ISHM 43: December 17 – 24, 2015

ISHM_Logo_2016Key Takeaways:

  • With U.S.-led coalition air support, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and tribal fighters are closing in on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Ramadi. Taking advantage of the urban terrain, an estimated 200-350 ISIS militants remain holed up in a southern district and the city center. The Head of Anbar’s Provincial Council, Sabah Karhoot, stated on Wednesday that the “joint security forces are now militarily in control of much of the city of Ramadi” but progress to fully clear the city is being slowed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and booby-trapped houses that were set up by ISIS.
  • The US-led International Coalition expressed its condolences and announced the opening of a joint investigation to look into the recent incident of friendly fire, in which Coalition air forces mistakenly bombed ISF forces near Fallujah killing 10 Iraqi soldiers.
  • The United Nations reported that Iraqi children suffered the most in 2015 due to abuses and crimes committed by ISIS. A member of the UNHCR stated that ISIS has “used children as human shields, trafficked them via the slave markets, and recruited more than a thousand children in Mosul from the ages of five to 15 years old and used them as suicide bombers.”
  • Citizens of Basra province protested in front of Basra’s City Hall, calling for a better security plan that can address and deal with the recent increase of murders and kidnapping incidents in the province.
  • Iraq held its first internationally recognized beauty competition since 1972. Miss Iraq 2015 Shaima Qasim is a 20 years old economic student from Kirkuk. During her acceptance speech, Shaima said that “this win proves that Iraq is still a country of beauty and culture.”
  • Diyala province opens a primary school for internally displaced children near Baquba through a UN-funded project. The province promised to provide staff and all the educational needs necessary for the students.
  • In Ninewa, ISIS started confiscating national IDs of residents in order to prevent them from fleeing the province, in particular citizens of the city of Mosul. This might be in anticipation of an assault by Iraqi forces to retake the city in 2016. Many analysts see the retaking of Sinjar earlier this year and current efforts underway to retake Ramadi as steps toward the larger battle of retaking Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The continued exodus of Iraqis from ISIS-held territory hurts ISIS’s ability to generate revenue through extortion of ‘taxes’. Moreover, ISIS continues to use civilians as human shields, a practice in contravention to international humanitarian law.

Joint Security Forces Make Large-Scale Gains Against ISIS in Ramadi

On December 19, Rajih al-Barkat al-Esawi, a member of Anbar Provincial Council, stated that the “Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), tribal fighters, and the International Coalition air forces have successfully cleared more than 60% of Ramadi from the Islamic States of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

On December 20, Joint Operations Commands called on the citizens of Ramadi to evacuate the city within 72 hours before the operation to clear the city begins.

On December 21, Lieutenant General and Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army, Othman al-Ghanemi, announced that the operation to clear the city of Ramadi from ISIS will begin within the upcoming hours.

On December 22, the Iraqi Army Public Affairs Office announced that the ISF, accompanied by Iraqi and International Coalition air forces, stormed Ramadi in a mass operation to clear the city of ISIS. An army official stated that “the joint forces are currently in the midst of fierce battles to destroy the defensive lines of ISIS to provide a safe passage to the center of the city of Ramadi.”

On December 22, President of al-Khalidiya City Council, Ali Dawood, stated that the “joint security forces started clearing al-Ramadi city center of ISIS from three different fronts: Albu Dhiab and Albu Fahad in the north, al-Hoz in the south, and Haseeba to the east of the city.” This operation resulted in killing 40 members of ISIS.

On December 22, the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Command cleared al-Bakr neighborhood, located in southeast Ramadi, of ISIS, killing more than 33 militants.

On December 22, a source from the Anbar Operations Command stated that U.S. Special Forces, accompanied by Apache Attack Helicopters, carried out operations, without the participation of the ISF, to clear out several axes of the city of Ramadi of ISIS. The source indicated that US forces successfully destroyed several ISIS headquarters, cutting the militants’ financial supply lines, blocking their movements, and preventing them from providing reinforcements to their armed cells that are currently battling the ISF.

