ISHM: August 11 – 17, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Humanitarian Conditions in Tal Afar Deteriorate as Airstrikes Ramp Up – This week, over 6,000 IDPs fled Tal Afar, 80 kilometers west of Mosul in Ninewa Province, as Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes targeted munitions depots and militant headquarters in the ISIS-held city. UNOCHA estimates that as many as 40 thousand civilians are present in the area, 10-15 thousand of which are trapped in Tal Afar itself. IDPs able to flee must walk ten to twenty hours on foot along safety corridors to reach a mustering point, where they are met and driven to screening facilities by security forces. ISIS militants are attempting to corral citizens who remain in Tal Afar into the city center to be used as human shields, and are working to reinforce the area ahead of ground operations to clear the city of ISIS, expected to begin in the coming days. more…
  • Mosul IDPs Face Difficult Decision in Returning to their Homes – Displaced families from western Mosul are having to decide between remaining in displacement camps to face hot weather, crowded conditions, and uncertainty over the fate of their homes, or returning to their places of origin where supplies of food, water, shelter, and other necessities remains scarce. The UNHCR has announced that they would be stepping up aid efforts for returned families, but the presence of IEDs remains a significant danger, especially for children. The UNHCR released an article outlining the challenges faced in the relatively smaller cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, where reconstruction and reconciliation needs remain dire, despite their liberations from ISIS in late-2015/mid-2016 respectively. more…
  • Iraqi-Saudi Relations Continue to Improve, Border Reopened – Influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr traveled to Abu Dhabi on August 13 to discuss how Iraq and the United Arab Emirates can “act in true Islamic spirit and reject violence and extremism.” The following day, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister led a diplomatic mission to Baghdad where he met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss bilateral cooperation. The predominantly Sunni nations’ courtship of Iraq culminated in Saudi Arabia’s announcement to reopen the Arar border crossing with Iraq for the first time since 1990, and intention to open a consulate in Iraq’s Shia holy city of Najaf. The overtures by the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia are widely interpreted as efforts to counter Iranian influence and curry favor with Iraqi Shia leadership. more…
  • Basra Governor Resigns, Others Targeted for Corruption – On August 11, Governor of Basra Province Majid al-Nasrawi resigned amid allegations of corruption, including charging commissions to contractors for personal gain. Also this week, Parliament questioned Trade Minister Salman al-Jumaili on allegations of misconduct, and Omnar Aelchendah was appointed acting Governor of Salah ad-Din Province after the previous governor’s ouster in July on bribery and corruption charges. These actions came after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pushed Parliament to adopt a new law aimed at targeting politicians who engage in graft, following Abadi’s campaign commitment to target corruption in government. more…
  • ISIS “Adapting” to Lost Territory – A report to the UN Security Council issued this week found that ISIS militants are “adapting” to new realities in terms of lost territory, and remain a serious threat to stability and security in Iraq as they target security forces and infrastructure. This week, in Salah ad-Din, ISIS attacked an Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga installation, killing three Peshmerga members, and Federal Police headquarters, killing seven and wounding six others. Also this week, ISIS militants coordinated attacks on power lines in Diyala Province that left 50 thousand people without electricity, and representatives in Diyala are concerned about potential attacks on gas and oil pipelines that flow through the region. 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.

Humanitarian Conditions in Tal Afar Deteriorate as Airstrikes Ramp Up

On August 11, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reported that displacement from Tal Afar and Ba’aj continues as military aerial operations intensify. Reports indicate that these cities remain unstable as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continues to attack the cities. OCHA stated that it has “become the norm” for civilians trapped in areas of western Ninewa that are still controlled by ISIS to face risks from firefights, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), gun crossfire, or by aerial bombardment during clashes of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and ISIS militants. New estimates indicated that in Tal Afar, 80 kilometers west of Mosul, about 10,000-15,000 civilians remain trapped within the city boundaries, and an estimated 40,000 people remain in the surrounding district. Estimates for civilians remaining in Ba’aj, a small town located 160 kilometers west of Mosul, remain unclear. In the past couple of weeks, humanitarian agencies have increased their presence in the Ninewa Province in anticipation for large displacement movements out of Tal Afar, yet there is insufficient data on the humanitarian conditions inside the city because communications between the city and surrounding areas have been cut off. Mustering points have been established in Boya, Talrad and Badoosh. In the Ninewa Province, people remain highly vulnerable due to suspected affiliations, as reports of retributive acts and collective punishment against families have increased.

