in the community.”

On April 4, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) published the Mosul Humanitarian Crisis overview. As of April 4, over 300,000 individuals are currently displaced from Mosul and the surrounding area as a result of military operations to clear the city that started on October 17, 2016. As many as 400,000 civilians are trapped in western Mosul with little to no access to humanitarian partners or essential items such as food, water, or medicine. Family separation, gender-based violence, camp maintenance, and confiscation of legal documents are major concerns that mobile protection teams are monitoring. Ninety-seven percent of the US$ 284 million 2016 Mosul Flash Appeal has been funded, allowing humanitarian partners to continue to assist resident in eastern Mosul and gain greater access to those in western Mosul. The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq requested US$ 985 million to assist Iraqis, of which US$ 331 million will be dedicated to Mosul. Of the funds requested, US$ 237.9 million has been funded.

On April 4, civilians in western Mosul who escaped the city reported that many airstrikes that kill civilians receive “scant attention” and are rarely reported. A March 17 U.S.-led international coalition airstrike that leveled a building in the al-Jadida neighborhood in western Mosul, potentially killing 200 civilians received wide international media attention; however, civilians report that equally tragic events occur without such media coverage. Khalid Jassim, a 34-year-old who recently escaped western Mosul, reported that an airstrike on March 11 hit an area near his home, leveling it and an adjacent building, and killing 27 people. He added that many airstrikes have hit the al-Jadida neighborhood despite there being “very few” ISIS militants there. Mubasher Dannon, 37, who was injured in the March 17 incident, reported that an airstrike on March 16 killed 21 of his friends and relatives. Another resident, Faod Dawod, reported that an airstrike hit his friend’s home because several ISIS militants were stationed on the roof. There were 28 people inside. Dawod added, “[ISIS] chose strategic houses with the most civilians in them so that when they were destroyed, it would damage the reputation of Iraqi forces.” Jassim noted that some in western Mosul are losing faith in the ISF and U.S.-led coalition, explaining “People don’t want liberation like that…People once trusted them but now they don’t.”

On April 4, the UNHCR reported that 5,000 IDPs from the Nahrawan neighborhood in western Mosul fled to the Hamam al-Alil transit center, located 20 kilometers south of Mosul, on April 3. Civilians report that ISIS militants executed at least 20 civilians trying to flee western Mosul between March 28 and April 3. Of those, thirteen were allegedly executed in the Nahrawan neighborhood on April 3. The UNHCR also reported that over 6,000 patients from Mosul, over half of them civilians, were referred to field hospitals in and around Mosul and Erbil since operations to clear the city began on October 17, 2016. In addition, the UNHCR revealed that families are at a greater risk of being separated as security screening procedures at Hamam al-Alil transit center have changed. Women and children are now able to transfer directly to the Hamam al-Alil transit center while men must stay behind to undergo additional screenings. Most IDPs from western Mosul do not have mobile phones as ISIS outlawed their use, and therefore cannot communicate with family members who must undergo additional security screenings. The Department of Labor and Social Affairs has identified over 400 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) from Mosul since operations started in October 2016; however UNHCR and other humanitarian partners are working with camp management to ensure that displaced families can maintain contact with separated family members until they are reunited. Finally, the UNHCR revealed that all oil wells burning on the outskirts of Qayyarah, 65 kilometers south of Mosul, have been extinguished; however pollutants may continue to have dangerous effects as they settle into the soil and surface water.

On April 5, Francesco Motta, Director of the Human Rights Office for UNAMI revealed that Brig. Gen. Thaer Mosawi’s civilian fatality reports are false. As reported in PUKmedia, Mosawi estimated that over 3,800 civilians were killed in western Mosul since February 19. However, according to Motta, Mosawi is not a member of the ISF nor is he a spokesperson for the Iraqi government, and the figures that were reported, originally in Anadolu Agency, were false. Motta noted that he expects Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to issue a statement denying the report.

On April 5, the Iraqi Air Force dropped thousands of leaflets over ISIS controlled areas of western Mosul, Anbar Province, and Hawija, urging civilians to stay in their homes and avoid ISIS headquarters, barracks, checkpoints, and artillery sites as those areas will become targets for airstrikes. The leaflets dropped over western Mosul reassured civilians that they would not be targeted by airstrikes, but that for safe measure, civilians should stay clear of unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other “foreign objects.”

