ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 54: March 11 – 17, 2016

ISHM LOGOKey Takeaways:

  • This week, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) lost grounds in western Ramadi where Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and anti-ISIS tribal fighters successfully cleared the areas of al-Dawar, al-Qatnia, al-Khawdha, Banan and the village of al-Safiria. In addition, on Saturday, the ISF in conjunction with police, tribal fighters, and the U.S.-led international coalition, began operations to liberate the city of Hit from ISIS. Hit is located 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. Last Friday, U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes killed two ISIS leaders, Rahim al-Awadh in al-Kubaisa district, and an ISIS Sharia judge in the city of Hit, both in western Anbar. In northern Iraq, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga artillery attacks killed 12 ISIS militants in Bhazani, 22 kilometers north of Mosul.
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokeswoman, Ariane Rummery, expressed concerns during a news briefing in Geneva on March 11 about a rising new trend. Newly displaced Iraqis are being forcibly transferred to camps where their movement is restricted by military forces in a “manner disproportionate to any legitimate concern, including those related to security.” Also this week, due to the military operations in al-Kubaisa and Hit, in western Ramadi, ISF is helping 6,000 families to move to safer areas as operations to liberate these areas from ISIS have begun.
  • Last Friday thousands of Iraqi citizens gathered in Tahrir Square for the third week in a row to voice their demands to end corruption, improve the country’s financial situation, and to implement Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform plans. Iraq’s Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr continued to be a major influencer for these protests and called on March 12 for all Iraqis to demonstrate in front of the gates of the Green Zone until these reforms are implemented.
  • The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the use of chemical weapons by ISIS in the recent attacks on the district of Taza Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk. According to a Turkmen Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) official, these attacks have resulted in 860 casualties and the death of a child and a woman. German and American experts have arrived to Taza Khurmatu this week to assess the scale of the damage as well us examine the effects of these chemical attacks on people. We will continue to monitor ISIS’s use of chemical weapons. Wednesday marked the 28th anniversary of the chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to Human Rights Watch: “More than 5,000 civilians were killed and over 7,000 were severely injured… [constituting] the single largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population in the world.”
  • Five Yezidi women and 14 Yezidi children kidnapped by ISIS were freed this week, according to Hussein Qaiada, an official from the office of Abductee Affairs.
  • At a press briefing this morning, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that “Daesh [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims… Daesh is genocidal by self proclamation, by ideology and by actions… and also responsible for crimes against humanity.” This comes after the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously (393 to 0) on Monday that ISIS’s oppression of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide. According to U.S. officials, the U.S. declaration of genocide does not obligate the United States to take additional action against ISIS. However, such a declaration has momentous moral and political consequences and should lead to further steps to protect those in danger.

The Operation to Liberate Hit from ISIS Has Started

On March 11, Iraqi Security Forces cleared the areas of al-Dawar and al-Qatnia, 30 kilometers west of Ramadi, Anbar province, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The battle killed 20 ISIS militants and is seen as an operation undertaken to prepare for the siege of Hit, 10 kilometers west of Ramadi.

On March 11, the International Coalition killed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) leader Rahim al-Awadh and four of his aides. The strike took place in al-Kabisat, 160 kilometers west of Anbar and also destroyed three trucks mounted with rocket launchers.

On March 11, the International Coalition killed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) Sharia judge and four of his aides. The strike hit a warehouse used both as a meeting place and as a facility to store ammunition in the city of Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi.

On March 11, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the custody of Dawood Suleiman Bakkar, a captured chemical weapons expert for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), has been transferred to Iraqi officials in Kurdistan.

On March 12, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked the Arar border crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which is 460 kilometers west of Ramadi in Anbar province. Seven ISIS militants were killed in the clash and their vehicles were destroyed as well.

On March 12, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the village of al-Safiria, west of Ramadi. ISF soldiers raised the Iraqi flag over the city.

On March 12, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), in conjunction with police, tribal fighters, and the International Coalition, began the operation to clear the city of Hit (70 kilometers west of Ramadi) of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants.

On March 12, in two separate events, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked the Alas and Ajil oilfields 170 kilometers north of Baghdad. ISIS militants were repelled by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), tribal fighters, and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), yielding 40 militants and injuring 20 more.

On March 13, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the areas of al-Khawdha and Banan, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The operation was conducted jointly with police and tribal fighters so as to prepare for the siege of Hit.

On March 13, Kurdish Peshmerga forces killed 12 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants with artillery. The attack occurred in the village of Bhazani, 22 kilometers north of Mosul and also destroyed three vehicles belonging to ISIS.