On August 11, Ahmed al-Asadi, a spokesperson for the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) network, told reporters in Baghdad that their forces fully intend to enter Tal Afar and to take part in the fighting to clear the city of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The controversial announcement comes just days before Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was expected to order ground troops into the city. It is not clear if the Prime Minister was consulted before the declaration. Abadi has tried to limit PMU engagement in ISIS-held areas, especially after accusations of sectarian killings came to light during operations in Tikrit and Fallujah. In Mosul, PMU forces were integral in securing neighboring towns and cutting off supply routes, but were not allowed to take part in the fighting on the frontlines within Mosul. While PMUs are formally under Abadi’s control, they are not always responsive to his commands, and it is unclear what will happen if they enter the city without his permission. Tal Afar is an overwhelmingly Sunni Turkmen town.

On August 12, Jawad al-Tulaibawi, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq PMU, said that most PMUs would not be involved in the operations to clear Tal Afar, conflicting with previous declarations by a PMU spokesperson. PMU forces are currently stationed outside the city. The U.S. Air Force does not conduct airstrikes in combat zones where PMUs are active, which  Tulaibawi cited as the reason for not entering the city. A contributing factor is the government’s reluctance to employ the predominantly Shia Arab groups, which have often been accused of acting with sectarian motives, in an overwhelmingly Sunni Turkmen town.

On August 13, two U.S. soldiers died and five more were injured when an artillery round intended for an ISIS target detonated prematurely in northern Iraq. The soldiers were working at an undisclosed base in northern Iraq, and a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that there was “no indication that ISIS had anything to do” with the events that led to the casualties.

On August 14, an anonymous source in Tal Afar revealed that ISIS was undertaking an “unprecedented” campaign to reinforce the city in preparation for the coming operations to clear the city by Iraqi-aligned forces. The organization is requisitioning civilian vehicles and loading them with sand to barricade streets and force the ISF to move through the city on foot.

On August 15, airstrikes hit six sites across Tal Afar, according to an anonymous source in the city, who did not identify the forces behind the strike. Among the targets was an explosives workshop used by ISIS. The news came on the same day that other sources reported the beginning of an intense aerial bombardment by the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) to prepare for operations to clear the city.

On August 15, thousands of civilians from the ISIS-held city of Tal Afar fled amid airstrikes by the Iraqi Air Force and coalition forces. On August 14, hundreds of civilians were brought on Iraqi military trucks from the front lines of the battle in the city to a humanitarian collection site, west of Mosul. Those who have fled the city reported that ISIS has been shooting at those who attempted to flee the city, capturing civilians to be executed, and forcing families into the center of the city. By moving civilians into the downtown area of Tal Afar, families are forced to be moved to the center of the front lines, presumably to be used as human shields once fighting intensifies – a violent and inhumane strategy previously used by the group during the battle for western Mosul. Severe food shortages are also being reported, as the price of food has skyrocketed in the city, forcing civilians to resort to eating pieces of bread with unsanitary water. The protection environment is also deteriorating as there are increased reports of gender based violence and abuse of civilians among displacement routes. In addition, many IDPs along displacement routes have reported mistreatment by Iraqi Security Forces. “Thousands of people are leaving, seeking safety and assistance. Families escaping northeast are trekking 10 and up to 20 hours to reach mustering points. They are exhausted and many are dehydrated when they finally arrive,” said United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Lise Grande. Grande has described the ongoing situation in Tal Afar as “very tough.”

On August 15, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command fired their official spokesperson for erroneously claiming that operations to retake Tal Afar had begun. The news of Brigadier General Mohammad al-Khodari’s firing came just hours after he called a local news station to make the false claim. While airstrikes were underway across the city, they were a continuation of a longer air campaign, and did not mark the beginning of new operations. Joint Operations Command is still waiting for the order from Abadi to enter the city.

On August 16, an intense aerial bombardment began on ISIS’s frontlines in Tal Afar, according to local sources. The bombing killed and wounded “many” fighters, according to the source and it is intended to make ground operations simpler when they begin. As in the fight in Mosul and other urban environments, the Iraqi military will have to strike a balance between protecting its troops with air support and limiting civilian casualties.

On August 17, the UNHCR issued a report regarding displacement movement from Tal Afar. The report stated that in the past four days, 6,380 IDPs fled Tal Afar and arrived at the Hammam al-Alil screening site, about 25 kilometers south of Mosul. Many IDPs fleeing Tal Afar face extremely long and harrowing journeys that can last upwards of 24 hours on foot, without food and water. Mustering points have been set up for assistance during the long journey to established displacement camps outside of Mosul. Tal Afar is 80 kilometers west of Mosul.