On April 5, Agnes Marcaillou, Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, reported that it will take 40 to 50 years to completely clear Iraq and Syria of all mines and IEDs, and other unexploded ordnance. She estimated that US$ 170 million to US$ 180 million would be needed each year to clean up areas recently cleared of ISIS militants in Iraq. Of that estimate, at least US$ 50 million would be needed each year for Mosul alone. Marcaillou urged the international community to provide more funding to support refugees and IDPs in Iraq and Syria, adding “The more funding there is available the more teams we will be able to hire, the more training we will be able to dispense to Iraqi forces and others.”

On April 6, the IOM reported that 314,268 IDPs 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 27,018 IPDs since March 30. Sixty-one percent of IDPs from Mosul and the surrounding area are housed in emergency camps, 25% live in private settings, 13% live in emergency sites, and 1% live in critical shelter arrangements. Cumulatively, 400,566 IDPs have been impacted by the crisis in Mosul since it began in October 2016. However, to date 86,298 IDPs have returned to their homes.

Operations in Western Mosul Progress Slowly; ISIS Bombards Eastern Mosul

On March 31, Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants fired a Katyusha rocket into the al-Muthanna neighborhood of northeast Mosul. The rocket fell near a mosque and killed one civilian and wounded five others.

On March 30, Col. Joseph Scrocca of the U.S. Army announced that Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend has ordered that the inquiries into the civilian deaths in Mosul on March 17 be shifted from a credibility assessment to a formal investigation. The move allows the investigators more access to pertinent data, and gives the commanding officer in charge of the investigation the ability to make suggestions for changes to policy and operational procedure in Mosul. Scrocca also reported that on March 29, U.S.-led international coalition forces filmed ISIS forcing civilians into buildings which the militants then used as sniper positions, a tactic long suspected of the organization, but now proven on tape.

On March 31, the Ninewa Military Media Cell announced that Iraqi Security Force (ISF) air strikes hit three ISIS hideouts, killing approximately 150-200 militants. The strikes targeted ISIS locations in the Baaj area, 85 kilometers southwest of Tal Afar, an area used as a passage between Iraq and Syria.

On April 1, a local source in Tal Afar (80 kilometers west of Mosul) reported that ISIS militants executed one of its own battalion commanders and two of his aides. The source said that the three were shot by a firing squad for breaking their pledge of allegiance to the terrorist organization.

On April 1, ISIS militants fired two Katyusha rockets into previously cleared areas of western Mosul. The rockets injured seven civilians in the Rasala and al-Aguwat neighborhoods of west Mosul.

On April 1, Belgian authorities announced that the government would begin investigations into Belgian involvement or fault in anti-ISIS airstrikes in Iraq, including the March 17 airstrikes suspected to have killed over 200 civilians in western Mosul. Belgium has four F-16 airplanes involved in the U.S.-led international coalition battling ISIS. A government spokesman stated that “If rules of engagement were properly observed… it is possible that no crime was committed.”

On April 2, Iraqi Air Force airstrikes destroyed an IED factory in the Abu Maria area of Ninewa (20 kilometers east of Tal Afar), and killed at least four ISIS militants at the location. Further airstrikes 20 kilometers south of Abu Maria destroyed stores of ISIS weapons and ammunition, killing eight militants.

On April 2, Ninewa PMU leader Karim Khaqani reported that 70% of the operation to clear Mosul is complete, but stipulated that current progress is very slow in order to focus on civilian protection. In a press conference, Khaqani stated that there is the “presence of large numbers of displaced people, so there is delay in battles to preserve the lives of civilians.”

On April 2, an anonymous security source in western Mosul reported that ISIS has begun using women as snipers, although it is unclear of these women are members of the organization or if they were forced to join. The source stated that the large number of deaths among militant ranks has made the organization short on manpower, and that snipers are key to ISIS’s efforts to slow ISF advances.

