ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 51: February 19 – 25, 2016

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), tribal forces, and airstrikes by the U.S.-led International Coalition reportedly killed tens of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in clashes across the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din. According to the Governor of Anbar, the victory of ISF and tribal forces in Ramadi is having a devastating effect on ISIS in eastern Anbar, cutting off supply routes and placing more pressure on ISIS militants in Fallujah and other cities. Clashes were reported between tribal fighters and ISIS in the cities of Haditha and Hit, northwest of Ramadi, and in western Fallujah, southeast of Ramadi. In eastern Fallujah, ISIS fighters offered to surrender the district of Garma to ISF in exchange for ‘safe passage’ to their headquarters in Fallujah. ISF rejected the offer.
  • This week, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the PMUs would take part in the operation to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIS. In response, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga commanders and Iraqi Sunni political leaders strongly questioned the idea, arguing that the involvement of Shi’a-led PMUs could create sectarian tensions among the security forces fighting ISIS.
  • This week, hundreds of Iraqi citizens protested corruption, poor health services, the lack of government transparency, deteriorating education, and unemployment. The demonstrations took place in Dhi Qar, Diwaniya, Karbala, Muthanna, Najaf, and Baghdad provinces.
  • Norway contributed $2.8 million to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP), Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS), to finance fast-track rehabilitation initiatives in areas cleared of ISIS. The UN also indicated that there are still thousands of civilians trapped in Fallujah in Anbar, and Sinjar in Ninewa province, and warned of a potential humanitarian disaster.
  • The Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that 93,000 displaced Iraqis have returned to their homes in Salah ad-Din, Anbar, and Diyala provinces. The Director of the Central Provinces Department in the Ministry Amer Abbas Zughayyar said that Salah ah-Din received the most returnees with 75,356 families, followed by Diyala with 13,867, and Anbar with 3,600.
  • In Mosul, ISIS executed ten civilians based on charges of collaborating with ISF forces and 36 of its own militants for refusing to fight against ISF forces. In Fallujah, ISIS executed another 12 civilians for trying to escape the city. According to some officials, the number of executions may be far higher. Speaking last Thursday at a Baghdad press conference organized by Ninewa’s Provincial Council, Iraqi parliamentarian Nayef al-Shammari reported that ISIS has executed 1,065 citizens across Ninewa province (over an unspecified period of time) and is threatening to execute three thousand more over the next few days. Al-Shammari urged the Iraqi Government to speed up military operations to liberate Ninewa in order to prevent further executions of innocent civilians.
  • Shi’a leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for a peaceful demonstrations of millions in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square against corruption, poor economic conditions, and the security crisis in Iraq. The demonstration is scheduled for Friday, February 26. Al-Sadr also weighed in on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform plans and offered him a list of “independent” figures to be appointed to a committee to select the new cabinet of ministers.

The Battle Against ISIS

On February 19, Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) fighters from the Jeraisat tribe killed 10 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in al-Naziza market in Fallujah. In retaliation, ISIS captured five of the tribe’s fighters.

On February 20, the International Coalition bombed the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the village of Ka-Murok, west of the city of Tal Afar. The base was completely destroyed, killing three ISIS militants and injuring two others.

On February 20, the International Coalition targeted an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) caravan heading from Mosul to Tal Afar. The attack destroyed both vehicles and killed five ISIS militants.

On February 21, Iraqi Security Forces, in conjunction with the International Coalition, conducted a military operation in the village of Albu Obaid, northeast of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation killed 17 ISIS militants and destroyed a number of armored vehicles.

On February 21, Federal Police Commander Raed Shakir Jawdat reported that his soldiers had repelled 35 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and destroyed four of their vehicles north of Baiji. Furthermore, they killed five suicide bombers west of Ramadi and dismantled 11 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and three explosive belts.

On February 22, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed 21 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants during clearing operations in al-Hamdhiyat area, north of Ramadi. In addition, the ISF soldiers detonated 13 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the al-Sijariyah area.

On February 22, the International Coalition bombed the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the al-Faisalah neighborhood of central Mosul. The operation killed 16 ISIS militants.

On February 23, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) offered to surrender the city of Garma to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) in exchange for allowing ISIS militants to flee the city to Fallujah. ISF and PMU forces have stated that they refuse to negotiate with terrorist groups and will continue their bombardment of Garma.

On February 24, the International Coalition bombed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) convoy in the city of al-Khalidiya, east of Ramadi. The strike killed 13 ISIS militants and destroyed the nine vehicles in which they were traveling.

