- Deadly Hospital Fire Reignites Calls To Address Corruption; Sunni Alliances Take Shape Ahead Of Elections; US Commander Says No Plans To Withdraw From Iraq – On April 23, CENTCOM Commander Gen. McKenzie said there were currently no plans for military withdrawal from Iraq. On April 23, a person died and several suffered injuries after a riot police vehicle rammed through a crowd protesting poor services south of Baghdad. On April 25, PM Kadhimi ordered an investigation into the causes of the fire that killed 82 people and injured dozens at Ibn al-Khatib hospital in Baghdad. Kadhimi suspended top health officials while the Parliament identified negligence and corruption as major factors in the high number of casualties. On April 26, dozens of former PMF fighters protested in Baghdad demanding re-employment. On April 26 and 27, Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Iraqi officials and discussed Iraq’s latest efforts to mediate between Tehran and Riyadh. On April 27, sources said four potential Sunni political alliances are likely to compete for votes in the upcoming elections. On April 27, PM Kadhimi warned his cabinet members against exploiting their positions for political gain, threatening to “make difficult decisions” in the coming period. more…
- New Wave Of IEDs And ISIS Attacks Threaten Gains In Diyala; Rockets Land Near Baghdad Airport; Security Forces Kill Suicide Bomber In Kirkuk – On April 23, three Katyusha rockets landed in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport. Between April 23-28, at least five IED explosions and six ISIS attacks killed five people and injured 20 others in Diyala. During the same period, five IEDs targeted International Coalition supply convoys in Anbar, Dhi-Qar and Diwaniyah. On April 27, a remnant of war explosion killed four Federal Police members and injured five others in Kirkuk. On April 27, ISIS militants briefly seized control of al-Abyadh border outpost in Anbar after Border Guard personnel fled the area, leaving behind their weapons. On April 29, Iraqi forces said they foiled an attempted suicide attack targeting the National Security Directorate building in Kirkuk, and killed the would-be attacker. On April 29, two IED explosions in Anbar killed a senior Iraqi officer and his driver, and injured six Iraqi soldiers. more…
- Inferno Kills Scores In A COVID-19 Hospital; Indian Strain Of Virus Detected in Dhi-Qar – On April 24, an intense fire broke out in the intensive care ward of Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in southern Baghdad, killing 82 people and injuring 110 others. Witnesses said the fire began after an oxygen tank used for COVID-19 patients exploded, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that quickly spread. On April 26, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it delivered food and humanitarian assistance to 259,200 people in Iraq last month. On April 27, Iraq’s government suspended air travel to and from India over concerns of the spread of a new COVID-19 strain found in India. Hours later, officials identified the first case of the B.1.617 mutation of the COVID virus in Dhi-Qar. On April 29, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,058,794. The average number of new cases decreased to 6,927 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 7,633 per day last week. more…
- Iraq Imposes Taxes on Tobacco And Alcohol Imports; Basra To Host Gulf Cup 25 – On April 25, Iraq began imposing taxes between 100% and 200% on cigarettes and alcohol imports. On April 26, members of the Arab Gulf Football Federation voted to hold the Gulf Cup 25 championship in Basra. The vote follows years of deferments to other member countries. On April 27, the Planning Ministry said that Iraq witnessed a significant inflation spike, and that the rate increased by 5.6% in the past five months. On April 28, the government approved an increase in social security payments to assist communities suffering from economic hardship. Monthly payments to individuals in need will now be IQD125,000, increasing by IQD50,000-75,000 increments for each additional family member. 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 April 23, one civilian died after a riot police vehicle rammed through a crowd of protesters who took to the streets demanding better public services in al-Wihda subdistrict south of Baghdad. Sources said the incident led to clashes between the two sides, injuring seven protesters and two security members. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation into the incident.