Mosul IDPs Face Difficult Decision in Returning to their Homes

On August 11, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released an article discussing the influx of displaced persons returning to western Mosul, and the daunting tasks that they face. Extreme challenges remain for residents seeking to return back to western Mosul, as a number of those who are currently returning, are doing so for reasons beyond their control. “We returned to Mosul because it was difficult for my husband to stay in a tent with his poor health…we were also afraid of losing our house” said one returning Mosul resident. Reports of preemptive returns to the city are not uncommon, as much of the city remains destroyed. Many returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) were greeted with homes, streets and entire sections of the city left in destruction and ruin. Drinking water is stored in water tanks and have to be delivered into the city while electricity remains available for about eight hours a day, at an expensive rate. Water for toilets are collected from a well, then rolled in a barrell to homes. Access to basic services and goods remain problematic, as being able to just access electricity, water, and fuel is very difficult and expensive.

On August 11, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Maheic announced that the agency would be stepping up aid efforts for Iraqi families who have returned back to Mosul. Field assessments conducted by the UNHCR indicate that the returning population of Mosul needs assistance of every kind, but shelter needs in western Mosul are most pressing. Many of the neighborhoods in western Mosul remain extensively damaged or completely destroyed. Maheic also noted the extensive threat that mines and unexploded ordnances pose to civilians, especially children, and the overall rebuilding of the city. Despite ongoing efforts to demine the city, efforts to clear the city will take years. Returning families back to Mosul remains a top priority for the agency, yet efforts to do so face severe challenges partially because it remains incredibly difficult to access utilities and basic services in the city. Despite these challenges, government statistics note that 79,000 people have returned back to western Mosul, and 90% of civilians who fled eastern Mosul, have returned back to their homes. Trends indicate that families are returning to IDP sites as a result of high rent, lack of livelihood, security concerns, and increasing living costs at their places of origin. A large number of IDPs are also missing key civil documents, hampering efforts to return displaced persons back to their places of origin. 28% of displaced families have reported missing, damaged, invalid or expired paperwork. Maheic stresses the importance that returns back to the city must be voluntary and carried out on the basis of international humanitarian principles, in order to create a safe, conducive and sustainable environment for continued returns. The UNHCR continues to pledge its support in providing aid to IDPs, returning families, and displaced persons throughout the rebuilding stages.

On August 13, the Federal Police announced that they had cleared over 2,000 explosive devices from western Mosul, since it was captured by Iraqi forces in July. According to their own estimates, this accounts for roughly 45% of the explosives in that area, although they did not clarify how they arrived at that figure. Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants fleeing the city left an extensive network of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that the UN estimates will take at least a decade to fully remove. In western Mosul, where ISIS militants staged their last stand against the Iraqi military, saw some of the worst devastation and has a much more extensive reconstruction project than the rest of the city.

On August 16, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released an article outlining the difficult challenges faced in the rebuilding of Ramadi and Fallujah, exhibiting similar challenges that Mosul will also have to tackle. Ramadi suffered extensive damage during the months of fighting to liberate the city, yet even a year and a half later, much of the city remains in ruins. Ramadi citizens report that there has been little outside support for reconstruction and reconciliation efforts, often times taking on heavy financial debt in order to restart their lives. “All this area had been booby-trapped, and we had to pay bomb removal teams to clear our street. They found thirteen explosive devices in this place alone,” said Ibrahim Khalil, a former crane driver from Ramadi. In Fallujah, a similar scenario lingers, where rebuilding efforts are tauntingly continue, as urgent help is needed to help rebuild homes and lives. Looking forward to Mosul, the same challenges faced in Ramadi and Fallujah are similar to those that Mosul will have to handle in the coming years, yet at a much larger scale. The article did bring to light challenges that remain in Ramadi and Fallujah, as a great deal of humanitarian support has been directed towards Mosul. “Iraq still faces enormous challenges due to the massive internal displacement crisis and the huge scale of work needed to rebuild and reconstruct areas where major conflict took place” said Bruno Geddo, a UNHCR representative for Iraq.