On February 24, Federal Police repelled an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the Mak-houl Mountains, east of Tikrit. The battle saw the deaths of eight ISIS militants and the destruction of two vehicles.

On February 25, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the Albu Daij area, just north of Amiriyat Fallujah, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. ISF soldiers killed 19 ISIS militants, destroyed four vehicles, and bombed four ISIS bases and a mobile rocket-launching platform.

On February 25, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in conjunction with Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and International Coalition aircraft cleared two areas of Amiriyat Fallujah, a city 30 kilometers south of Fallujah, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The soldiers cleared the neighborhoods of Albu Hatem and al-Fuhailat, killing dozens of ISIS militants as they began to fall back towards Fallujah.

Complications over the Operation to Liberate Mosul

On February 20, Prime Minister Abadi said Popular Mobilization Units will take part in efforts to liberate Mosul.

On February 21, the Iraqi Forces Bloc confirmed that it would not support coordinating with Popular Mobilization Units in an operation to liberate Mosul. It cited concerns about such a move casting the conflict in a sectarian light, serving as propaganda to strengthen Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) position.

On February 22, Major General Baha’a al-Azzawi of the Ninewa Provincial Police reported that 26,000 of his officers are ready to serve in the operations to liberate Ninewa from the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Major General continued on to say that the officers had received intensive training and that there is a “high degree of coordination” between the leadership of the police and of the army with regards to the upcoming invasion.

On February 22, 102 militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fled Mosul before the operation to liberate the city even started.

On February 23, MPs of the Committee on Security and Defense expressed concerns over the expense of prolonging the conflict with Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and their interest to liberate Mosul, Fallujah, and Hit almost concurrently. A Kurdish MP said the liberation of Mosul would rely heavily on Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, which is complicated by Prime Minister Abadi’s interest in involving controversial Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The Peshmerga and PMUs have clashed over contested territory on several occasions, raising doubts about their presumed alliance in Mosul’s liberation.

Another Week of Demonstrations

On February 19, hundreds of protesters gathered in Dhi Qar province to demonstrate against corruption and to condemn attacks on protesters which took place a week earlier. Among the protesters were delegates from nine provinces who were present as part of a solidarity movement.

On February 19, hundreds of protesters gathered in Diwaniya province in opposition to the Ministry of Health’s decision to impose health fees on citizens.

On February 19, hundreds of protesters took to the street in Karbala to demand access to local government files which they believe will show corrupt practices dating back to 2003.

On February 19, hundreds of protesters gathered in Samawah, Muthanna province, to protest high unemployment rates and call for action regarding Saudi military exercises taking place on the Iraqi border. The demonstrators said they would resort to sit-ins and further escalation if their demands were not met

On February 19, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Mashkhab, Najaf province to protest poor water access and call for the resignation of Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud, whom they see as the head of Iraqi corruption.

On February 23, protestors gathered at the front of the Directorate of Education Building in Karbala governorate to criticize the Ministry of Education’s decision to impose financial fees on students and alumni, declaring the fees as a “violation of the constitution” which under Article 38 guarantees free and universal education. The Director General of Education in Karbala, Abbas, said that the “fees established by the Ministry of Education apply to the ratification of certificates, study documents, and examinations” and that the values vary.

On February 24, the Ministry of Education denied that they are imposing fees on students’ grades and examinations, indicating that the accusation is an “attack from some news agencies” and that it is important to adopt news from official sources.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

On February 19, Norway contributed an additional $2.8 million to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS), which finances fast-track initiatives in areas liberated from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to help rehabilitate civic infrastructure, kickstart local economies, boost government capacity and promote community reconciliation. In Tikrit, Salah ad-Din province, stabilization support has already been provided and 90% of families have returned to their homes and are rebuilding their lives. New initiatives in liberated areas in the provinces of  Salah ad-Din, Diyala, and Ninewa are underway with preparations quickly advancing to support Ramadi.

On February 20, the United Nations (UN) expressed concern over the thousands of civilians trapped in Fallujah, Anbar province, and in the district of Sinjar in Ninewa province, warning of a potential humanitarian disaster. The UN called on the Iraqi and Kurdish governments to “fulfill their obligations” under humanitarian law and double their efforts to facilitate the evacuation and relocation of civilians to safer areas with food, water, and medical care.

On February 20, the Deputy for Kirkuk province Khalid Mafraji demanded the Ministry of Electricity to deliver power to internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) camps, noting that more than 650,000 IDPs in the province are facing a “tragic” situation due to a lack of essential services, particularly electricity.