On April 3, militants in western Mosul shot and killed an imam after he refused to condemn a group of civilians to death when they would not participate in terrorist activities. ISIS has increased its efforts to coerce civilians in western Mosul into taking part in terrorist activities, including suicide bombings.

On April 3, Iraqi Air Force airstrikes killed over 50 militants in the Baaj area of western Ninewa Province, 85 kilometers southwest of Tal Afar. The strikes targeted the local ISIS headquarters and destroyed an ISIS tank.

On April 3, a U.S. Department of Defense article reported that Iraqi government officials are attributing “the March 17 blast in Mosul that killed 61 civilians — including many women and children… (to) the blast of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria vehicle-borne explosive device.” Saeed al-Jayashi, a spokesman for the ISF said that the house came down on the civilians because the airstrike set off a VBIED, adding that the weapon used by the U.S. plane was not large enough to cause the amount of damage found.  

On April 4, Ninewa PMU spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 ISIS militants remain in Mosul, Tal Afar, and the surrounding areas. He also stated that roughly 70% of these militants are Iraqi, calling them hardened criminals and saying that “the elimination of this (group) of criminals and terrorists is the best solution.”

On April 4, Iraqi Air Force planes killed eight militants near the Jumhuriyah Hospital, not far from the Tigris river in western Mosul. Among the dead was a man known as Abu Russian and six of his aides.

On April 4, Al-Amada Newspaper reported that media publications and cell phone videos are endangering ISF troops fighting ISIS. Videos (such as this BBC one) have been blamed for revealing the location of snipers and other ISF members to ISIS. One ISF sniper Mohammed Mohammedawi was killed in action not long after the publication of a story featuring him. Another concern is that information from photos and videos taken on mobile phones and uploaded to the internet will similarly endanger Iraqi troops.

On April 5, Iraqi Counter-terrorism forces (CTS) cleared the western Mosul neighborhood of Morocco. The CTS are now on the edges of the al-Abar and al-Mutahin neighborhoods, close to the Mosul Mansour Power Plant.

On April 5, Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the ISF’s ability to adapt to difficult surroundings in crowded west Mosul shows how much they have developed as a fighting force. A Department of Defense article also described the coordination between ISF and U.S.-led international coalition forces as a significant improvement as compared to that of the operation to clear Ramadi in 2015.

On April 6, ISIS militants in western Mosul shot down an ISF helicopter, killing the two pilots. A Military Media Cell released a statement saying that “”Joint Special Operations Command mourns the death of two of the Knights of the Army Air who were martyred…”

On April 6, ISF planes destroyed a building in western Mosul thought to be the headquarters of the ISIS suicide brigade, killing an unknown number of militants from multiple countries in the process. The same day, Lt.Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah, Special Operations Commander for Mosul, announced that CTS troops cleared the Yarmouk al-Thani neighborhood of western Mosul.

Security Forces Restart Offensive in Anbar as IDPs Flee Toward Qa’im

On April 1, Iraqi Military Intelligence announced that Iraqi Security Force (ISF) airstrikes in western Anbar killed the terrorist known as Abu Yahya, second in command to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The strikes also killed other ISIS leaders, such as Abu Hajar, a military commander in the Qa’im area.

On April 2, approximately 10,000 civilians, mostly women and children, fled ISIS-controlled areas of Anbar Province and arrived to Qa’im, located 20 kilometers from the Syrian border in western Anbar Province. An anonymous source noted that the new arrival of internally displaced people IDPs has made the already-crowded town, more overpopulated. As of December 2016, nearly 14,000 IDPs resettled in Qa’im.

On April 3, Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition airplanes carried out airstrikes on multiple locations in western Anbar, including around Qa’im, 250 kilometers northwest of Ramadi. The airstrikes destroyed various ISIS facilities, including a vehicle-based improvised explosive device (VBIED) factory and a weapons cache.

On April 4, a large contingent of tribal fighters, supported by the U.S.-led international coalition, launched an operation to clear a 40 kilometer area in western Anbar. An anonymous security source reported that the group intends to clear an area northwest of Rutba, 310 kilometers west of Ramadi.

