- Iraq Announces Arrest Of Analyst Husham Al-Hashimi’s Killers; Kadhimi Meets Biden Next Week; PUK Tensions Subside; Iraqis Rally To End Impunity – On July 16, PM Kadhimi announced the arrest of one of suspects in the July 2020 assassination of prominent political analyst Husham al-Hashimi. The televised confessions of the suspect, a police officer, failed to reveal who ordered the assassination and the motive behind it. On July 16, the White House said that President Biden and PM Kadhimi will meet in Washington on July 26 to launch the next round of strategic talks. On July 17, PUK co-president Lahur Sheikh Jangi announced that he would step down from his position, indicating a compromise to contain escalating tensions between him and co-president Bafel Talabani. On July 18, protesters took to the streets in Iraq and several cities around the world to demand an end to impunity for attacks against activists. On July 21, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader, Qais Khazali, accused PM Kadhimi of using the intelligence service in a plan to rig the October elections. more…
- Deadly Suicide Bombing Kills 35 In Sadr City, Prompts Security Command Changes; String Of IEDs target Dhi-Qar Activists – On July 19, a suicide bombing for which ISIS claimed responsibility killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens more in Baghdad’s Sadr City. After the attack, PM Kadhimi relieved a divisional Federal Police commander responsible for the attack area from duty and appointed new commanders for Baghdad’s Karkh and Rasafa operations commands. Between July 15 -21, ten IED explosions killed one Iraqi and wounded five others. Six of the bombings targeted the homes of civilians and activists in Dhi-Qar and Najaf. One of the other attacks damaged a high voltage transmission tower in Anbar. Between July 15 – 21, nine militant attacks killed ten Iraqis, mostly members of the security forces, and wounded at least 12 others. On July 17, an IED explosion injured two Turkish soldiers in Ninewa province’s Sheikhan district. Meanwhile, a Turkish airstrike killed five members of the PKK in northern Iraq. more…
- Iraq Investigates Human Trafficking Claims; Nearly Half A Million Returning IDPs Face Severe Conditions; Officials Call For Stricter Measures As COVID-19 Spread Continues – On July 15, Iraq said it will investigate human trafficking networks smuggling people from Iraq to Europe after Lithuania reported a spike in migrant arrivals from Iraq via Belarus. On July 15, UNICEF and UNESCO called for reopening schools in Iraq, underscoring the challenges children face due to school closures, including “learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, and…reduced development of social skills.” On July 18, the International Organization for Migration said that Iraq’s returnee population increased by 235,116 in 2020. The report ranks the severity of return conditions as low, medium, and high, based on security and the availability of shelter, jobs and services. It concludes that 484,548 of the total returnee population are in high severity conditions. On July 20, Iraq’s government issued guidelines for stricter preventive measures in public spaces, and said it will launch a campaign to encourage Iraqis to get vaccinated. Iraq’s Human Rights Commission called on PM Kadhimi to declare a state of health emergency after another day of record-high COVID-19 cases. On July 22, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 1,526,943. Deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 18,101 while hospitalizations increased to 122,511. To date, Iraq has tested 12,652,043 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases increased slightly from 8,606/day over the 7-day period ending July 15 to 8,631/day during the last 7-day period. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 1,218,518, including 20,819 who received their shots on July 22. The 9,883 infections Iraq reported on July 19 represent a new daily high. more…
- KRG Eyes Regional Railway Project; Iraq’s Oil Output To Rise As OPEC Eases Restrictions; Land Distribution Initiative To Offer 550,000 Plots – On July 15, the KRG Ministry of Construction and Housing met with a German railway company, Deutsche Bahn, in Berlin to discuss building a railway system connecting the Kurdistan region’s provinces. On July 18, the KRG Ministry of Electricity said work had begun on a 400 kilovolt power line to import electricity from Turkey. On July 18, OPEC decided to ease output restrictions imposed last year and allow members to gradually increase production. The new policy will allow Iraq to increase production by 150,000 bpd by December. On July 19, the Iraqi government launched a website through which Iraqis can file their applications to receive residential plots under an initiative that aims to distribute 550,000 plots throughout the country. more…
Attention readers! ISHM will take a break next week, but it will be back the week after, with comprehensive coverage of the week we missed!