Iraqi-Saudi Relations Continue to Improve, Border Reopened

On August 13, influential Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr traveled to Abu Dhabi to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander of the United Arab Emirati forces. Sadr leads one of the largest political blocs in Iraq: he is supported by many of Iraq’s urban poor, is critical of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government, and recently has been critical of both Iran and the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) in Iraq. Concurrently, the predominantly Sunni states Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signaled their desire to strengthen relations with Iraq in order to stem the growing influence of Iran in the region. Iraq’s government is majority Shia, and Sadr – a Shia cleric – is one of the few politicians to maintain some distance from the Iranian government.  During his trip to the UAE, Sadr emphasized that his meeting with prominent Sunni clerics focused on “the importance to act in true Islamic spirit and to reject violence and extremism though.”

On August 13, Moqtada al-Sadr announced Saudi Arabia’s decision to donate US$10 million to aid displaced Iraqis, to be paid to the Iraqi government. Saudi-Iraqi relations have improved recently: the Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement began in 2015 when Saudi Arabia reopened the Iraqi embassy after 25 years of suspension, and since this past June bilateral agreements, and recent high level visits, have strengthened the two nations’ political and economic ties. This past June, Sadr visited the kingdom for the first time in 11 years; up until this year he had hostile relations with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni politicians, however he has now indicated that he is open to reconciliation. Fanar Haddad from the University of Singapore explained: “for personal, ideological, and practical reasons, Sadr would find it difficult to champion an openly Shia-centric, pro-Iran stance.  By visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I think Sadr is signaling to Iran and its Iraqi allies [Sadr’s competitors] that he has options.”

On August 13, the Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji, and his Iranian counterpart, Abdul Ridha Rahmani Fazli, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will regulate the entry of Iranian pilgrims into Iraq.  The agreement will increase the flow of pilgrims between the two states, and demonstrates the desire of many Iraqi politicians to strengthen relations with their Shia neighbor.

On August 14, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, stressed that Iran will continue to support and cooperate with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a party which was founded in Iran in 1982 by exiled Iraqi politicians, and has since retained close ties with Iran. Masjedi met with Humam Hamoudi, who was elected President of the Council on July 30, congratulating Hamoudi on his work. Iran’s reiterated support comes weeks after former leader Ammar al-Hakim left to create his own party, the Wisdom Movement, which operates independently from Iran. That move threatens to weaken the ISCI, and indirectly Iran’s influence in Parliament.  Hakim is one a the few Shia politicians who have begun to distance themselves from Iran.  

On August 14, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa headed a diplomatic delegation to Baghdad, where he met with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss cooperation frameworks between the two countries. A statement from Jaafari’s office noted that the meeting focused on the need to “work to calm the situation in the region through the adoption of diplomatic solutions and the emphasis on Arab unity.”

On August 14, Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, commented on the recent Gulf focus on Iraq, stating that “The promising move toward Iraq led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman with the participation of the UAE and Bahrain is an example of the influence of the Gulf states once the vision and objectives are united.”

On August 15, Saudi Arabia and Iraq announced their plan to reopen the Arar border crossing for trade for the first time since 1990, as part of their recent pivot to mend bilateral relations. For the past 27 years, religious pilgrims have only had access to the crossing once each year during the hajj season.  

On August 15, the New York Times published an op-ed by Zaid al-Ali, former legal advisor the the UN in Iraq, analysing Iran’s growing influence in Iraq. Ali outlines how many major political players in Iraq have begun to distance themselves from Iran, especially in light of the upcoming elections next spring. One such politician is Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who, “has long had strained relations with Iran,” and has now begun to curb the power and influence of the Iranian-backed PMU forces, an approach he is able to take due to his recent military victories against ISIS. Ali states that “The only major political coalition to have formally adopted a pro-Iranian approach is led by former Prime Minister [and current President] Nouri al-Maliki,” who, has been “rightly blamed” for the embarrassing military defeats in 2014 to ISIS.

On August 15, Saudi Arabia sent a formal request to the Iraqi ambassador in Riyadh, Rushdi al-Ani, to open a Saudi consulate in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf, which is also the base of influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Najaf, along with Iran’s holy city of Qom, are the center of learning in Shia Islam.

On August 15, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, gave a statement on the meetings between Iraqi cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Zayed al-Nahyan. Gargash commented that it is “a promising move toward Iraq, led by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the participation of the UAE and Bahrain and the united vision and goals for the Gulf States.” He added that “our ambition is to see a stable and prosperous Iraq.”

On August 15, a source from Moqtada al-Sadr’s media office stated that “the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will travel to Cairo on an official visit, after concluding his meeting in the UAE.” The purpose of the meeting is to discuss “Iraq and the events in the region and the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).”

