- Assassination Sparks Anti-Iran Protests; Political Parties Boycott October Elections; UNAMI Criticizes Baghdad’s Crises Handling – Between May 9-12, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Karbala, Babylon, Najaf and Baghdad to protest the assassination of Ehab al-Wazni, a prominent activist and leader of protests movement in Karbala. Angry protesters chanted anti-Iran slogans, attempted to storm an Iranian Consulate, set ablaze political parties’ branches, and clashed with riot police. On May 9, two political parties declared an election boycott in response to al-Wazi’s slaying. On May 9, the Kurdistan Counter Terrorism Group denied that its agents supported the American operation that killed Qassem Soleimani. On May 11, major political parties accused London’s Ambassador to Baghdad of interfering in internal affairs for saying that Iraq cannot hold fair elections without protecting activists from armed factions. On May 11, the head of UNAMI gave Baghdad poor marks for its handling of the security situation and closure of IDP camps. UNAMI also highlighted “worrisome” trends in restricting freedoms in Kurdistan. On May 11 and 12, political candidates in Kirkuk and Baghdad said that they received explicit death threats demanding they drop out. more…
- Gunmen Assassinate Activist Ehab al-Wazni; Explosive-Laden Drone Strikes Ain Al-Assad; Lockheed Martin Pulls Crews Sustaining Iraqi F-16s – On May 8, gunmen assassinated prominent political activist Ehab al-Wazni in Karbala. The next day, attackers shot and severely wounded a TV reporter in Diwaniya. On May 8, an explosive-laden drone struck a hangar in Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar. Between May 6-13, ten IED attacks targeted military targets and civilians in Anbar, Babylon, Basra, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Wasit. Three of those bombs exploded near International Coalition supply convoys. During the same period, ISIS militants attacked at least seven Iraqi army, police, and PMF targets in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salad ad-Din. These attacks killed at least eight Iraqis. On May 10, Lockheed Martin said it was pulling crews responsible for maintaining Iraqi F-16s from Balad air base due to continued security threats. Iraq’s military said the decision will affect training and capability-building efforts supporting Iraq’s F-16 fleet. more…
- UNITAD Declares ISIS Atrocities Against Yazidis Genocide; National Lockdown Goes Into Effect In Iraq; COVID-19 Infections Continue To Decline – On May 9, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission said that it documented at least 25 assassinations and 45 attempts to kill political activists in 18 months, while 80 are still missing. On May 10, UNITAD said ISIS crimes against Yazidis constituted genocide. The UN body also concluded that ISIS militants committed war crimes when they executed unarmed cadets in Camp Speicher near Tikrit. On May 12, authorities began implementing a restrictive lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Major cities appeared deserted as security forces installed barriers and closed major roads. Meanwhile, the rate of infections and hospitalizations continued a steady decline for the third week. The Health Ministry reported an average of 4,843 cases per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 5,627 per day during the 7-day period ending May 6. more…
- Kadhimi’s Government Appeals Budget Law; Iraq Makes an Offer To ExxonMobil – On May 6, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said it was actively working to recover frozen assets in Italy valued at $724 million. On May 10, MP Ali al-Lami said the government submitted appeals concerning five articles of the budget law to the Federal Supreme Court. On May 10, Iraq formally offered to acquire ExxonMobil’s shares in West Qurna 1 oilfield. Exxon is seeking $350 million for its 32.7% share. On May 11, the Finance Ministry in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) transmitted the first draft of the region’s budget bill to the cabinet for approval. The draft is expected to be presented to the regional Parliament later for review and approval, a first since 2013. On May 12, the Ministry of Planning said that the inflation rate in Iraq continued its rise in April. The cumulative increase in inflation during the last six months reached 5.6%. 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 May 7, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said that it has registered 44 electoral alliances and “more than 3500” candidates for the October elections, among them 887 independent candidates and at least 900 women. The commission also issued licenses for 267 parties, but according to IHEC, only 122 of those have explicitly expressed interest in participating in the election so far. IHEC said the final list of candidates could change as it verifies paperwork and candidates’ eligibility with other government agencies.