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 July 16, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced the arrest of one of the men who allegedly took part in the July 2020 assassination of prominent political analyst Husham al-Hashimi. The other suspects reportedly fled the country. The arrested suspect, Ahmed al-Kinani, is a police officer who worked in the Interior Ministry, and is involved with “rogue” groups. In his televised confession, Kinani said that he and a group of three others, were “given” roles in the murder plot, without revealing who gave them those roles. He described the route his group took to Hashimi’s home and how he carried out the murder. The televised confession failed to reveal a motive behind the assassination. Similarly, Kadhimi’s statement did not provide a reason or motive behind the execution, nor did it mention who gave the order to Kinani and his associates to target Hashimi. Reacting to the news, Amnesty International’s senior crisis advisor Donatella Rovera, said “a TV confession… is not a substitute for a proper trial based on solid evidence of who ordered the killing – not just who pulled the trigger.”
On July 16, Parliament speaker Mohmmed al-Halbousi and the National Wisdom Movement’s leader Ammar al Hakeem, separately implored Muqtada al-Sadr’s to reconsider his recent decision to withdraw from the October elections. Al-Hakeem said “it’s important for Sadr not to leave the political arena… to preserve democratic practices.” Al-Halbousi, referring to Sadr, said “Iraq… needs its loyal citizens to raise its flag, unite its ranks, serve its people, preserve its dignity and bring it to safety.” On July 19, the Fatah Coalition echoed these sentiments, saying that “Sadr’s return to the political race will guarantee the success of the electoral process.” A spokesperson for the Nasr coalition, led by Haider al-Abaidi, pointed out that Sadrist candidates have not submitted an official withdrawal request with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). Last week, IHEC said that it didn’t receive any withdrawal requests, for which the deadline was June 20.
On July 16, White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said that President Biden and Prime Minister al-Kadhimi will meet in Washington on July 26. According to Psaki, the focus of the meeting will be strengthening bilateral cooperation in areas such as education, climate, energy, security and economics. On July 18, in a televised interview, Kadhimi said he would go to Washington to discuss U.S.-Iraq relations and a variety of topics, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. On July 21, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said that the fourth strategic talks between the U.S. and Iraq will be the last, adding that the U.S. and Iraq “might return to the 2008 agreement,” referring to the U.S.-Iraq Status Forces Agreement signed under the Bush administration.
On July 17, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) co-president Lahur Sheikh Jangi announced that he would step down from his position, indicating a compromise to contain escalating tensions between him and his cousin and co-president Bafel Talabani. The co-presidency emerged as a compromise in February 2020 following Sheikh Jangi’s unexpected election to the PUK’s General Leadership Council in December 2019. Last week, Bafel Talabani and the PUK media organization indicated that the co-presidency arrangement between him and Jangi had fallen through. The party media referred to Jangi as the “former co-president” and to Bafel Talabani as “president.” PUK Media also said the party captured a “spy” allegedly working for Jangi against the party–a report that has since been deleted. On July 19, Sheikh Jangi revised his statement, saying he had “temporarily” handed over powers to Bafel Talabani, “until our party’s internal rules are amended.”
On July 18, IHEC determined that the total number of eligible voters registered to vote with biometric IDs in the upcoming October elections had reached 24,299,021. IHEC added that it will set up 8,273 voting centers, with a total of 55,000 polling stations. Only a tenth of a total of 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq have been able to obtain biometric IDs, and thus only 120,126 will be eligible to vote in the upcoming elections. Special voting for security forces and hospitalized voters will take place on October 8.
On July 18, protesters took to the streets in Iraq and several countries to demand an end to impunity for attacks against activists in Iraq. The movement was organized via social media platforms with the hashtag #EndImpunity in Iraq. Samira al-Wazni, mother of the late activist Ehab al-Wazni, called on Iraqis to participate in the movement. In Baghdad, hundreds of people marched from Firdous square to Tahrir square in the evening. Security forces blocked entrances to Tahrir square and the adjacent Jumhouriyah bridge. They also banned photographers from documenting the protest and prohibited the use of cameras. Protests occurred with fewer impediments outside of Iraq. In the Hague members of the Iraqi diaspora gathered in front of the Dutch parliament building, holding Iraqi flags and signs with the slogan “end impunity.” Similar demonstrations occurred in Gothenburg, Helsinki, Austin, Washington, DC, San Diego, London, and Paris.