On December 22, tribal forces killed seven ISIS leaders in an attack that targeted a gathering of the terrorist militants in al-Bareed street, located in al-Andalus neighborhood, in the center of Ramadi.

On December 22, a spokesperson of the Anbar Provincial Council stated that the “joint forces cleared the neighborhoods of al-Amil and al-Dhobat of ISIS, killing tens of their militants.

On December 23, President of al-Khalidiya City Council, Ali Dawood, said that the “joint security forces carried out a wide-scale military operation that targeted several gatherings of ISIS in northern Ramadi.” The operation cleared the area of Albu Dhiab completely of the militants’ control. Dawood added that the security forces are now moving towards the areas of Albu Faraj and Albu Ali Aljasim to finish clearing out northern Ramadi of ISIS.

On December 23, President of Anbar Provincial Council, Sabah Karhoot, said that “joint security forces are now militarily in control of much of the city of Ramadi.” However, Karhoot indicated that the operation to clear the city of Ramadi is being slowed down by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and booby-trapped houses that were set up by ISIS.

A Case of Friendly Fire in Fallujah

On December 19, the US-led International Coalition expressed its “condolences on the tragic loss of [a reported 10] brave ISF forces on the frontline,” which occurred as the Coalition mistook the Iraqi forces as ISIS militants near Fallujah and engaged in aerial bombing. In response, the International Coalition announced the opening of a joint investigation “to determine the facts” behind the event, while also stressing that “strikes [are] carried out with the consent of the Iraqi government.”

The United Nations: “2015 was the toughest and most brutal year on record for Iraqi Children”

On December 23, the UNHCR reported that Iraqi children have experienced “the toughest brutality and violence” on record in 2015 “because of [the] abuses and crimes” of ISIS and has called on the UN Security Council to refer these crimes to the International Criminal Court. According to Fadel Gharawi, a member of the UNHCR, ISIS has “used children as human shields, trafficked them via the slave markets, and recruited more than a thousand children in Mosul from ages five to 15 years and used them as suicide bombers and sold human organs [of] some.”

Citizens in Basra Call for Protection

On December 17, protesters demonstrated in front of Basra’s City Hall calling on the provincial police and the local and central government to create a security plan to address the increase in murder and kidnapping in the province. While protester turnout was low, Darem Kazim, the campaign coordinator, noted that “the number of attendees in the protest [were] not commensurate with the importance of the event.” Similar protests continued Monday, December 21 in front of the Palace of Justice in Basra, with the families of victims coming together to “protest against the killings witnessed by the province in the past few days.”

Iraq Holds Its First Internationally Recognized Beauty Competition Since 1972

On December 19, Shaima Qasim, a 20 year old economics student at the University of Kirkuk, was crowned Miss Iraq 2015. During her acceptance speech Qasim stated, “this win is a challenge for us to prove that Iraq is still a country of beauty and culture to confront terror and violence” and called her “winning a humanitarian message” to the world that Iraqi women have their own existence in society. The 2015 Miss Iraq competition took place in Baghdad, and was sponsored by the Foundation for Media, Culture, and Arts. It is the first internationally recognized beauty competition in Iraq since 1972.

Schools Open for Internally Displaced Children in Baquba

On December 22, Amal Omran, a member of the Diyala Provincial Council, announced the opening of a primary school for displaced children in Khanaqin, northeast of Baquba. According to Omran, the UN-funded project is “the second of its kind” and is to be built “near one of the camps for displaced persons…in the vicinity.” Since the onset of the fight against ISIS, the Department of Khanaqin has confirmed the existence of more than 100 thousand IDPs in the judiciary.

ISIS Confiscates National IDs of Citizens in Ninewa

On December 21, reports indicated that ISIS had begun confiscating the personal identities of individuals in Ninewa in an attempt to prevent them from departing the province. This is due to an increase in emigration from the province, with “hundreds of families fleeing.” According to sources, the campaign began in “a number of residential neighborhoods in Mosul.”

This report was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany and Tanesha Singletary, an EPIC Research Intern. ISHM’s research methodology was developed by Ahmed Ali.

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