Iraq

ISHM: February 10 - 16, 2017

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News and Press Release
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Key Takeaways:

Uptick in Violence, Bombings in Baghdad; Protests Turn Violent – On February 16, ISIS claimed responsibility for detonating a vehicle-based IED in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Baya’a, just south of central Baghdad, which killed at least 45 people and wounded 49. Earlier in the week, four people were killed and 320 wounded when weekly protests in Baghdad turned violent. Led by influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the protesters were reportedly approaching Baghdad’s Green Zone when security forces fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds. Later that day, two katyusha rockets were launched at the Green Zone from a nearby district. No injuries were reported as a result and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Last May, Sadrist protesters successfully entered the heavily fortified Green Zone, which was viewed at the time as a fundamental breakdown in security (as reported in ISHM). Protesters are demanding election reform, enhanced security, and an end to government corruption. more…

Aid to Eastern Mosul Restricted Due to Surge in Violence; Returnees Fearful – UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande announced on February 15 that the UN will discontinue aid distributions in several portions of eastern Mosul until the security situation is stabilized. The announcement comes amid reports that neighborhoods along the Tigris River are experiencing an uptick in mortar, sniper, and drone attacks from the western side of the city. On February 10, a recently reopened restaurant in the Rashidiya neighborhood was destroyed by a suicide bomber, resulting in at least 20 casualties. Member of Parliament Farah al-Sarraj accused security forces in Mosul of unlawfully detaining and extorting “huge sums” from civilians in recently cleared areas of the city. The basis of her accusations was not immediately made clear, though similar cases of abuse conducted by certain popular militias have been reported by international watch agencies during other operations in Fallujah and Ramadi. more…

Airstrikes Continue as Operations Into Western Mosul are Set to Begin – U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes continued to target ISIS positions in western Mosul ahead of impending operations to clear that portion of the city of ISIS militants – which are likely to begin in the next few days. Airstrikes reportedly killed several ISIS “leaders” in western Mosul as popular militias continued efforts to clear points further west in Ninewa Province. On February 13, a reported 200 ISIS militants attacked a PMU position in the Sinjar mountains, near the border with Syria. A PMU spokesman said that at least 50 militants were killed, 17 vehicles destroyed, and that the attempted attack was successfully rebuffed by the militia. more…

Hawija Still Not a Priority as Residents Suffer Atrocities – More than 75,000 civilians remain trapped in the ISIS controlled city of Hawija in Kirkuk Province where they are subjected to severe food and medicine shortages, torture, and “crimes of genocide,” according to Deputy General of the Arab Council Ismail Hadidi. This week, ISIS militants publicly burned 15 civilians to death – including children – after they attempted to escape al-Shajarah, a village near Hawija approximately 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City. Militants are charging individuals US$ 1500 per person if they wish to leave the city, a price far too high for the vast majority of families. Military operations to clear Hawija of ISIS militants are not expected to begin in the near future, as Iraqi Security Forces remain focused on Mosul. more…

Security Situation in Diyala Province Remains Unstable – Concern is mounting that ISIS militants may be gathering in preparation for a coordinated assault on Iraqi Security Forces and PMUs in Diyala Province. Head of the Provincial Council, Ali al-Daini, has described the situation as “explosive,” and asked for assistance from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Head of the Diyala Security Committee, Sadiq al-Husseini, stated that so far in February, three sweeps of the Hamrin Mountains by PMUs have destroyed three ISIS militant positions. more…

Reconstruction Investment, Resources for Returnees Much Needed; Parliament Set to Question Displacement and Migration Minister – A mere five percent of the US$ 578 million requested by the UNHCR to support Iraq’s 3.2 million IDPs in 2017 has been funded. Already overcrowded displacement camps in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah-ad Din Provinces, and in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are expecting a surge in populations as operations to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants commence. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande stressed that families cannot be forced from IDP camps and should only return to their homes if they feel it is safe to do so. Returnees to Fallujah, which was cleared of ISIS militants in June 2016, continue to face the dangers of unexploded IEDs and limited access to food, water, and other basic necessities. On February 14, the Iraqi Parliament announced its intention to question the Minister of Displacement and Migration, Jassim Mohammed, over allegations that the ministry has been covering up problems instead of being honest with officials and the public. 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.