On July 19, President Barham Salih met with Saudi Trade Minister, Majid al-Qasbi, in Baghdad, where they discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in economic, trade, agriculture and oil sectors. The president and visiting minister also discussed increasing Iraq’s involvement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, to promote enhanced relations with Iraq’s Arab neighbors and thus promote regional stability.
On July 20, PM Kadhimi met virtually with the President of the European Union Council, Charles Michel. During the meeting, Kadhimi said he expressed Iraq’s interest in maintaining the best strategic relationship with the EU, enhancing economic and trade cooperation with big European companies, and learning from Europe’s experience in post-war nation building. Kadhimi added that he looked for the EU’s support in advancing his “white paper” economic reforms that include combating corruption and money laundering. In a tweet, Michel said the EU “stands with Kadhimi to address security challenges and violent extremism” and “supports Iraq to deliver free elections and economic reforms.”
On July 20, a Washington Post report revealed that Pegasus, a sophisticated spyware that Israeli firm NSO has developed, military-grade spyware, has targeted the personal phones of former and current government and political figures around the world. Among sitting presidents on the target list were Iraq’s Barham Salih, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
On July 21, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader, Qais Khazali, made several accusations against the U.S., Israel, and Prime Minister Kadhimi in a televised statement. He accused the U.S. of being behind the July 19 Sadr City bombing, for which ISIS claimed responsibility, arguing that “the U.S. is looking for ways to justify its continued presence in Iraq, using ISIS as pretext.” He then accused Kadhim of planning to rig the October elections, alleging that “the government’s intelligence services are involved in IHEC’s work… collecting information about the resistance factions for political extortion.” Khazali also accused Israel of planning “fires in Shia areas,” citing a recent arson attempt at al-Furat hospital in Najaf.
On July 22, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announced the imposition of sanctions on five major government officials and businessmen from Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea and Iraq. The sanctions are part of the UK’s Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime. Former Ninewa governor, Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan, is one of those sanctioned for embezzling public funds during his time as governor.
On July 15, unidentified gunmen attacked a unit of Iraqi security forces (ISF) in the Abu Saida subdistrict of Diyala province. The attack severely injured one member of the ISF.
On July 15, an armed motorcyclist shot and killed a soldier in the Abu Dsheer area south of Baghdad.
On July 15, a police source said that a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) explosion killed a shepherd and severely injured another civilian in the al-Khasfa area, near Anbar province’s Haditha district.
On July 15, armed ISIS militants attacked a civilian car after installing a fake checkpoint near the Qara Bek area of Kirkuk’s Dibis district. The attack killed one civilian and injured two others.
On July 16, a security source in Dhi-Qar said unknown individuals attacked the home of a local sports official with an IED in the al-Shuhada neighborhood of Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi-Qar province. On July 18, an IED explosion targeted the home of a local activist in Nasiriyah’s al-Mansuriya neighborhood. The following day, another IED explosion targeted an ISF soldier’s home in the same neighborhood. On July 20, two additional IED explosions targeted the homes of local activists in central Nasiriyah. One explosion targeted the home of activist Salam al-Asmi, in the Montazah neighborhood, and the other took place in the Eridu neighborhood. The series of explosions caused material damages without causing casualties.
On July 17, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters killed seven ISIS militants in the al-Shamiya area near Anbar province’s Haditha district.
On July 17, a security source said that ISIS militants attacked a checkpoint for the Iraqi army near the Idris Arab village, in the Dibis district of Kirkuk province. The attack killed four Iraqi army soldiers.
On July 17, a security source said that ISIS militants launched two attacks on PMF and ISF fighters north of Muqdadiyah district in Diyala province. The ISIS attack on ISF soldiers, which targeted a checkpoint in the Khams Jusour area, injured three soldiers.
On July 17, a PMF security source said that ISIS militants and PMF fighters clashed in the western desert area of Anbar province, killing an ISIS militant. The PMF fighters seized control of an ISIS camp and various equipment. On the following day, ISIS militants attacked a quarry in Anbar province’s Hit district, killing two factory employees and injuring three others.
On July 17, an IED explosion injured two Turkish soldiers while their convoy passed through the Zilkan area of Ninewa province’s Sheikhan district. On the following day, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that a Turkish airstrike killed five members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Turkish armed forces have escalated their operation against the PKK since April. Local farmers have complained that military operations are causing serious damage to their farms and villages and some had been forced to abandon their orchards due to airstrike-induced fires.