On March 14, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) aircraft bombed the city of Beşiir Kasabasi, 23 kilometers south of Kirkuk. The strike killed 17 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants.

On March 14, Peshmerga forces captured an American citizen who had defected to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The 27 year-old Mohammed Jamal Amin was caught in Sinjar and has since been sent to Turkey.

On March 15, the head of a Popular Mobilization Unit, Jabbar Maamouri, reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), arrived in Hawija following a series of four attacks over 72 hours which killed a number of senior ISIS commanders. In Hawija he met with the remaining leaders.

On March 15, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) aircraft bombed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) positions in Hawija, 45 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk. The attack killed 15 ISIS militants and the destruction of a plant.

On March 16, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) carried out an operation north of Muqdadiyah, 35 kilometers north of Baquba. The attacked killed 9 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, injured two others, and uncovered 50 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and 15 explosive belts.

On March 16, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for downing an Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reconnaissance plane. The Cessna 208 Caravan was flying over Hawija, 250 kilometers north of Baghdad, and while the ISF claims that the downing of the aircraft was a result of a technical problem, ISIS claims that they shot it down. The fate of the three men onboard remains unknown.

UN Expresses Concerns over Restriction of Mobility of IDPs In Iraq

On March 11, the UN Refugee Agency expressed concern over a rising-trend of newly displaced Iraqis that are being forcibly transferred to camps, and their movement progressively restricted once they reside in those camps. In the Nazrawa camp, for example, approximately 2,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been confined to the camp since February 22, regardless of whether or not they have completed security screening procedures. UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery has urged the government to set up clear procedures and facilities for screening people that are fleeing from territory controlled by extremist groups separately from camps that are established to provide shelter and other humanitarian assistance to displaced Iraqis.

On March 13, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) helped hundreds of displaced families who have escaped from Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The ISF has created safe corridors where these displaced families have received essential care.

On March 14, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) moved over 1,000 displaced families from al-Kubaisa district to the Hawran valley and al-Baghdadi district in western Ramadi. The families were fleeing Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) violence in al-Kubaisa and have since been housed in mosques and schools in al-Baghdadi.

On March 14, Ali Dawood, Chairman of the Department of Immigration and Cooperation in the district of Khalidiya, Anbar province, announced the establishment of an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in al-Habanya with 350 tents in order to receive displaced families from Khalidiyah Island. Dawood added that the camp “is the first step to establishing other camps around it”.

On March 14, Governor of Anbar province Suhaib al-Rawi announced the return of more than 1,400 internally displaced families to the modern village of Zankurah, north of Ramadi, while noting that this group of IDPs is the first and will be followed by other groups.

On March 14, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that the Supreme Committee for the relief and sheltering of the displaced will allocate three billion dinars to the Society of the Red Crescent and two billion dinars to Anbar province in order to fund emergency relief materials for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Chairman of the Committee Jassim Mohammed added that the Ministry will continue to coordinate with relevant ministries and United Nations’ organizations to help provide the necessary provisions for the displaced.

On March 15, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) helped 80 displaced families from Hit, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi, escape the area through safe corridors. The families were moved to the cities of Khalidiya and Habbaniyah where they have been given food and medical care.

On March 15, the Agence France Presse reported that terrified residents were fleeing the Iraqi town of Hit as security forces closed in Tuesday and jihadist fighters hunkered down to defend one of their main strongholds in Anbar province. Police colonel Fadhel al-Nimrawi said thousands of families had recently fled Hit to al-Baghdadi, a town to the northwest, and other locations where displaced civilians are gathered. Hit has been under the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) control since October 2014.

On March 15, a Member of Parliament for the Federation of Iraqi Forces demanded that the government set up a committee for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Babil, similar to the one that exists for the IDPs in Anbar province. The MP said that there are approximately “more than 200,000 thousand people [IDPs] living in tragic situations, with most of them living in camps due to the central government’s failure to provide them with assistance.

On March 16, Mohanad Zbar, mayor of the city Hit in Anbar province, declared that approximately 5,000 families have been displaced as a result of the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) by the International Coalition. Zbar is appealing to the central government and the Ministry of Immigration for assistance to those families.

Iraqi Citizens Protests for the Third Week in a Row

On March 11, thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square for the third week in a row to participate in a pro-reform demonstration orchestrated by prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

On March 11, the emir of the Bani Tamim tribe announced the end of his tribe’s five-day demonstration which blocked several key roads. The government agreed to some of the Bani Tamim’s demands, including the replacement of the commander of Fifth Division of the Iraqi Army, an investigation into recent security lapses, and increased presence of security forces.