On April 23, the Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Frank McKenzie said there were currently no plans for military withdrawal from Iraq, citing the unfinished fight against ISIS. “We’re going to be there,” McKienzie added, “our NATO partners are going to be there” because the government of Iraq “wants us to stay.” A day later, the Iraqi military spokesperson Yahia Rasool said that the country has a trained force capable of defending “the homeland and the people” without the need for additional forces on the ground. He added that Iraq “does not need a single U.S. or foreign soldier to carry weapons and fight alongside the Iraqi forces.” Rasool stated that Iraq is “working” with NATO for the purpose of training and military supplies. On April 26, the Iraqi National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji reiterated the demand to withdraw all combat forces within the International Coalition from Iraq based on an “agreed upon” time table. Iraqi and U.S. officials stressed during the latest round of strategic dialogue talks on April 7, that U.S. forces presence in Iraq is at the invitation of the Iraqi government and agreed to hold future talks regarding a timetable to redeploy remaining U.S. “combat troops” outside Iraq.
On April 25, Prime Minister Kadhimi formed a committee to investigate the causes of the fire that tragically killed 82 people and injured more than 110 others at Ibn al-Khatib hospital, a COVID-19 isolation center in south eastern Baghdad. Kadhimi suspended Health Minister Hassan al-Timimi, Baghdad governor Mohamed al-Atta and other health officials. Security forces arrested the director of the hospital and its top officials, pending the results of the investigation. Parliament, for its part, formed its own committee to investigate the fire, and held an emergency session on April 26 to discuss its findings and recommendations. The Parliamentary report identified several issues that could have caused the deadly fire, including hospital administration negligence, corruption, lack of a functioning central fire-suppression system, and slow emergency response. Some lawmakers called for sacking the Health Minister, reforming the crumbling healthcare system, and excluding health and other service-oriented ministries from the quota system in nominating ministers. On the other hand, Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist movement, appeared to suggest a foul play of political nature, saying that some “vandals” are trying to destabilize Iraq “as elections draw near and their chances of winning diminish.”
On April 26, dozens of former Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters who had their contracts severed in the past, protested in Baghdad and blocked traffic in al-Jadryia street. They demanded the government reinstate their contracts. Fatah bloc spokesperson, MP Ahmed al-Asadi, said the new 2021 federal budget includes “indirect” allocations that would allow the PMF Commision to reinstate former fighters this year, while also implying that it’s now up to the Ministry of Finance to resolve the issue Chairman of the parliamentary Security and Defense Committee Mohammed Al Haydar, contradicted al-Asadi, saying there were no allocations for this purpose. The text of the resolution approved by the Parliament and signed into law by President Barham Salih allocates IQD 3.29 trillion to the PMF but includes no specific mention of reinstating former fighters.
On April 26, Iranian Foriegn Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began a two-day visit to Baghdad and Erbil, where he spoke with Iraqi officials about joint cooperation initiatives, current security threats, regional issues, and Iraq’s latest efforts to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Zarif also held separate meetings with leaders of Shia and Sunni political parties. While Zarif was in Baghdad, sources in Iraq claimed a covert meeting took place between Iran’s National Security Advisor Ali Shamkhani and CIA Director William Burns in the home of Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. Tehran quickly denied the claims, as did the CIA.
On April 27, political sources said Sunni political alliances have started taking shape in preparation for the October elections. According to al-Mada, four potential groups are emerging after extensive negotiations.Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbosi will reportedly lead al-Taqadum alliance, while Khamis al-Khanjar formed al-Azm alliance. A third alliance will include former Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi and politician Jamal al-Dhari, while former Salah ad-Din governor Ahmed al-Jubori will form a separate bloc. These entities have yet to register with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). The deadline for political entities and candidates interested in being on the ballot is May 1.
On April 27, Prime Minister Kadhimi warned his cabinet members against exploiting their government positions, or the public resources at their disposal, for political or personal gain. Kadhimi, addressing his cabinet, said that he was in the process of evaluating the performance of cabinet members and other government officials, promising to “make difficult decisions” in the coming period. It’s worth noting that according to article 78 of the Iraqi constitution, the Prime Minister can’t fire a minister without an absolute majority vote in the Parliament.
On April 22, a security source said an ISIS sniper wounded an Iraqi soldier in the al-Zarga area of Salah ad-Din province. On April 27, an Iraqi Army force repelled an ISIS attack on the area and killed a combatant.
