ISHM 13: April 18 – 24, 2015

ISHM_Logo_2016Updates for April 18-24, 2015

  • The Iraqi government forces successfully repelled attacks in Anbar by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) that aimed to control Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar. As the tide turned in Ramadi, local authorities have decided to only allow people of Ramadi to enter the city, citing security concerns that ISIS will use a flow of returnees to infiltrate the city.
  • Over the past two weeks, between 79,000 and 200,000 people have fled fighting in Anbar, adding to Iraq’s population of more than 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The fleeing Anbaris are facing humanitarian and protection challenges as new restrictions are placed on access to the capital Baghdad and other safer areas. Citing security concerns, authorities in Baghdad now require arriving IDPs to be vouched for by a Baghdadi sponsor in order to enter the city. In the neighboring province of Babil, the Governor went further, announcing that men between the ages of 18 and 50 would no longer be allowed to enter the province.
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Tikrit, estimated to be around 200,000 people, have not been able to return to the city yet as the security situation continues to witness clashes between anti-ISIS and ISIS forces.
  • Anti-ISIS forces continued to clear villages south of Kirkuk city of ISIS. These operations have included the participation of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, Counter-Terrorism Groups (CTG), and local Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs).

Iraqi Government Forces make gains in Anbar, repels ISIS in Ramadi

On April 18, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Brigadier Gen. Saad Maan announced that reinforcements from the Federal Police (FP) had been sent to Anbar province. On April 18, two regiments of Iraqi security forces arrived in Ramadi in support of operations to clear ISIS militants from the city. On April 18, Baghdad Operations Command announced that joint security forces had reportedly killed 77 ISIS members and destroyed 144 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the Garma sub-district, east of Fallujah. On April 18, Iraqi security forces arrived at the Habbaniyah military base, between Ramadi and Fallujah in support of operations to clear Anbar province of ISIS.

On April 19, joint security forces began an operation to clear the al-Sufiyah area, east of Ramadi, of ISIS militants. On April 19, the chief of Anbar provincial police, Maj. Gen. Kazim Fahdawi, stated that the security situation in Ramadi was improving following the arrival of reinforcements to the city. On April 19, there were clashes in the Albu Faraj area, north of Ramadi.

On April 20, joint security forces cleared the Ramadi Teaching Hospital for Maternity and Children in the Hawz neighborhood of Ramadi.

On April 22, joint security forces continued clearing operations in al-Sufiyah and al-Sajaria, northeast of Ramadi, and began returning displaced families to their homes in areas of central Ramadi. Recently cleared areas include al-Aziza, most parts of the Industrial neighborhood, the Warar neighborhood, and the Al Ramadi Teaching Hospital for Maternity and Children. On April 22, a member of the Anbar provincial council, Mohammed Farhan, reported that ISIS militants had launched chlorine gas into some residential areas and at security checkpoints in Ramadi.

On April 23, the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced that joint security forces had cleared the Old Road in Garma sub-district. In addition, joint security forces cleared the villages of Albu Soda, Albu Khanfar, and Albu Salman and the Ali Salman and Halabsa Rivers. On April 23, joint security forces cleared the al-Sherka and al-Thela neighborhoods in the city of Ramadi of ISIS. On April 23, the commander of the Awakening in western Anbar, Ashour al-Hammadi, stated that ISIS members had arrived in Hit to reinforce the organization’s strength in western Anbar province and to potentially launch an attack on the al-Baghdadi sub-district.

As many as 200,000 people flee fighting in Anbar; new restrictions for IDPs seeking access to Baghdad and other safer areas

On April 19, member of the Parliamentary Committee on Migration, Hanin Qado stated that over 200,000 Anbaris were waiting outside the capital in order to be allowed into the city. Qado added that Baghdad authorities have imposed sponsorship requirements because “it is concerned that terrorist will sneak into the city with the Internally Displaced Persons.” Qado added that “[there are] more than 80,000 IDPs from Anbar, as a result of ISIS attacks on Ramadi, entered the Abu Ghraib area of Baghdad and are homeless…” He added, “The last reported numbers of Anbaris fleeing the fighting amounted to 200,000…and Karbala, Babil, and Baghdad will be the main provinces to host them.”

On April 20, representative of the Higher Commission for Human Rights, Masrur Aswad, stated that early estimates of IDPs totaled 198,000 and 28,000 reportedly have entered Baghdad.

The governor of Babil province in central Iraq, Sadiq Madlul al-Sultani announced policies to handle the wave of Anbari IDPs. The policies include disallowing males between the ages of 18 and 50 from settling in the province due to security concerns and also the requirement of a sponsor. Babil has reportedly received 1,050 Anbari families so far. Governor al-Sultani defended the requirement stating “the decision was made to allow [the males] to volunteer to fight for the restoration of their homes that are under control of ISIS.” Similar policies are being considered by officials in Maysan province.

On April 22, Adrian Edwards, the UN Spokesman in Iraq, stated that 79,000 IDPs from the military operations in Anbar province, specifically around Ramadi have left their areas. In his press release, he states, “54,000 have left for Baghdad, 15,000 to Sulaymaniyah, 2,100 to Babil” and 8,000 are still in Anbar.

Opening of new IDP camp in Erbil while Tikrit IDPs await return

On April 18, Jassim Mohammed, Minister of Displacement and Migration, opened a new complex for IDPs in Ainkawa, an Erbil suburb. The complex will house over 1,000 families and it includes caravans that are equipped with electricity, water, and sanitation facilities.

On April 21, Amal Marai, Member of the Council of Representatives from Salah al-Din, stated that 200,000 IDPs were still waiting to return to Tikrit. According to Councilwoman Marai, “no families have returned to Tikrit recently because of instability in security throughout the city.” She added, “After the completion of military operations in the city, the local government will direct the displaced families, which total around 200,000 people, to return to their areas.” The Councilwoman also confirmed that there is an ongoing effort to restore services to the city.

Counteroffensive against ISIS continues in Kirkuk

On April 18, joint security forces including Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — or Dzha Terror in Kurdish — with support from the International Coalition, began an operation to clear several villages south of Kirkuk of ISIS. The forces cleared the areas of Tal Ahmed and the railway, south of Kirkuk and also cleared the villages of Al-Aziriya and Al-Aatshana in Daquq district of ISIS. On April 18, the forces cleared the two villages of Little and Big Ban Shakh in Kirkuk’s Daquq district of ISIS.

On April 19, an MP and leader in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), Jassim Mohammed, stated that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Turkmen PMUs were in control of areas surrounding al-Bashir village, with the exception of areas to the west. Bashir is a predominantly Iraqi Turkmen village that is south of Kirkuk. On the same day, ISIS militants executed 24 people in the Zab sub-district, Hawija district, southwest of Kirkuk.

On April 20, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces repelled attacks by ISIS militants on the villages of Al-Aziriya, Al-Aatshana, and al-Mara al-Tabaa. On April 22, Peshmerga forces and PMUs clashed with ISIS near Bashir in the Taza sub-district and in the village of Ban Shakh in Daquq district.

Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow at EPIC. He would like to thank EPIC interns Alec Lynde and Jonathan Frederickson for their research support and contributions this report.

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