On July 18, a legacy IED exploded in al-Athba village near Ninewa province’s Mosul district, severely injuring two civilians.
On July 19, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry said that an IED explosion targeted a high voltage transmission tower in the Wadi al-Akhdar area of Anbar province’s Haditha district. The attack damaged the tower, which is part of the 400 kilovolt Haditha-Qaim line.
On July 19, a bomb exploded in the outdoor Wahailat market in Baghdad’s Sadr City, killing 35 civilians and injuring 57 others, according to security sources. Iraq’s Security Media Cell said that a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest caused the blast, killing 30 citizens and injuring over 50 others. According to CNN, ISIS claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement posted by one of its media platforms, which according to Shafaq, also stated that a male ISIS militant named Abu Hamza perpetrated the suicide attack. The attack occurred while the market was crowded with shoppers, mostly women and children, preparing for the Eid al-Adha holiday. According to a medical source at the scene, at least eight women and seven children were among those killed.
On July 19, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi held an emergency meeting with security leaders in the aftermath of the deadly IED explosion at a busy street market in Sadr City. Kadhimi relieved a divisional Federal Police commander responsible for the attack area from duty and appointed new commanders for Baghdad’s Karkh and Rasafa operations commands.
On July 20, a security source said that an IED explosion targeted a federal police officer’s home in the Jalawla subdistrict of Diyala province. The explosion injured two of the officer’s family members.
On July 21, a security source said that unidentified gunmen killed a member of Iraq’s Personal Protection Unit in the Arab Jubour area, near Dora in southern Baghdad.
On July 21, unidentified individuals targeted a civilian’s home with an IED in the Kufa district of Najaf province. The attack caused significant material damage, but did not cause casualties.
On July 21, a security source said that ISIS militants attacked an ISF regiment’s headquarters in Mutaibija district of Salah ad-Din province. The attack killed two ISF soldiers and injured three others.
On July 15, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein in Baghdad and asked his Iraqi counterpart to investigate human trafficking networks smuggling people from Iraq to Europe. In particular, Landsbergis pointed to a route through taking Iraqi migrants via Belarus to Lithuania. Lithuania declared a state of emergency on July 2 after migrant arrivals sharply increased over the last two months to 1,500. According to the AP report, this number is 2000% the total arrivals in all of last year. Gabrielius also said that Belarus is using Iraqi migrants to “pressure the European Union in order for us to change our policy” and that “Iraqi people are becoming a victim to the Belarusian regime.” Hussein agreed to form a committee to investigate the matter.
On July 15, UNICEF and UNESCO issued a joint statement about the urgency to reopen schools in Iraq, which have been shut since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizations underscored several of the challenges children have faced due to school closures, including “learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, missed school-based meals and vaccinations or reduced development of social skills.” UNICEF and UNESCO argued that reopening schools cannot wait for COVID-19 cases to reach zero, nor for all teachers and students to be vaccinated. Instead, communities should use “appropriate mitigation strategies” to open schools while controlling COVID-19 transmission. The UNICEF Representative in Iraq, Sheema Sen Grupta, encouraged a gradual reopening of schools in Iraq, while continuing to use a “blended learning approach, with more flexible systems and, increasingly, using digital tools.” Gupta said UNICEF can help Iraqi authorities design this approach.
On July 18, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released its “Returns in Iraq: 2020 Overview” return index which “measures the severity of conditions in locations of return.” According to the index, Iraq’s returnee population increased by 235,116 in 2020. The provinces with the highest numbers of returnees were Ninewa and Anbar, with 122,820 returnees and 50,928 returnees, respectively. The report also divides the severity of return conditions into three categories: low, medium, and high. The categories are based on evaluations of residential destruction, employment opportunities, access to services, social cohesion, and safety and security in the areas the individuals are returning to. Based on IOM’s methodology, 49% (2,367,954) of all returnees in Iraq are in low severity conditions, 41% (1,953,102) are in medium severity, and 10% (484,548) are in high severity.