On April 23, three Katyusha rockets landed in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport. One rocket struck near the al-Karkh Central Prison, another landed in an empty square near the Counterterrorism Service Academy, and the third hit near the headquarters of an Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response regiment. The attack injured an Iraqi security guard. Security forces discovered the rocket launch pad with five additional rockets still loaded on a house rooftop in the al-Jihad neighborhood of west Baghdad.
On April 23, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near a liquor store in the al-Mashtal neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The blast caused damage to the store but no casualties.
On April 23, two IEDs detonated in the village of Jizani in the Abu Saida district of Diyala province. A security source said the first IED exploded near a civilian vehicle, and the second, followed by ISIS sniper fire, targeted a police patrol responding to the first explosion. The twin IED attack killed two police officers and a civilian, and wounded four policemen. On April 26, another IED exploded in the village of Jizani, targeting a Rapid Response unit deployed from Baghdad to sweep the area. The attack killed an intelligence officer and injured six members of the unit, including the commanding officer. The next day, ISIS militants attacked a Rapid Response patrol between the villages of Sheikhi and Abu Khanazir in the Abu Saida district, injuring five members of the patrol. On April 29, an explosives disposal expert suffered injuries in an explosion while attempting to dismantle an IED on the outskirts of Abu Saida. After the string of ISIS attacks in the area, the Ministry of Interior relieved Brigadier General Ali al-Sudani of his duties as Director of Intelligence and Combatting Terrorism in Diyala province, and replaced him with Major General Ali Khawam.
On April 23, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint in the al-Hashimiyat district in Diyala province, wounding a police officer and a civilian.
On April 24, a security source said five mortar rounds landed in the villages of Bodajah and Gusaybah in al-Abbara subdistrict in Diyala province, without causing casualties.
On April 24, Turkish forces launched a large-scale operation targeting PKK positions in the Kurdistan region. Rudaw reported that the operation began with airstrikes in the Kani Masi subdistrict of Amadiyah and the Kili Bazi area of Zakho district, as well as an incursion on Mount Matin and Mount Kista in Dohuk province.
On April 24, a remnant of war exploded in the Qayarrah district, south of Mosul. The blast injured two civilians driving by, and heavily damaged their vehicle.
On April 25, a roadside IED detonated near a contractor convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition on a highway in Anbar province. Two days later, two IEDs targeted another International Coalition contractor convoy travelling along the international highway in Dhi-Qar province. The explosions damaged a convoy vehicle loaded with military equipment. The same day, another IED exploded on a Coalition contractor convoy in Diwaniyah province. A fifth IED exploded near a Coalition supply convoy on a highway in Anbar province. None of the attacks caused casualties.
On April 26, an IED explosion killed a PMF fighter and injured four others in the Hammam al-Alil subdistrict of Ninewa province.
On April 26, ISIS militants killed the mukhtar of al-Qaya village in Khanaqin district of Diyala province. A day later, two civilians suffered injuries during an ISIS attack on an Iraqi Army outpost in the village of Karim Dawood, also in Khanaqin.
On April 27, an IED exploded near a crew dispatched to restore electricity after blackouts in the Kani Masi subdistrict caused by a Turkish military operation targeting PKK fighters in Duhok province. The explosion wounded three people.
On April 27, a remnant of war exploded in the village of Bakhira, south of Mosul. The explosion killed two children and injured a third who were grazing sheep in the area marked as a landmine zone.
On April 27, a remnant of war explosion killed four Federal Police members and injured five others in al-Rashad district of Kirkuk province. The blast occured after they transported the device to the 19th Brigade Federal Police headquarters to defuse it.
On April 27, ISIS militants attacked and briefly seized control of al-Abyadh border outpost in the Arar area of Anbar province. Members of the Border Guard force manning the outpost fled during the attack, leaving behind their weapons, a vehicle, and communications equipment, which the militants stole before burning down the checkpoint. The next day, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi ordered the detainment of three Border Guard generals responsible for overseeing that area.
On April 28, ISIS snipers attacked a military outpost in the village of Mardana in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province. A security source said that an IED detonated on an Iraqi Army patrol attempting to provide reinforcements for the besieged outpost, wounding two soldiers.