Between May 9-12, protests erupted in Karbala, Babylon and several other Iraqi cities over the assassination of Ehab al-Wazni, a political activist and protest leader in Karbala province over the weekend. Angry protesters in Karbala city blamed Tehran and allied militias for the crime, and set ablaze portions of the fencing around the Iranian Consulate as they attempted to storm it. During the funeral processions, thousands chanted “get out Iran, get out” and “the people want to topple the regime.” On May 12, clashes erupted between protesters demanding justice for al-Wazni, and security forces in Karbala. On May 10, protesters in Babylon set the offices of al-Fadheela party on fire and clashed with riot police. As protests continued for a third day, security forces used counter-riot measures to disperse protesters near al-Thawra bridge in Hilla City, where activists said security forces detained dozens of protesters overnight. Meanwhile, protestors in Najaf city burned down the office of the Islamic Dawa Party to “avenge” the slaying of al-Wazni. Sources told al-Mada that the anti-militia protests and the attempt to storm the Iranian Consulate has “angered” Iran-linked groups, as well as Tehran. According to the sources, “well known armed groups” plan to retaliate against activists they blame for the attempted attack.
On May 9, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the assassination al-Wazni. Several political leaders condemned the assissasionation, and called for calm, warning that this crime is part of a bigger plot to cause chaos, and postpone the upcoming elections in particular. On May 9, the Iraqi Communist Party suspended participation in the elections, and the National Home Party (al-Bayt al-Watani) declared political boycott, as protestor-led movements mull similar steps in response to the assassination al-Wazni, and the governemnt’s inability to stop militia violence.
On May 9, Prime Minister Kadhimi said he will not run for office in the October elections. He added that he made this decision when he became Prime Minister a year ago.
On May 9, the British Ambassador to Baghdad, Stephen Hickey, condemned the killing of Iraqi activists and warned that Iraq cannot hold fair and transparent elections without protection for activists from armed factions. Hickey called on the Iraqi government to make tangible measures to protect its citizens. Saeroun, Fatah, and the Islamic Supreme Council, took issue with Hickey’s comments, and categorized it as interference in internal Iraqi affairs. Kataib Hezbollah militia also accused the UK embassies in Baghdad and Beirut of stoking the angry protests that engulfed several cities in the aftermath of al-Wazni’s assassination.
On May 9, the Kurdistan Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) denied a news report based on interviews with 15 current and former U.S. officials, that it had a “key role” in the American operation that killed Qassem Soleimani. CTG said “we categorically deny participating or knowing of any such operation,” adding in Soleimani’s death, Kurdistan lost one of its “historic friends.” Meanwhile, the Iranian government said it’s investigating the claims in the news report, and that it holds those involved in Soleimai’s killing, directly or indirectly, responsible.
On May 11, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, drew a bleak picture of the political, economic and social progress in Iraq. She said in her briefing to the UN Security Council (UNSC) that armed groups continue to operate with impunity, while accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations “remains limited – very, very limited.” Hennis-Plasschaert described the state of freedom of expression in Kurdistan as “worrisome,” and said that critics risk intimidation, movement restrictions, arbitrary arrest, and defamation charges. The economy, she added, “remains in dire need of structural reform,” while attacks continue with troubling regularity. Hennis-Plasschaert was also critical of the Iraqi government handling of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp closures, and said that authorities often closed or reclassified camps on short notices, and sometimes before return conditions were appropriate in IDPs’ home communities. On elections, Hennis-Plasschaert stressed that all Iraqis must be free to exercise their democratic rights before, during and after the election.
On May 11, an independent candidate in Kirkuk received a death threat for wanting to run for office. Hassan Sheikhani said someone dropped an envelope at his house containing a bullet and a letter demanding he drops out. Sheikhani, who is a leading member of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, said he won’t heed this threat. The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan decided last week to boycott the elections. On May 12, Bayariq al-Khair bloc in parliament said several of its candidates in Baghdad decided to withdraw after receiving death threats.
On May 6, a legacy Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion killed an Iraqi army soldier and wounded two in the Badoosh region of Ninewa province.
On May 6, an IED exploded near an Iraqi army patrol in Jurf al-Sakhr north of Babylon province. The blast killed a soldier and injured another.
On May 7, a local source said ISIS militants fired a Katyusha rocket that landed in the Nabi Ismail cemetery in the Himirin region of Diyala province. The attack injured a civilian.
On May 7, a security source said ISIS militants attacked a Federal Police checkpoint in the Daquq district south of Kirkuk. The attack damaged a thermal surveillance camera but didn’t cause casualties.