On August 16, the Reuters reported on Moqtada al-Sadr’s recent meetings abroad, and the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia to gain a greater foothold in Iraq.  Baghdad-based analyst Ahmed Younis commented that “Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a bold shift of his policy to deliver a message to regional, influential Sunni States that not all Shia groups carry the label ‘Made in Iran.’” The article noted that while the U.S. supports the Saudi-Iraq rapprochement, they are wary of Sadr due to his past vehement anti-American approach. An unnamed U.S. official commented on what the emerging alliance between Sadr and Saudi Arabia means for the U.S., stating that “it is perhaps close to a necessary evil…yet a very uncomfortable position for us to be in.”

Basra Governor Resigns, Others Targeted for Corruption

On August 11, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi led Parliament to approve a new graft law, in an effort to contain widespread corruption among politicians. According to Saad al-Hadithi, spokesman for Abadi’s information office, the law comes as “a continuation of the government in the fight against corruption.”

On August 11, Majid al-Nasrawi, the Governor of Basra, resigned and fled to Iran after Iraqi anti-corruption units began investigating graft allegations against him. Iraq’s Integrity Commission formally requested that Iran repatriate Nasrawi. Before leaving for Iran, Nasrawi stated that “I ask all the people of Basra to clear my name of these allegations, so that I can return to my duty.”

On August 14, Iraqi Member of Parliament Alia Nussayif criticized Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s State of Law coalition for its decision to issue travel bans on several MP connected with corruption charges, including Nussayif, even though her work is actively anti-corruption. She stressed that any accusations against herself are “false and ridiculous,” and that “this unjust action prevented me from traveling with my son, who needed treatment abroad, and then died without me being and to tell him goodbye.” A number of high-level officials, including the Governor of Basra, were accused of corruption on Monday.  

On August 14, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council issued a clarification of the charges against Majid al-Nasrawi. Abdul Sattar Bayraktar, the official spokesman for the Council, stated that the investigation into Nasrawi “is under way in his case concerning commissions from contractors, but the evidence obtained in the case is insufficient and incomplete.” Bayraktar added that “the judiciary has issued an arrest warrant and travel ban against the son of the governor of Basra, Muhammad Baqir al-Majid Nasrawi, for the crime of charging commissions from contractors.”

On August 15, Omar Aelchendah was appointed acting Governor of Salah ad-Din. The previous Governor, Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri, was convicted in July on three separate charges of bribery and corruption. In addition, Parliament voted on a resolution to address the current situation in Basra, including a package of measures to address the conditions of services and infrastructure such as water, sewage, electricity, and health. This decision comes days after the Governor of Basra, Majid Nasraoui, submitted his resignation and fled to Iran after being accused of corruption.  

On August 15, Parliament questioned acting Trade Minister Salman al-Jumaili about corruption allegations linked to his ministry, including a 2016 deal to import Indian rice that was allegedly contaminated with insects. Jumaili is accused of importing and distributing the rice despite its contamination, but denies any wrongdoing and insists that the 4,000 tons of rice was denied import.

On August 16, Parliament voted to end the questioning of Salman al-Jumaili, the acting Minister of Trade, on corruption charges. However, it is unclear if Parliament will permanently disband the case, or continue at another time. In his statement, Jumaili, who has denied all allegations, thanked Members of Parliament for “expressing their professionalism and responsibility” throughout the questioning.  He added that the ministry “confirms its full commitment to career labor standards in its service to the Iraqi people.” Alia Nussayif, the MP who questioned Jumaili, responded to the lack of conviction by requesting another vote, saying “I call on the Speaker to be fair and not to waste a year’s effort.”

ISIS “Adapting” to Lost Territory

On August 11, the UN Security Council discussed the findings of a report that found that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was “adapting” to new realities, and remained a serious threat to stability and security in Iraq. The report emphasized that ISIS’s command structure, while decentralized, remained intact and capable of organizing attacks. The report also noted that while the organization’s revenue streams are a fraction of what they once were, oil profits, theft and remittances continue to provide funds to maintain their operations.

On August 13, a joint security force in the Diyala province arrested ISIS’s oil-smuggling “mastermind” in Balad Ruz, a town 30 kilometers east of Baqubah in Diyala Province. The operation was led by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and led to the death of several militants in addition to the arrest.  

