Iraq

ISHM: August 25 - 31, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

Abadi Declares Tal Afar “Liberated” from ISIS – On August 31, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Tal Afar, the militant group’s last urban stronghold in Ninewa Province, saying “I declare to you that Tal Afar has joined the liberated Mosul, and [is] returned to the homeland.” Operations to clear Tal Afar took less time than anticipated – days instead of several weeks – though it remains unclear how many ISIS militants have successfully fled to surrounding villages or to Syria. Iraqi Security Forces originally believed that as many as two thousand militants were in the city before operations began, but only several hundred were confirmed killed in recent operations. more…

Despite Military Success, More Displacements and Abuse of Tal Afar Civilians – UNHCR opened a new displacement site at Nimrod in Ninewa Province, in response to the large number of newly displaced civilians fleeing Tal Afar. The site received two thousand IDPs in its first day, and nearly 10 thousand are expected to be transferred from Hamam al-Alil. To reach the camps, IDPs must travel several hours on foot to mustering points where they are then bused to safety. IDPs often reach mustering points suffering from severe dehydration and exhaustion. Making matters worse, the UNHCR reported incidents of extortion and mistreatment of those IDPs by security officials who often accuse them of ISIS affiliations or sympathies. more…

Hawija May Be Next for Security Forces as Atrocities Continue – On August 25, ISIS militants in Hawija burned alive eight civilians, including a baby, after they attempted to flee the ISIS-controlled city in Kirkuk Province. ISIS atrocities have raged in the town since 2014, yet security operations have not yet made a concerted effort to enter and clear it. 150,000 civilians have fled Hawija over the past three years, though it has become increasingly difficult and dangerous to do so. On August 27, Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim, released a statement voicing concern that “Kirkuk [Province] might not be next” on the Iraqi Security Force’s list of priorities after Mosul and Tal Afar. Military and political leaders in Kirkuk have pushed for months for more resources to fight ISIS and clear the city, with little success. more…

IEDs Roil Baghdad – Concern that ISIS is transitioning to a more traditional insurgency were solidified this week after a string of IED attacks killed or wounded dozens in Baghdad. On August 28, at least 12 people were killed by a vehicle-based IED in Sadr City, a predominantly Shia neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, and at least four others were killed by a similar attack in the south of the city. Security officials closed the Karradah neighborhood in central Baghdad to private vehicles following the attacks. Karradah was the site of the July 2016 bombing that killed more than 300. Baghdad’s Security Committee issued a warning that ISIS may try to disrupt this coming weekend’s Eid al-Adha celebrations and encouraged vigilance. more…

Forced Returns to Anbar Province; Jordanian Border Reopens – On August 25, the UNHCR reported that 92 displaced families from western Anbar were forcibly evicted from an IDP camp outside of Baghdad during the first week of August, when the camp was closed on the presumption that IDPs based near Baghdad should return to their places of origin. Forced relocations are leaving evicted families vulnerable, with considerable concern for their health and safety as military operations against ISIS militants continue in the western Anbar cities of Qa’im, Rawa, and Ana. On August 30, the Anbar border with Jordan was reopened after nearly three years given relative improvements to security and safety in that portion of the region. more…

Kirkuk Provincial Council Votes to Participate in Kurdistan Region Independence Referendum – Kurdish members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted to allow Kirkuk Province to participate in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s impending referendum on independence, scheduled for September 25. Turkish and Arab factions of the council expectedly boycotted the vote and believe that Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic region whose governance should not be sided with the KRG. more…

Militia Storms Diyala Provincial Council Over Attempts to Dismiss Governor – On August 27, over 40 gunmen associated with a Shia militia stormed the Diyala Provincial Council to protest attempts to dismiss Diyala Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi over charges of corruption. Earlier that day, dozens of protesters called for his ouster. Tamimi belongs to the influential Badr Organization, a Shia political bloc whose associated militia has been effective in the ongoing fight against ISIS. Police forces eventually cleared the Council of the militants and no casualties were reported. Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri said of the incident that such attempts to influence the political process will provoke “disorder and security chaos.” Diyala Province continues to experience ongoing security threats from insurgent militants and random ISIS-led attacks. 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.