On May 8, an explosives-laden drone struck inside Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province. An Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesperson said the attack didn’t cause casualties, but damaged a hangar.
On May 8, an IED exploded near a law office in the Baradhiya neighborhood in Basra city, causing material damage.
On May 8, gunmen assassinated Ehab al-Wazni, a prominent political activist and leader of anti-government protests in Karbala. A security source said two assailants opened fire from a handgun at al-Wazni in front of his home in al-Haddad neighborhood in central Karbala City.
On May 8, a security source said that an IED exploded near an Iraqi army patrol in the al-Zarga area west of Tuzkhormatu in Salah ad-Din province, killing an officer and wounding a soldier.
On May 9, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said that ISIS militants attacked its checkpoints in al-Jalisiya area near Samara in Salah ad-Din province. The attack killed two PMF fighters and injured another two.
On May 9, a civilian suffered serious injuries when a legacy IED exploded in the village of al-Safeena in the Qayara subdistrict of Ninewa province.
On May 9, an IED exploded near an Iraqi army Humvee in the village of Qaya in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province. A security source said the attack injured three soldiers.
On May 9, a Katyusha rocket landed in an empty area in the al-Batha district in Dhi-Qar province. A security source said the incident didn’t not cause casualties or damage.
On May 9, a land mine exploded in Choman district of Erbil province. A source said the blast killed a civilian foraging for wild vegetables in the area.
On May 9, gunmen attacked and seriously injured Ahmed Hassan, a reporter for the al-Furat Satellite TV station, near his home in the al-Shamiya district of Diwaniya province. A source said Hassan was shot in the head and transported to a nearby hospital.
On May 10, local officials said that Turkish military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters has displaced at least 19 families from the village of Jalki in the Kani Masi subdistrict of Duhok province.Since late April, Turkish forces have been waging a large-scale operation against the PKK near Kani Masi. According to Rudaw, Jalki is the second village to suffer displacement this month because of the Turkish bombardment of nearby PKK targets..
On May 10, a security source said an ISIS attack injured a civilian in the village of Bani Rijeb in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province. Elsewhere in the province, unidentified gunmen injured another civilian near the Jalawla subdistrict. On the following day, a security source said ISIS’ sniper fire injured two Iraqi army soldiers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jalawla.
On May 10, an IED exploded near an International Coalition supply convoy traveling on a major highway in Anbar province. It was not immediately clear if the blast caused any casualties or damage. On May 11, an IED exploded near an International Coalition supply convoy on an inter-province highway between Babylon and Diwaniya. A security source said the blast didn’t cause casualties or damage. On May 13, a security source said an IED exploded near an International Coalition supply convoy on a major highway in Anbar province. It was not immediately clear if the blast caused any casualties or damage.
On May 10, Lockheed Martin said it was pulling crews responsible for maintaining Iraqi F-16s from Balad air base in Salah ad-Din province, due to continued security threats. An Iraqi security official said the company will relocate 20 out of 70 employees from Balad to Erbil, while the rest will leave Iraq. The Iraq Joint Operations Command (JOC) said the decision will affect training and capability-building efforts. JOC described the F-16 fleet as the “backbone” of the Iraqi Air Force. Militants have targeted the base with several rocket attacks in recent weeks, most recently on May 3.
On May 11, a security source said a “sticky bomb” attached to a civilian vehicle exploded in a produce market in Kut, the provincial capital of Wasit. The explosion damaged the vehicle but didn’t cause casualties.
On May 11, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in the al-Udhaim subdistrict in Diyala province. A security source said the attack didn’t cause casualties, but the militants’ gunfire damaged 15 power generators and agricultural water pumps.
On May 11, a security source said that ISIS attacked a checkpoint in Kifri district in Diyala province, killing a Peshmerga fighter.
On May 7, Human Right Watch (HRW) described the decision by the Iraqi Parliament to table a controversial draft of an Information Technology Crimes bill, as a win for online freedoms in Iraq. The watchdog said the draft would have given authorities legal cover “to prosecute anyone for any social media or online post that they didn’t like by arbitrarily deeming the content a threat to governmental, social, or religious interests.” The draft, which was introduced in November, received significant opposition from Parliament members and rights groups.