On April 29, Iraqi security forces said they foiled an attempted suicide attack targetting the National Security Directorate building in Kirkuk. The Security Media Cell said guards at the gate identified the would be suicide bomber and shot him, detonating the explosive vest he was wearing. The explosion killed the attacker and injured two security guards.
On April 29, six members of an Iraqi Army patrol suffered injuries when an IED exploded near their convoy east of Ramadi in Anbar province.
On April 29, a sniper fire killed a PMF fighter in the Yathrib subdistrict south of Samarra in Salah ad-Din province.
On April 29, an IED explosion killed a brigadier general in Iraq’s Border Guard and his driver while they were travelling on a highway in Anbar province.
On April 24, an intense fire broke out in the intensive care ward of Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad’s Diyala Bridge neighborhood, killing 82 people and injuring 110 others. Witnesses said the fire began after an oxygen tank used for COVID-19 patients exploded, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that quickly engulfed the COVID ward in a deadly inferno. Sabah Samer, a doctor who survived the tragic fire, described hearing at least 20 explosions as oxygen tanks erupted, and pointed out that “the walls of the rooms were padded with plastic and nylon, which fed the fire.” Another doctor, Kamal al-Rubaie, said the second-floor intensive care unit (ICU) ward was crowded with COVID patients and their relatives, who often had to handle the oxygen tanks themselves to assist the understaffed doctors and nurses. Some speculated that an electric portable stove placed near the oxygen cylinders may have sparked the first explosion. Volunteers gathered to fight the inferno, discovering the hospital had no sprinkler system or fire hoses. With many of the fire extinguishers empty, volunteers and relatives of patients tried to put out the flames with blankets as hospital patients and staff jumped from windows to escape the fire. Many of the victims were COVID patients attached to ventilators, unable to move after the fire began. Dr. Waad Adnan said that the hospital ignored guidelines restricting the number of family members allowed to visit sick patients, which led to more casualties as relatives refused to leave behind family members trapped in the ICU ward. The Ministry of Interior said that fire-fighters arrived on the scene three and a half minutes after the fire began, but according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, the fire raged for over an hour before rescue teams arrived on the scene. The Commission added that the number of deaths caused by the fire may be as high as 130, and is expected to rise given the severity of the injuries of many victims.
On April 26, the Ministry of Interior announced that the Civil Defense Directorate would launch a plan to update safety measures and enforce public safety guidelines in government institutions, hospitals, hotels, and public buildings throughout the country. Ordered by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the plan aims to prevent further tragedies like the Ibn al-Khatib Hospital fire, and enhance public safety standards across the country. The measure comes after the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights linked the high number of casualties in the hospital fire to the absence of a central fire alarm and suppression systems in the hospital. The Commission cited the negligence of Health Ministry officials for their disregard of safety requirements and called for the formation of monitoring committees to oversee safety standards in Iraqi hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO) offered its assistance to the Iraqi government in its efforts to address the deadly fire incident, stating that the tragedy puts additional weight on an already overburdened Iraqi health care system. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) also called for additional preventative measures to prevent further tragedies, and extended condolences to the victims.
On April 26, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it delivered food and humanitarian assistance to 259,200 people in Iraq in the month of March. Those assisted included 188,921 internally displaced persons (IDPs), 69,085 refugees, and 1,194 returnees and people in vulnerable communities. The WFP also began preparations for projects in Ninewa, Basra, Dhi-Qar, and Maysan provinces to help small businesses, especially those directly affected by COVID-19, generate a sustainable income. This week, Japan announced a $6.4 million contribution to the WFP’s work in Iraq. The funding aims to support monthly food assistance programs to provide meals for 40,000 IDPs for up to five months, and another 15,000 vulnerable people for ten months.
On April 26, Iraq’s Health Ministry announced the arrival of another weekly shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, without specifying the number of doses. Earlier, the Ministry said it had signed a contract to purchase an additional 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Al-Karkh Health District in Baghdad Chasib al-Hujami said that Iraq would need to vaccinate around eight million people, or 20% of the population, for life to return to normal. He added that at the current rate of vaccination, it would take ten years before every citizen received a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
On April 27, Iraq’s government suspended air travel to and from India indefinitely, over growing concerns of the spread of a new COVID-19 strain found in India. On the same day, Iraqi health officials identified the first case of the B.1.617 mutation of the COVID virus in Dhi-Qar province. A local source in Dhi-Qar said the infected individual had recently arrived from India and is under medical supervision to prevent further spread of the new COVID strain.
