- Parliament Approves Electoral Districting Bill; Protests Subside After Violent Episode; New Group Seeks To Unseat Speaker Halbousi; Militia Commander Threatens Attacks On U.S. – Between October 24 – 28, Parliament voted on the boundaries of 83 electoral district across Iraq’s eighteen provinces. On October 25, thousands of protesters took to the streets to commemorate the anniversary of last year’s protest movement. Protests began peacefully but large clashes erupted later after young protesters attempted to breach barricades on bridges leading to the Green Zone, resulting in 240 injuries among protesters and security forces. On October 26, protest organizers issued a statement condemning violence and ordering the dismantling of protest tents in Tahrir Square, calling for an “end to the bloodshed” and accusing “unknown parties” of encouraging violence against security forces. Security forces subsequently moved into the area around Tahrir Square and peacefully removed concrete blocks that have blocked key streets and areas since last year. On October 27, former Ninewa governor Atheel al-Nujaifi said that a newly-created political group called “the Iraqi Front” hopes to unseat Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi. The group comprises 35 parliamentarians and is led by former Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and supported by politicians Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri and Khamis al-Khanjar. On October 28, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia leader Akram al-Kaabi met with Iranian military officials in Iran, where he made statements dismissing dialogue with the U.S. as “useless” and threatened new attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq. more…
- Deadly Bombing Hits Diyala; Gunmen Assassinate Prominent Activist In Maysan; KRG Says It Disrupted Three Terror Plots – Between October 22 – 28, eight IEDs in Anbar, Ninewa, Diyala, Maysan and Basra killed at least four Iraqis and wounded at least six more. In one incident, suspected ISIS militants killed a civilian then rigged his body with bombs that exploded later, killing rescuers. Between October 24 – 26, at least four other ISIS attacks in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salah ad-Din killed three Iraqis and wounded nine others. On October 26, unidentified gunmen assassinated activist Amjad al-Lami, a prominent participant in anti-government protests in Maysan province. On October 26, the Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) said it arrested three separate terrorist groups with links to the PKK that were plotting attacks on high-profile targets in the Kurdistan region, including foreign diplomatic missions, western companies and senior government officials. more…
- UK Returns 5,000 Artifacts To Iraq; Iraq’s Libel Laws Scrutinized After Arrest Warrant; Erbil Tightens COVID-19 Measures As Cases Continue To Rise – On October 23, PM Kadhimi’s office announced that the British Museum will return approximately 5,000 ancient clay and stone artifacts to Iraq. On October 23, the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) condemned the issue of an arrest warrant against journalist Suadad al-Salhy and demanded its immediate retraction. CFWIJ called for reforms to Iraq’s penal code and libel laws to ensure a safe environment for women journalists working in Iraq. On October 25, authorities in issued a new set of public health guidelines to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the province, tasking security forces with enforcing public health guidelines, tightening a ban on large public gatherings, and asking the government to reconsider the safety of in-person classes. On October 29, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 467,755. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 10,815 while the number of patients currently in hospitals increased to 62,554. To date, 394,386 patients have recovered from the virus and Iraq has tested 2,833,070 samples for COVID-19. The areas most affected this week were Baghdad and the Kurdistan region, which reported 1,016 and 1,285 new positive cases on October 29, respectively. more…
- Iraq, Total Discuss Gas Projects; Iraq Negotiates Output Cuts Timeline With OPEC; Parliament Wants Borrowing Bill Reduced; Saudis Eye Agribusiness In Iraq – On October 24, Iraq’s Oil Minister said that Iraq is discussing investments by French energy company Total in two natural gas fields in central and southern Iraq. On October 25, Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) said Iraq and OPEC agreed to extend the time Iraq has to compensate for exceeding its quota under the OPEC+ supply cuts through the end of the year. On October 25, the Parliamentary Finance Committee said the IQD41 trillion ($34 billion) in loans included in the Cabinet’s borrowing bill was too large a figure for the stated purpose of addressing urgent state expenditures, adding that Parliament would only pass a bill that addresses “actual expenditures” and is drafted with expected oil revenues in mind. On October 26, al-Mada reported that the Saudi Ambassador has met with Iraqi officials over the past two weeks to revive prior agreements involving offering 400,000 hectares of agricultural land to a Saudi firm. 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.