On July 20, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi held an emergency meeting of the Supreme Committee for Health and National Safety to review a detailed report from the Ministry of Health and revise Iraq’s strategy to combat COVID-19. The improved strategy includes tightening preventive measures in public spaces, creating committees to enforce compliance with preventive measures, and using media channels and civil society to encourage Iraqi citizens to get vaccinated. Earlier this week, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission called on Prime Minister al-Kadhimi to declare a state of health emergency. The Commission also called on the federal government to develop a campaign to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to its citizens after another day of record-high COVID-19 cases. Commission member, Fadhil al-Gharawi, said that the health crisis is the result of “citizens’ weak health awareness and insistence on not getting the vaccine.” He also said that the vaccine campaign should include a “vaccine passport” system, as well as a media campaign to encourage Iraqis to get vaccinated in order to reach the 70% of the population threshold needed for herd immunity.
On July 22, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,526,943. This is an increase of 60,414 in cases from the 1,466,529 reported on July 15. Of these cases, 122,511 are currently in hospitals, including 732 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent an increase of 6,267 in hospitalizations and an increase of 71 in ICU admissions since July 15. Ministry data indicated that there were 394 new COVID-19 deaths since July 15, bringing the total from 17,707 to 18,101. The total number of recoveries increased from 1,332,578 to 1,386,331. The average number of new cases was 8,631 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 8,606 per day during the 7-day period ending July 15. On July 19, Iraq recorded a new peak in daily cases when it reported 9,883 new infections. The Kurdistan Region also recorded a record high of daily cases on the same day when it reported 1,985 new infections. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 2,062 cases, Wasit with 665 cases, Basra with 660 cases, Karbala with 587 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 568, and Dhi-Qar with 553 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 12,652,043 samples for COVID-19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 1,218,518, including 20,819 who received their shots on July 22.
On July 15, a delegation from the Ministry of Construction and Housing in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) met with a German railway company, Deutsche Bahn, in Berlin to discuss building a railway system connecting the Kurdistan region’s provinces. Currently, the ministry is sending delegations to meet with international companies about conducting a “feasibility study” of the project. The KRG expects to meet with Deutsche Bahn again in August to sign a memorandum of understanding about the project.
On July 18, the KRG Ministry of Electricity announced that the HERO Company for Electrical and Construction Contracting had begun work on a 400 kilovolt power line to import electricity from Turkey. The line will have a capacity of 1,000 megawatts and will connect to both the Iraqi and Kurdistan region grids to alleviate power shortages that have plagued the country. In April, the Iraqi government approved a plan to increase electricity imports from neighboring countries by 300 megawatts.
On July 18, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced its decision to increase oil production by 400,000 barrels per day each month starting next month. The decision will gradually ease the production limits imposed on OPEC members in April of last year when OPEC decided to cut supplies by 9.7 million bpd. Actual production has been 5.8 million bpd below lower than pre-pandemic levels. The OPEC statement said that the organization will conduct an assessment of market conditions and member compliance in December 2021 and make adjustments to the phased quota increases as needed. The easing of output limitations between August and December will allow Iraq to increase production by 150,000 bpd.
On July 19, the Iraqi government launched a website through which Iraqis can file their applications to receive residential plots. According to the government commission in charge, the first phase of the land distribution initiative will include 338,000 plots in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Maysan, Wasit, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar provinces. In total, the initiative aims to distribute 550,000 plots throughout the country. According to al-Kadhimi’s Advisor for Construction and Housing Affairs, Sabah Abdul Latif, over six million Iraqis applied for plots within the first day of launching the website (www.dari.iq).
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from July 15, 2021 - July 22, 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.
|07/15/21||al-Khasfa, Anbar province||1||1|
|07/16/21||Nasiriyah district, Dhi-Qar province||0||0|
|07/17/21||Sheikhan district, Ninewa province||0||2|
|07/18/21||Nasiriyah district, Dhi-Qar province||0||0|
|07/18/21||al-Athba village, Ninewa province||0||2|
|07/19/21||Haditha district, Anbar province||0||0|
|07/19/21||Nasiriyah district, Dhi-Qar province||0||0|
|07/19/21||Sadr City district, Baghdad province||35||57|
|07/20/21||Nasiriyah district, Dhi-Qar province||0||0|
|07/20/21||Nasiriyah district, Dhi-Qar province||0||0|
|07/20/21||Jalawla subdistrict, Diyala province||0||2|
|07/21/21||Kufa district, Najaf province||0||0|
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.