On March 12, prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for a sit-in in front of the gates to the Green Zone in Baghdad to begin Friday, March 18. He called for the sit-in demonstration to continue until the end of the 45-day period he set for the implementation of Prime Minister Abadi’s reforms.

ISIS Use of Chemical Attacks is Confirmed

On March 12, Ali al-Husseini, a spokesman for the popular mobilization unit (PMU) announced the arrival of an Iranian medical team to Taza, south of Kirkuk, noting that the delegation will assess the impact of the chemical attacks carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

On March 13, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched 65 mortar shells and 200 rockets loaded with polychlorinated chlorine and mustard gas on Taza, south of Kirkuk; attacks which have resulted in 860 casualties and the death of a child and a woman. According to the Observatory, the symptoms of those exposed to the toxic gases include boils, burns, redness throughout the body, and poisoning. The organization added that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s response came “too late and too shy”, noting that ISIS had previously used chemical weapons on the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

On March 13, the Director of Taza Khurmatu in Kirkuk province, Hussein Adil, announced the arrival of German and American experts to examine the effects of the chemical bombs composed of chlorine and mustard launched by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Taza. Adil demanded that the Kirkuk Provincial Council and the United Nations Security Council hold an emergency meeting regarding the attacks, while also calling for the provision of gas masks to all residents.

On March 14, Iraqi medics in Kirkuk province screened a total of 800 people since the chemical attacks carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) last week on the city of Taza. According to the mayor of Taza, Hussein Adil Abbas, among the people who have been checked, 61 are receiving treatment and undergoing further testing. Seven of them have been transferred to Baghdad. A three year old girl and a woman have died as a result of injuries caused by the attack.

On March 15, United States Army Colonel Steven Warren reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) used synthetic chlorine gas in Taza Khurmatu, southwest of Kirkuk. He further stated that he does not believe that ISIS has other chemical weapons and that the gas has a low chance of causing death.

On March 16, the Chairman of the Human Rights Parliamentary Committee, Arshad Salhi, announced the death of a woman that had been exposed to the chemical attacks on Taza conducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) earlier this week. Her passing accounts for the second death as a result of the attacks, and casualties now amount to more than a thousand people. Salhi also criticized the silence of international organizations in response to the bombings.

ISHM will continue to monitor ISIS’s use of chemical weapons.

Wednesday marked the 28th anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the findings of a 1991 investigative report by Human Rights Watch: “More than 5,000 civilians were killed and over 7,000 were severely injured. The Halabja poison gas attack remains the single largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population in the world.”

Kidnapped Yezidis Freed from ISIS

On March 14, Hussein Qaiada, an official from the Office of Abductee Affairs, announced the release of 19 Yazidi women and children that had been kidnapped by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Office of Abductee Affairs has been providing health and social services, noting that the during that last week 31 kidnapped Yazidis have been released.

United States Declares ISIS’s Crimes Against Religious Minorities Constitute Genocide

On March 17, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a press briefing in Washington that ISIS is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
03/11/16al-Wahda,
Southern Baghdad
27
03/11/16Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
26
03/11/16al-Adil,
Western Baghdad
10
03/11/16Hor Rajab,
Southern Baghdad
21
03/11/16Taji,
North of Baghdad
18
03/11/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
15
03/12/16Mahmudiyah,
South of Baghdad
27
03/12/16al-Bayaa,
Southwestern Baghdad
15
03/12/16Topchi,
Western Baghdad,
26
03/12/16al-Za’franiyah,
Southeastern Baghdad
27
03/12/16Baladiyat,
Central Baghdad
11
03/13/16Yusufiyah,
South of Baghdad
26
03/13/16Bismayah New City,
Southeast of Baghdad
18
03/13/16al-Turath,
Southern Baghdad
16
03/13/16al-Gazaliyah,
Western Baghdad
14
03/14/16al-Suwaib,
Southwest of Baghdad
16
03/14/16Mishahida,
North of Baghdad
15
03/14/16Al-Hurriya,
Northwestern Baghdad
15
03/15/16Sabaa al-Bour,
Northwest of Baghdad
28
03/15/16al-Mashtal,
Eastern Baghdad
10
03/15/16Dora,
Southern Baghdad
26
03/15/16al-Za’franiyah,
Southeastern Baghdad
17
03/16/16Abu Ghraib,
West of Baghdad
27
03/16/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
15
03/16/16al-Mahdia,
Southern Baghdad
07
03/16/16Furat,
Western Baghdad
25
03/16/16Al-Amin al-Thaniyah,
Eastern Baghdad
16
03/17/16al-Rashidiya,
Northern Baghdad
17
03/17/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
25
03/17/16al-Shula,
Northwestern Baghdad
27
03/17/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
18

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. 54) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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