On October 24, the Iraqi Parliament voted on the electoral district boundaries for sixteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces with 176 members of parliament present. The detailed lists of towns and locales making up the electoral districts of the 16 provinces can be seen here. The vote initially excluded the contentious Kirkuk and Ninewa provinces, which Deputy Speaker of Parliament Bashir al-Haddad said required “consensus” from political factions. Two weeks earlier, Parliament voted on an electoral districting plan that bases the number of districts per province on the respective number of women quota seats–one quarter of the total. That October 10 vote, however, did not establish district boundaries. At midnight on October 26, Parliament reconvened and approved a districting plan for Ninewa province, but Parliament’s press office said voting on Kirkuk was postponed until Wednesday. On October 28, Parliament approved a Kirkuk districting plan which split the province into three districts with three, four and five seats.
On October 24, Iraq’s Integrity Commission announced that it plans to stop paying the salaries of members of parliament and government officials who fail to disclose their financial assets. This move comes as the Iraqi government continues to struggle to pay public sector salaries for its employees.
On October 24, Prime Minister Kadhimi released a statement on the eve of the first anniversary of last year’s October 25 mass protests, calling on protesters to “maintain the peace of the demonstrations” and “report any attempt to tamper with the people’s safety.” Kadhimi also condemned political factions and militias, saying after they “failed to capture the state with uncontrolled weapons, they will attempt to hijack the people’s demands.” Kadhimi continued his criticism, adding that “[these political actors] failed to lead Iraq,” and pushed it to civil war, “regional and international” conflict. In a subsequent meeting with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) commanders, Kadhimi ordered the ISF to protect demonstrations and public and private property. After the weekend protests saw clashes between protesters and security forces, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) praised the professionalism of the ISF, suggesting marked improvement in their handling of demonstrators in contrast to the deadly violence of last October. Kadhimi’s military spokesperson, Yahya Rasool, commended the ISF for showing restraint in the face of allegedly 1,500molotov cocktails, along with stones, and rudimentary hand grenades thrown at them by people among the protesters, while adding that ISF members were not carrying firearms.
On October 25, thousands of protesters took to the streets to commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s “Tishreen” (meaning October) protest movement. Hundreds of protesters attempted to travel to Baghdad from southern provinces to join the demonstrations, but the ISF stopped them at checkpoints while en route. Protests began peacefully on the morning of October 25 in Baghdad, with demonstrators assembling at Andalus Square and marching to Tahrir Square Protesters also assembled near the Prime Minister’s office in Alawi, on the west bank of the Tigris, but were dispersed by riot police, causing several injuries and pushing protesters to move to Tahrir square. Larger clashes began after young protesters attempted to breach barricades on the Sinak and Jumhouriya bridges leading to the Green Zone. Protesters attacked security forces with molotov cocktails, stones, and reportedly three rudimentary “hand grenades.” Security forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades, and firing into the air. Kadhimi’s military spokesperson, Yahya Rasool, reported that demonstrators wounded 32 ISF personnel during this action. Smaller protests also occurred in Basra, Maysan, Muthanna, Qadisiyyah, Najaf, Karbala, Dhi- Qar, Babylon, and Wasit provinces. Clashes continued on October 26 in and around Tahrir Square, where “dozens” of young protesters again attempted to cross Jumhouriya bridge but were repulsed by security forces using tear gas and stun grenades. A Ministry of Health spokesperson announced that over 200 ISF personnel and 40 protesters were wounded over the course of the protests. On October 26, “Tishreen revolutionaries” issued a statement condemning violence and ordering the dismantling of protest tents in Tahrir Square, calling for an “end to the bloodshed and [attempts at] crossing at” Jumhouriya bridge, accusing “unknown parties” of encouraging the youth to commit violence against security forces. The statement that “[the protesters of] Tahrir Square do not condone the escalation in those areas.” It called on protesters and supporting medics to remain in the square, though. Soon after, security forces began moving into the area around Tahrir Square and peacefully removed concrete blocks that have blocked key streets and areas since last year. By October 28, these streets were open again for traffic.
On October 25, Moqtada al-Sadr demanded a government crackdown on “foreign infiltrators.” Sadr’s remarks were addressing the protests over the weekend, which saw clashes between government forces and protesters that injured dozens. Sadr said those unnamed “riotous provocateurs with foreign backing were derailing the revolution from its peaceful path.” He added that if the government failed to crackdown on violent agitators and “reopen roads,” it would be “complicit” in “foreign agendas” and “devious ideas.” Sadr’s attitude towards protesters varied greatly since 2019; initially supporting their movement but later attacking them in February 2020. On October 23, State of Law Coalition leader Nouri al-Maliki warned demonstrators against engaging in “violence and chaos,” adding that local and foreign actors may attempt to infiltrate demonstrations to incite violence. Maliki said he was in favor of a national policy consisting of four axes: early elections, restoration of state prestige, exposing and punishing the killing of protesters, and holding accountable those who target state institutions, parties, and private or public property. Maliki called on the iSF to remain vigilant during the demonstrations to prevent sabotage. Maliki is likely concerned about Dawa party offices in particular, which have been subject to attacks by protesters across Iraq’s south, including on August 21, when protesters bulldozed several party offices in Nasiriyah.