On April 28, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research issued a directive to public and private universities in Iraq to fully vaccinate students and staff. The ministry statement highlighted that vaccinating students, teachers, and university staff should be a top priority to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safe return to in-person schooling.
On April 29, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,058,794. This is an increase of 48,490 from the 1,010,304 reported on April 22. Of these cases, 108,426 are currently in hospitals, including 551 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 2,569 in hospitalizations and an increase of 26 in ICU admissions since April 22. Ministry data indicated that there were 305 new COVID-19 deaths since April 22, bringing the total from 15,128 to 15,433. The total number of recoveries increased from 884,181 to 934,935. The average number of new cases was 6,927 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 7,633 per day during the 7-day period ending April 22. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 2,549 cases, Basra with 953 cases, Maysan with 410 cases, Diyala with 389 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 354 cases, and Duhok with 321 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 9,292,052 samples for COVID 19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 342,252, including the 9,757 who received their shots on April 29.
On April 25, the Iraqi General Taxes Commission began imposing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol imports to Iraq. The tax rate on cigarettes and tobacco products is set at 100%, while imports of alcoholic beverages is set at 200%.
On April 26, members of the Arab Gulf Football Federation voted unanimously to hold the Gulf Cup 25 championship in Iraq’s Basra province. The vote follows years of deferments to other member countries due to the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) sanctions on the Iraqi Football Association. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi described the decision as a “sign of Iraq’s recovery,” and said his government will not spare an effort to ensure success of the regional tournament. Basra will host Gulf Cup 25 in January 2022.
On April 27, the Ministry of Planning announced that Iraq witnessed a significant increase in the inflation rate in the past year. Spokesperson Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi stated that the inflation rate increased by 5.6% in the past five months, with a 0.7% increase in the monthly inflation rate between March and February. In the month of March, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 2.2%, while the price of clothing increased by 2%. Tobacco products also saw an increase by 1.6%, and the price of health department goods increased by 0.4%. The prices of housing and entertainment decreased by 0.2% and 2.1%, respectively.
On April 27, Iraq’s government, through the United Nations Gulf War Compensation Commission (UNCC), paid $380 million to Kuwait, for financial losses the Kuwait Petroleum Company suffered during the Gulf War. The payment, which is derived from 3% of Iraqi oil sales, brings the total amount of reparations paid to Kuwait to $50.7 billion, leaving a $1.7 billion balance. Prime Minister’s Financial Advisor Madhar Mohammad Saleh said Iraq’s foreign debts remain between $23-25 billion. Saleh stated that the 2021 federal budget allocated around IQD nine trillion, or 7% of federal spending, to servicing debt. Saleh added that 60% of those funds will go towards Iraq’s internal debt, which stands at IQD70 trillion.
On April 27, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced a project to rehabilitate Iraq’s Trebil border crossing with Jordan. The project, supported by funding from the European Union, aims to increase the capacity of Iraq’s border protection, improve infrastructure, enhance security, and facilitate trade.
On April 28, Iraq’s Cabinet approved a proposal by the Social Protection Authority to increase social security payments to assist poorer communities suffering from economic hardship. Monthly payments to single individuals will now be IQD125,000, increasing by IQD50,000-75,000 for each additional family member, depending on whether the head-of-household is male or female.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from April 22, 2021 - April 29, 2021The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
|04/23/21||Al-Mashtal, eastern Baghdad||0||0|
|04/23/21||Abu Saida, Diyala province||3||4|
|04/26/21||Abu Saida, Diyala province||1||6|
|04/26/21||Hammam al-Alil, Ninewa province||1||4|
|04/27/21||Kani Masi, Duhok province||0||3|
|04/28/21||Khanaqin, Diyala province||0||2|
|04/29/21||Abu Saida, Diyala province||0||1|
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.