On February 21, the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) provided new winterization aid distributions worth $69,300 as part of its Warm Winter 2015-2016 campaign to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq  withstand the winter. The project involved distributing 4,950 blankets to 1,650 families (10,000 people) in the following IDP camps across Anbar province: Amiriyat al-Fallujah (3,750 blankets), Khalidiya (600 blankets), and Habbaniya (600 blankets).

On February 23, the Department of Immigration in Diyala province distributed humanitarian aid to 1,250 internally displaced families in the areas of Mansouriet al-Jabal, Cana’an, and al-Adheem within the province, stressing that the program will assist returnees to the liberated areas. The aid included baskets of food, medical materials, and furnishings.

On February 25, the Department of Immigration in Diyala province announced that the province is home to over 2,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) that are mostly from Anbar province. The Department stressed that it provides humanitarian assistance for the IDPs on an ongoing basis.

More than 90,000 of Internally Displaced Iraqis Return Home

On February 23, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced the return of nearly 93,000 internally displaced families to their homes in Salah ad-Din, Anbar, and Diyala. The director of the Central Provincial Department in the Ministry Amer Abbas Zughayyar said that Salah ad-Din received the most returnees with 75,356 families, followed by Diyala with 13,867, and Anbar with 3,600.

ISIS Brutality Continues

On February 20, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 10 people in central Mosul. They were charged with collaborating with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and were killed by firing squad. It is worth mentioning that last week, ISIS executed 1,065 people and intends to execute 3,000 more.

On February 22, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 36 of its own militants for refusing to fight the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in battles south of Mosul. The men were killed by firing squad in Ghazlani Camp, south of Mosul.

On February 23, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 12 people, accusing them of trying to escape Fallujah. The civilians were killed by firing squad in the al-Jumhūrīyah neighborhood of central Fallujah.

Shia Leader al-Sadr’s Influence on Iraq’s Politics

On February 19, Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr offered Prime Minister Abadi a list of “independent” figures to be appointed to a committee to select the new cabinet ministers.

On February 22, influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for a peaceful demonstration of “millions” in Tahrir Square, Baghdad against corruption and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The demonstration is scheduled for Friday, February 26, 2016.

On February 24, a security source reported that the Interior and Defense ministers have placed security forces on high alert in preparation for Friday’s demonstration in Tahrir Square. The demonstration was initiated by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who called for “millions” to join from “all corners of Iraq”. The parliamentary Human Rights Commission called on security forces not to use force on demonstrators.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
02/19/16al-Husseiniya,
Northeastern Baghdad
28
02/19/16Abu Graib,
West of Baghdad
16
02/19/16al-Amil,
Southwestern Baghdad
15
02/19/16New Baghdad,
Eastern Baghdad
26
02/20/16Abu Dashir,
Southern Baghdad
27
02/20/16Al-A'amiriya,
Western Baghdad
10
02/20/16New Baghdad,
Eastern Baghdad
24
02/20/16Al-Mada'in District,
South of Baghdad
18
02/21/16al-Hamamiyat,
North of Baghdad
27
02/21/16Latifiya,
South of Baghdad
13
02/21/16Hawija,
Southwest of Kirkuk
42
02/22/16Al-Bayaa,
Southwestern Baghdad
28
02/22/16Al-A'amiriya,
Western Baghdad
16
02/22/16Karrada,
Eastern Baghdad
10
02/22/16al-Shaab,
Northeastern Baghdad
15
02/22/16al-Bikriyah,
Western Baghdad
26
02/23/16al-Yusufiyah,
South of Baghdad
19
02/23/16Taji,
North of Baghdad
15
02/23/16Hor Rajab,
South of Baghdad
17
02/23/16Al-Mada'in District,
South of Baghdad
28
02/23/16al-Sawib,
Southwestern Baghdad
15
02/24/16al-Dawanim,
Southwestern Baghdad
14
02/24/16al-Wahda,
Eastern Baghdad
26
02/24/16Hayy Al-A'amel,
Southwestern Baghdad
18
02/24/16al-Lahis,
South of Nasiriyah
10
02/24/16al-Mashtal,
Eastern Baghdad
17
02/25/16al-Tarmia,
North of Baghdad
38
02/25/16al-Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
18
02/25/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
26
02/25/16New Baghdad,
Eastern Baghdad
15
02/25/16al-Furat,
Western Baghdad
27
02/25/16al-Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
39
02/25/16al-Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
27

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC’s Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s final report (ISHM No. 50) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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