On October 25, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader, Qais al-Khazali, released a statement on the first anniversary of the Tishreen protest movement which attempted to cast the government as weak, inept, and failed. Khazali blamed muhasasa, Iraq’s ethno-sectarian quota political system, for the lack of reform, and called for an “executive authority” not accountable to political parties. Khazali added that these changes necessitate constitutional amendments that change Iraq’s political system “from parliamentary to presidential.”
On October 26, demonstrators allegedly from Rab’a Allah, a group of Kataib Hezbollah (KH) affiliated vigilantes who were involved in the burning of the KDP headquarters in Baghdad on October 17, protested peacefully in front of the French Embassy in Baghdad amid heavy police presence. Protesters burned French flags and pictures of MPresident Emmanuel Macron after he said France would not renounce caricatures of Prophet Mohammad. In a statement, KH called “hostility to Islam” a “deliberate policy supported by Western governments,” which fuels extremism and hatred against Muslims. KH said that Islamic people must take a firm stance against hostility to Islam. The Fatah Coalition said that Arab and Islamic people were “surprised” by Macron’s “ignorant” comments and called on the Iraqi government to hand the French Ambassador a strong letter of protest. Fatah’s statement added that Macron’s statement would cause Macron to lose the Iraqi people as his ally. Macron’s statement was in response to the brutal murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb after he showed his class caricatures of Prophet Mohammad during a discussion about free speech.
On October 26, Prime Minister Kadhimi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Envoy Alexander Lavrentiev and Russian Ministry of Defense official Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mezentsev to discuss bilateral ties. According to Kadhimi’s office, the two sides discussed counter-terrorism cooperation and “regional and international” cooperation on facilitating the return of internally displaced persons and refugees “to create suitable environments that preclude the resurgence of radical ideologies.” Kadhimi said that his ambition for relations with Russia was “greater than the current state” of affairs.
On October 27, former Ninewa governor Atheel al-Nujaifi said that a newly-created political group called “the Iraqi Front” hopes to unseat Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi. Representative Ali al-Sajri, a member of the new group, also accused Halbousi of corruption and “dividing Iraq,” adding that the new group met with Nouri al-Maliki, Hadi al-Amiri, Masoud Barzani, PUK leaders and Qais al-Khazali and asked them to help unseat Halbousi On October 24, former Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s Salvation and Development Front, Rashid al-Azzawi’s Iraqi Islamic Party, Khamis al-Khanjar’s Arab Project, Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri’s (Abu Mazin) Masses Bloc, and the Independent Iraqi bloc formed the Iraqi Front on October 23, with Osama al-Nujaifi as its leader. The bloc consists of 35 parliamentarians and ostensibly aims to “correct the legislative and parliamentary situation” with an emphasis on “engaging the street.” These politicians formed the bloc in the aftermath of a meeting on October 23, in which the parties attempted to “coordinate positions” on the October 17 Farhatiya massacre. However, Salah ad-Din representative Muthanna al-Samarraie called the bloc’s formation “merely personal reactions” to Halbousi, adding that the bloc was “not independent of external interference.” Several politicians involved with the bloc’s creation have been involved with Iranian-backed armed groups. The U.S. sanctioned Khanjar and Jubouri in 2019 for corruption and financial and political involvement with Iranian-aligned militias. Both men joined Badr and Asaib Ahl al-Haq in the 2018 creation of the Binaa Alliance.
On October 28, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia leader Akram al-Kaabi met with Iranian Military Advisor to the Supreme Leader Yahya Rahim Safavi and IRGC Deputy Commander Ali Fadavi in Iran. In a press conference, Kaabi called dialogue with the U.S. “useless” because the “U.S. only understands the logic of force.” Kaabi said that rocket attacks were “simple fireworks,” but that the next step is “massive operations.” He continued, threatening that the “resistance will descend upon… the Americans if they do not withdraw.” Kaabi also accused Israeli security and political delegations of visiting Iraq using Western and American passports, calling this a threat to “Iraq, Iran, the region, and all Muslims.” Kaabi alleged that U.S. President Donald Trump had “given the Iraqi file” to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, who Kaabi claims is working to stir up divisions in Iraq.