On August 13, an Iraqi MP representing Diyala, Furat al-Tamimi, called for increased security resources to protect the gas and oil pipelines in the Al-Nada Basin, 45 kilometers east of Baqubah in Diyala Province. Tamimi alleged that a recent increase in ISIS activity in the area was threatening the vital pipelines, which transport oil from Iran to a refinery in Baghdad. ISIS militants in Diyala killed three police officers guarding the pipeline on the same day.

On August 13, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reported that they had repelled an ISIS attack in Daquq, 50 kilometers south of Kirkuk. Conflicting reports said that fighting was still ongoing, and that at least one Peshmerga fighter was killed. Daquq lies along Kirkuk’s border with Salah ad-Din, where ISIS continues to control outposts that they use to conduct attacks and destabilize the local security situation.

On August 13, Governor of Diyala Muthanna al-Tamimi announced that at least four people had been arrested on charges relating to the destruction of electricity towers in the province, and that he was taking steps to address the previous destruction and prevent it in the future. He announced that the old towers would be repaired, five new ones would be installed, and more security forces would be deployed to protect the infrastructure.

On August 13, the chairman of the Energy Council in Diyala called for an emergency security meeting to discuss what he called the “electricity war” being waged by ISIS members in the province. The request came after three power lines were targeted by the group in less than 24 hours, including an attack on a power line northeast of Baqubah that left 50,000 people in the province without electricity.

On August 14, an ISF operation in Diyala ended in a firefight that left two ISIS militants dead, and the seizure of weapons including Katyusha rockets, a cheap but inaccurate artillery explosive. The ISF did not report taking any casualties. The ISF has been especially active in recent weeks in Diyala, where they are working to root out insurgents in remote areas along the border with Salah ad-Din.

On August 14, security forces killed five ISIS suicide bombers in Salah ad-Din, thwarting their attempt to attack the village of Awad in the east of the province. An attempted attack earlier in the day was also thwarted when security forces stopped an explosives-laden car at a checkpoint in the province.

On August 15, security forces arrested a female suicide bomber in Kirkuk province, successfully disarming her without taking any casualties. An anonymous source in the security forces said that they believed she had come from Hawija, the last urban outpost that ISIS still controls in the province.

On August 15, PMU forces reported that they had thwarted an attempted ISIS attack on the road from Tikrit to Kirkuk. The attack, which involved an explosive belt and a car bomb, left several PMU fighters injured before they repelled the remaining attackers and forced them to flee.

On August 15, a prominent ISIS leader in the Diyala province was killed by security forces on the border between Diyala and Salah ad-Din, in central Iraq. Haitham al-Tarazi was the head of “reconnaissance teams” for ISIS in Diyala, where the organization controls little territory but conducts frequent raids and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on civilian and military targets. His death is the second high-profile loss to ISIS’s leadership team in Diyala this week, following the recent arrest of their leader for oil smuggling operations two days before.

On August 15, an airstrike killed a prominent “mufti” and ISIS member, Abu Hilal, in eastern Salah ad-Din. The strike also killed two of his companions while they were traveling by car in the province. Abu Hilal was previously working for the organization in Kirkuk, where he was believed to be working with ISIS’s infamous religious police.

On August 15, ISIS militants attacked Peshmerga fighters in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 75 kilometers south of Kirkuk city in Salah ad-Din Province. The attack left three Peshmerga members dead and 11 more injured before ISIS members fled the scene.

On August 16, a coordinated suicide attack in Baiji left seven dead and six wounded. Three attackers detonated themselves at the city’s Federal Police headquarters, killing six officers and wounding six more. Another two attacked a military base, killing one ISF member and damaging some military equipment. The attackers appear to have been trained at an ISIS camp in Hawija, and made their way to Salah ad-Din via a network of underground tunnels and smuggling routes.

On August 16, Peshmerga forces repelled an ISIS attack near Daquq, in southern Kirkuk. The attack was the third of its kind in the past three days, and comes at the same time that Kirkuk’s governor has been calling on the IAF to intensify its airstrikes in the province. While the two previous attacks were also repelled, several casualties were reported by Peshmerga forces.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

08/17/17Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad02
08/16/17Baiji, 75 km north of Tikrit76
08/16/17Mandali, 90 km east of Baqubah11
08/15/17Radwaniya, south of Baghdad11
08/14/17Tuz Khurmatu, 100 km southwest of Tikrit02
08/14/17Al-Baladayat, eastern Baghdad04
08/13/17Central Baghdad02
08/13/17Al-Baladayat, eastern Baghdad02
08/12/17Al-Khalidiya, 25 km east of Ramadi04


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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