On May 9, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission said that it documented at least 25 assassinations and 45 attempts to kill political activists since the start of the anti-government protests in October 2019. Commision member Ali al-Bayati added that the number of kidnapped or “disappeared” protesters has reached 80. Al-Bayati said that authorities formed four investigative committees that have yet to present findings.
On May 9, the Iraqi Cabinet approved a child protection bill and submitted it to the Parliament to review and vote it into law.
On May 10, the United Nations body charged with investigating ISIS crimes in Iraq (UNITAD) concluded that atrocities committed against Yazidis in Ninewa province constituted genocide. The head of UNITAD, Karim Khan, told the UNSC that investigators have also determined that ISIS militants committed war crimes when they captured, tortured and mass executed predominantly Shia unarmed cadets and personnel from the Tikrit Air Academy (Camp Speicher) in June 2014. Investigations also revealed that ISIS’ seizure of labs at the University of Mosul enabled it to manufacture and deploy chemical and biological weapons. Khan stressed the need for Iraq to establish the approperiate legal framework to prosecute these acts, not as torrorism, but as acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
On May 12, authorities in Iraq began implementing a national lockdown for ten days to curb the spread of COVID-19. Major cities in the country appeared deserted as security forces installed barriers, closed down bridges and highways, and imposed fines on violators. The Iraqi Human Right Commission criticized the measures and said it appeared to be of security nature rather than that of public health. Commission member Fadhil al-Gharrawi said that curbing COVID-19 requires enhanced public health protections and an effort to encourage vaccination, not a curfew that ignores the economic impact on Iraqis who rely on a daily income to feed their families.
On May 13, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,132,092. This is an increase of 33,905 cases from the 1,098,187 reported on May 6. Of these cases, 87,582 are currently in hospitals, including 471 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a significant decrease of 8,807 in hospitalizations and 95 in ICU admissions since May 6. Ministry data indicated that there were 210 new COVID-19 deaths since May 6, bringing the total from 15,673 to 15,883. The total number of recoveries increased from 986,134 to 1,028,627. The average number of new cases was 4,843 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 5,627 per day during the 7-day period ending May 6. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,641 cases, Basra with 532 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 315 cases, Maysan with 258 cases, Diyala with 235 cases, and Wasit with 200 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 9,817,969 samples for COVID 19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 470,137, including 8,774 who received their shots on May 13.
On May 6, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said it was actively working to recover frozen assets from Saddam Hussein’s era that are still in Italian banks. Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein raised the issue with Italian authorities during a visit to Rome that also involved meetings with Italian businesses to discuss investment opportunities in Iraq. Spokesperson Ahmad al-Sahaf said the assets are valued at €600 ($724) million. Iraq had previously asked Rome to release the assets.
On May 10, a member of the Economy and Investment committee in Parliament, Ali al-Lami, said the government submitted appeals in five articles of the budget law to the Federal Supreme Court. Al-Lami added that the appeals don’t hinder implementation of the budget. The government expressed its intention to appeal articles in the budget law in April, citing significant changes in the version approved by the Parliament.
On May 10, Iraq formally offered to acquire ExxonMobil’s shares in West Qurna 1 oilfield in Basra province. Director of Basra Oil Company (BOC) Khalid Hamza said that Exxon is seeking $350 million for its 32.7% share.
On May 11, the Finance Ministry in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) transmitted the first draft of the region’s budget bill to the cabinet for approval. Although the ministry didn’t provide details, officials in the regional government said this year’s budget would be more realistic and transparent. The budget draft is expected to be presented to the regional Parliament later for review and approval. The last time the KRG presented its annual budget proposal to the Parliament was in 2013.
On May 12, the Ministry of Planning said that the inflation rate in Iraq continued its rise in the month of April, albeit marginally. Spokesperson Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi stated that the inflation rate went up by 0.1% compared to 0.6% in March. The cumulative increase in inflation during the six-month period ending in April reached 5.6%.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from May 6, 2021 - May 13, 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.
|05/06/21||Jurf al-Sakhar, Babylon province||1||1|
|05/08/21||Ain al-Assad base, Anbar province||0||0|
|05/08/21||Baradhiya , Basra province||0||0|
|05/08/21||al-Zarga, Salah ad-Din province||1||1|
|05/09/21||Khanaqin, Diyala province||0||3|
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.