On October 22, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) exploded under the Albu Hayes bridge in Ramadi, Anbar province, wounding a civilian. To the west, an under-vehicle IED (UVIED) exploded on October 25 targeting the director of the Anah district health center, injuring the victim severely.
On October 22, Interior Ministry forces killed two ISIS militants and seized explosive devices in the Abbara subdistrict in Diyala province. The ministry said the operation, which targeted militants suspected of planting IEDs in the area’s farms, also uncovered weapons, IEDs and bomb making equipment.
On October 23, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) killed a local ISIS leader in the Zghaytoun valley, in western Kirkuk province.
On October 23, the Security Media Cell said that four ISIS militants died when a roadside IED exploded against a pickup truck they were driving through al-Muqata’ region of Salah ad-Din province.
On October 23, an IED exploded targeting Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) members on patrol north of al-Muqdadiyah in Diyala province. The explosion wounded an ISF officer and two soldiers.
On October 24, ISIS militants attacked a Federal Police outpost in the village of al-Nagara, near Hawijah in western Kirkuk, wounding one police officer. To the south, ISIS militants attacked a security post in the al-Waqf basin in Diyala province on October 25, killing one police officer and wounding two others.
On October 24, a roadside IED exploded targeting an Iraqi-operated contractor convoy transporting equipment for the International Coalition in Basra province, causing no casualties.
On October 24, an IED exploded against a house in the Mualimeen neighborhood in central Amara, the capital of Maysan province. The explosion caused substantial damage to the house but no casualties.
On October 25, Iraqi police reported that unidentified militants kidnapped an engineer working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in al-Rutba, in western Anbar province. The police said a search was underway for the kidnapped engineer, who was working on repairing a war-damaged highway bridge in the area. UNDP has not yet commented on the kidnapping.
On October 25, security sources said that gunfire wounded two Iraqi soldiers in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, without providing further details on the incident.
On October 26, an IED exploded targeting a vehicle belonging to a police officer in the Haj Ali village near Qayyarah in Ninewa province. The explosion injured the police officer.
On October 26, unidentified gunmen assassinated activist Amjad al-Lami in central Amara, the capital of Maysan province. Lami, a prominent participant in anti-government protests in Maysan, was one of several activists believed to have been assassinated by militia groups this year. Iraqi Center for Documenting War Crimes reported that Lami was killed despite the heavy presence of security forces in central Amara.
On October 26, unidentified gunmen attacked a house in Tal al-Dhahab, southern Salah ad-Din province. The gunmen killed two civilians and wounded four others.
On October 26, the Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC), the unified security and intelligence-gathering body of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) led by KRG Prime Minister and KDP member Masrour Barzani, announced it had arrested three separate terrorist groups that had been plotting attacks on high-profile targets in the region. The KRSC reported the arrest of 12 individuals allegedly linked to the PKK who planned to attack unspecified foreign consulates and Western-based companies in Erbil. The KRSC detained another eight suspects planning to assassinate a governor of one of the region’s provinces. A third group of seven detained suspects allegedly planned to assassinate a senior intelligence official and a judge. The KDP, which dominates the KRSC and maintains a close relationship with Turkey, has long blamed the PKK for provoking Turkish military action and instability in the Kurdistan Region, and insists the group must leave.
On October 27, ISIS militants killed a shepherd on the outskirts of Muqdadiyah, Diyala province. The militants then rigged an IED to the shepherd’s body, which later exploded when locals went to retrieve the body. The explosion killed four members of the first victim’s extended family. One of the dead is Sheikh Fadalah al-Kaabi, an influential leader of the local Bani Kaab tribe who has been involved in fighting ISIS in the area.
On October 28, an IED exploded against a tractor near the village of al-Haml, near al-Udheim in Diyala province. The explosion wounded a civilian. To the south, an unidentified gunman killed an ISF soldier in the village of al-Hasawiya, near Abu Saida in Diyala province.
On October 23, Prime Minister Kadhimi’s office announced that the British Museum in London will return approximately 5,000 ancient clay and stone artifacts to Iraq. According to the statement by Kadhimi’s office, this will be the largest delivery of missing historical artifacts to Iraq to date.
