Thursday, July 3, 2014

Insurgent Offensive Wreaks Havoc Across Central Iraq In June 2014

 
The insurgent offensive that started in June 2014 has obviously turned Iraq upside down. There is on-going fighting in Anbar, Babil, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salahaddin provinces. There were also terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, Najaf, and Wasit last month. The resulting casualty figures skyrocketed. The situation is only getting worse as the violence looks like it will last for years.

Casualties in June passed the 6,000 mark, the highest since the civil war years. In total there were 871 security incidents mentioned in the media that month. That averaged out to 29.0 per day, down from the yearly average of 31.6. That led to 2,719 deaths and 3,480 wounded. Those were obviously annual highs. The averages shot up from 47.3 killed and 84.1 injured per day in May to 90.6 deaths and 116.0 wounded in June. Unlike previous months there were more shootings, 340, than bombings, 342. That was obviously because the nature of the conflict has changed from insurgent and terrorist operations to open warfare. These numbers are more provisional than previous months because the Iraqi government has stopped reporting on its casualties and there were likely more security incidents that were simply not mentioned because journalists no longer have access to the entire country.

Violence In Iraq 2014
Month
Incidents
Killed
ISF,
Sahwa,
Peshmerga
Asayesh
Killed
Civilians
Killed
Wounded
ISF,
Sahwa,
Peshmerga
Wounded
Civilians
Wounded
Gunfire
Bombs
Car
Bombs
Jan
1,015
1,483
427 ISF
69 Sahwa
2 Asayesh
985
2,887
649 ISF
48 Sahwa
2,190
468
502
96
Feb
945
1,274
516 ISF
58 Sahwa
2 Pesh
698
2,526
702 ISF
93 Sahwa
3 Pesh
1,728
442
466
73
Mar
996
1,606
567 ISF
48 Sahwa
2 Asayesh
989
2,901
631 ISF
57 Sahwa
1 Asayesh
2,212
419
579
73
Apr
999
1,456
538 ISF
46 Sahwa
1 Asayesh
871
2,905
806 ISF
53 Sahwa
5 Pesh
1 Asayesh
2,040
376
583
79
May
904
1,468
506 ISF
77 Sahwa
1 Pesh
884
2,610
719 ISF
50 Sahwa
1,841
370
506
81
Jun
871
2,719
815 ISF
31 Sahwa
62 Pesh
1,811
3,480
560 ISF
47 Sahwa
194 Pesh
1 Asayesh
2,678
430
342
58
Totals
5,730
10,006
3,369 ISF
329 Sahwa
65 Pesh
5 Asayesh
6,238
17,309
4,067 ISF
348 Sahwa
202 Pesh
3 Asayesh
12,689
2,505
2,978
460

Avg Violence In Iraq Per Day 2014
Month
Incidents
Killed
Wounded
Gunfire
Bombs
Car Bombs
Jan
32.7
47.8
93.1
15.0
16.1
3.0
Feb
33.7
45.5
90.2
15.7
16.6
2.6
Mar
32.1
51.8
93.5
13.5
18.6
2.3
Apr
33.3
48.5
96.8
12.5
19.4
2.6
May
29.1
47.3
84.1
11.9
16.3
2.6
Jun
29.0
90.6
116.0
14.3
11.4
1.9
Avg
31.6
55.2
95.6
13.8
16.4
2.5


In Anbar province there were continued security collapses. When the offensive started at the beginning of the month the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) suddenly withdrew from the border areas and around the entrances to Fallujah. When it attempted to return to those areas it was beaten back and the Islamic State (IS) was able to take control of the major cities along the main highway leading to Syria such as al-Qaim. In Fallujah the various insurgent groups there were able to gain control of the major entrances to the city. To the west of that city militants continued to slip back into areas cleared by the tribes and security forces. By the end of the month it was estimated that over 85% of the governorate was under insurgent control and they were moving from the west and east into the middle threatening Haditha and Ramadi two of the last remaining urban areas under government control. In fact, insurgents have gained control of the southern and western sections of that latter city. Local politicians saw the writing on the wall and many have fled going to Kurdistan for their own personal safety. On the other hand, indiscriminate shelling of Fallujah, and now parts of Ramadi by the ISF cost the lives of 170 people and wounded another 298. Syria’s air force also struck the border area of Anbar after IS was able to take over the border crossings and killed 57 Iraqis and injured another 120. With the deteriorating situation Anbar could fall to insurgents within weeks.