On April 5, Imad al-Dulaimi, Mayor of the Rutba area of Anbar Province, reported that airstrikes killed four children west of Rutba (310 kilometers west of Ramadi). Dulaimi did not specify if the warplanes involved were Iraqi or U.S-led coalition, but urged an investigation into the airstrikes, which hit civilian homes.

Local Officials Raise Kurdish Flag Over Kirkuk, Sparking Row with Ankara

On April 3, Dr. Najmadin Karim, the Governor of Kirkuk, met with a delegation from the Kurdish Ministry on Martyrs and Anfal Affairs. The meeting comes after last week’s agreement to raise the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi flag in Kirkuk’s government buildings. After the meeting, Kirkuk’s Provincial Council voted to demand a referendum on Kirkuk joining the Kurdistan Region. While many in federal Iraqi politics oppose this initiative, it is being cheered within Kurdistan and by the region’s allies.

On April 4, the Chief of Public Relations for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Saadi Ahmed Pira, met with the UNHCR coordinator for Kurdistan, Monica Noro, to attempt to obtain a UN endorsement for Kirkuk’s decision to raise the Kurdish flag. The two officials also discussed other events, such as Kurdistan’s economic woes and their role in ameliorating the refugee crisis. The same day, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government visited Baghdad to discuss Kurdistan’s pending referendum on autonomy as well as the flag raising in Kirkuk. The delegation is slated to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as well as other key officials. After meeting with the Iraqi polity, the delegation will hold talks with leaders in the Sadrist movement, including Moqtada al-Sadr himself about goals they have in common and how to further cooperation. Additionally, “hundreds” of Arab citizens living in the Daquk district in between Kirkuk and Baghdad raised the Kurdish flag next to the Iraqi flag on the main road connecting the province to the Iraqi capital. Idriss Haji Ali, a spokesman for the PUK, commented on the action, calling it a positive demonstration for Arab-Kurdish brotherhood. While the PUK has attempted to portray the events surrounding the Kurdish flag as entirely positive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has inserted himself into the debate, stating that the cost of maintaining the Kurdish flag will be “high.” Erdogan went on to state that if the flag is not lowered, he will “cut-off” Turkey’s relationship with Kurdistan and then accused Kirkuk’s government of being “two-sided.” President of the Kurdish Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, claimed that Kirkuk should thank Kurdish forces for clearing them of ISIS and that Kirkuk should be seen as a city of Kurds as much as one of Arabs or Turkmens, and that its flags should represent this.

Jared Kushner Visits Iraq with Gen. Joseph Dunford

On April 3, United States President Donald Trump’s son in-law and Special Advisor Jared Kushner met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss Iraq’s progress against ISIS and plans for post-ISIS US troop levels in Iraq. Accompanying Kushner was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. The two American officials also planned to meet with United States Military commanders in Iraq to discuss the status of operations and plans for the future.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

03/06/17Al-Furat, West of Baghdad02
03/06/17Abu Taama, North of Tikrit03
03/06/17Diyala Bridge, South of Baghdad03
03/06/17Medaan, Central Baghdad13
03/06/17Abu Gharib, West of Baghdad05
03/05/17Diyala Bridge, South of Baghdad03
03/05/17Ad-Walib, Northeast of Baquba02
04/05/17Dora, South Baghdad11
04/05/17Yusifiyah, South of Baghdad23
04/05/17Washash, Central Baghdad34
04/05/17Northeast of Baquba, Diyala Province23
04/04/17Tarmiyah, North of Baghdad13
03/04/17Zohur neighborhood, Tikrit3140
04/04/17Bob al-Sham, North of Baghdad04
04/03/17Fallujah, Anbar Province??
04/03/17Alexandria, Northern Babil Province14
04/02/17Dibs, Northwest of Kirkuk City01
04/02/17Tuael, West Baghdad02
04/02/17Madain, South of Baghdad03
04/02/17Muhamadiyah, South of Baghdad14
04/02/17Tuz Khormatu, Salah ad-Din Province07
04/01/17Rutba, Western Anbar41
04/01/17Dora, South Baghdad02
04/01/17Dibs, Northwest of Kirkuk City01
04/01/17Diyala Bridge, Southeast Baghdad03
03/31/17Diun, West Tikrit10
03/31/17Rutba, Western Anbar13


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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