On October 23, the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ), a global support group for women in journalism, condemned the issue of an arrest warrant against Middle East Eye journalist Suadad al-Salhy and demanded its immediate retraction. An Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant for al-Salhy the previous day as part of a libel suit over al-Salhy’s appearance in a video which attacked government inaction on public demands. CFWIJ additionally called for reforms to Iraq’s penal code and libel laws in order to ensure a safe environment for women journalists working in Iraq.
On October 25, the Erbil Operations Room (the task force established to manage the province’s response to COVID-19) issued a new set of public health guidelines to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the province. The new measures task security forces with enforcing public health guidelines in the province. Facilities that host large public gatherings such as weddings, graduation ceremonies, private and governmental conferences, and sporting events will be closed indefinitely, while bars, nightclubs, and cafes must close by midnight each night. Moreover, the Erbil Operations Center asked that the KRG Minister of Interior meet with the regional and federal ministers of education to reconsider the safety of in-person school and university classes. The order notes that noncompliance will be penalized, and that visitors to the province will also be subject to the guidelines and noncompliance penalties.
On October 26, UNDP announced the opening of a 20-bed isolation ward for patients with COVID-19 in Karbala province. The facility, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is one of 14 being built by UNDP countrywide to aid Iraq’s response to COVID-19. The isolation ward, part of the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital, is expected to serve around 1 million people in the province.
On October 29, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iraq rose to 467,755, representing a weekly increase of 25,591 cases from the 442,164 cases reported on October 22. Of these cases, 62,554 patients are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 460 in the intensive care unit (ICU). This represents an increase of 2,681 patients in Iraqi hospitals from last week, and a 14 patient increase in ICU patients. Ministry data indicated that there were a total of 350 new COVID-related deaths this week, bringing the total from 10,465 to 10,815. The total number of recoveries increased from 371,826 to 394,386. The daily average for new cases rose slightly from last week, with a daily average of 3,656 new cases, up from an average of 3,623 new cases per day last week. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,016 cases, Erbil with 580 cases, Duhok with 440 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 265 cases, and Diyala with 207 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 2,833,070 samples for COVID-19.
On October 24, Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Ismael said that Iraq is in talks to secure investment from French energy company Total in two natural gas fields west of Baghdad and in Basra City. Ismael said that Iraq wants to boost natural gas production in order to lower dependence on electricity and gas imports. Total is already involved in two other oil and gas fields, with a 22.5% stake in the Halayfa field in Maysan and 18% in the Sarsang field in the Kurdistan region. Last week, the Ministry of Oil said that it wants to eliminate gas flaring by 2023. The ministry also announced that it has additional plans to develop gas production at the Akkaz field in Anbar and Mansouriyah field in Diyala.
On October 25, Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) said Iraq and OPEC agreed to extend the time Iraq has to compensate for exceeding its quota under the OPEC+ supply cuts through the end of the year. SOMO said that Iraq’s combined baseline and compensatory reduction rate would be around 1 million barrels per day (bpd) until December 31. SOMO added that the OPEC+ deal has entered its “second phase” in August and that “the reduction rate for Iraq during this phase will be 18% of Iraq’s production, equal to 849,000 bpd.” In August, Iraq’s Oil Ministry offered to reduce oil production by a further 400,000 bpd from previous months to compensate for exceeding the production limits Iraq had agreed to as part of the OPEC+ deal signed in April.
On October 25, the Parliamentary Finance Committee said the draft borrowing law’s IQD41 trillion ($34 billion) loan proposal is too large for the stated purpose of addressing urgent state expenditures. After conducting a first reading of the law, which the Cabinet submitted in early October, Committee members said that Parliament would only pass a borrowing law that addresses “the actual expenditures of the Iraqi state” and is drafted with expected oil revenues in mind. Members argued the Committee alone should be authorized to determine the total loan amount based on the spending priorities it identifies, and reported that the Committee will seek to reduce the preliminary loan total in meetings with the government this week. On October 27, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Hasan al-Kaabi said after a meeting with the Finance Committee that Parliament wished to expedite paying public sector salaries, but demanded more detailed expense and deficit figures to be able to carefully consider the bill.
On October 26, al-Mada reported citing “informed sources” that Saudi Ambassador Abdulaziz al-Shammari had met with Iraqi officials over the past two weeks, including Minister of Agriculture Falah Hassan, to revive agreements concluded under the premierships of Haider al-Abadi and Adil Abdul-Mahdi in 2017 and 2018. Iraq reportedly offered Saudi investment company Salik 400,000 hectares of agricultural land, primarily in Anbar and Muthanna provinces to grow crops and then export them to Saudi Arabia.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
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 Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.