Babil province has become more unstable in recent weeks. Parts of the northern section of the governorate have been IS strongholds for years. Despite the continued claims by the authorities that the security forces have cleared the area, IS fighters have never been dislodged. The ISF launched several clearing operations in June with little success just like the previous ones. This included the deployment of 1,500 volunteers to the Jurf al-Sakhr area. Militias have also been sent there as well. They ran into heavy fighting. Although figures are hard to come by because the government has not publicly talked about its losses a few stories captured the intensity of the fighting. On June 22 an army base in Jurf al-Sakhr area was hit by mortar fire killing 4 volunteers and wounding 35. Xinhua reported 25 soldiers killed and 22 wounded in shoot outs with militants in Jurf al-Sakhr, Mahmudiya, and Rasheed on June 28. Due to the security crisis and the disintegration of several army divisions, the government has been pressing into service recruits with little training. They are likely suffering high casualties as shown by these two days in Babil. This is bringing out open brutality by the security forces as well. Human rights groups and journalists have accused the police of executing 71 prisoners on June 23 outside of Hillah. In total 227 people were killed and 290 wounded in Babil in June compared to just 85 dead and 170 wounded in May. The continued failures in the governorate cost the Babil Operations Command commander General Saad Harbiya his job on July 1. He’d only been on duty for a short period as his predecessor was fired as well by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for failing to secure the province. More violence can be expected in Babil as IS will be pushing northward towards Baghdad.

Baghdad province has remained as violent as ever. While the Baathist Naqshibandi’s Military Council has claimed some small attacks in the northern section of the governorate, the vast majority of operations there are carried out by IS. It has been able to strike every section of the city and is attempting to surround the capital in the Baghdad Belts so that it might restart street fighting there to topple the government. In June there were 203 attacks, 420 killed, and 934 wounded mostly by bombings that included 17 car bombs. Those were roughly equal to May’s numbers of 244 incidents, 493 fatalities, 1,020 injured and 23 car bombs. That shows that IS’s cells in the capital have not been diverted to fighting in other sections of the country as it has maintained the same pace of its operations in Baghdad. There the situation can only get worse. If the insurgency achieves its goal and restarts street fighting there the government and militias will likely respond with renewed sectarian cleansing, which will end the remaining mixed neighborhoods in the capital and many of the majority Sunni ones like Adhamiya as well. There has already been an increase in dead bodies showing up on the streets of the province, which is in part likely due to militias. 43 were found in June and 42 in May compared to 27 in April. 

Diyala had seen low-level insurgent activity before the current offensive, which quickly turned into a surge in June. As soon as Mosul fell the peshmerga moved into the disputed areas in the northern section of the province such as Jalwala. There has been heavy fighting there with the Islamic State since then. That cost the lives of 19 peshmerga and wounded another 59. Starting on June 26 IS also launched an offensive in the central part of the province in the Mansuriya area. That day seven villages fell. The fighting has continued there to the present, and will likely get worse. In total there were 130 attacks, 227 killed, and 337 wounded in June, up from 59 incidents, 79 deaths, and 89 injured in May. Like in Babil the fighting in Diyala has already gotten ugly. June 17 52 prisoners were killed in a prison in the Baquba area. The police claimed they died in an attack by insurgents, but there is evidence they were executed by the authorities instead. Diyala is another route insurgents are looking to use to push on Baghdad so the intensity of fighting there will continue to grow.

After the fall of Mosul insurgents went south for the capital taking over western Kirkuk in the process. Like in Diyala, the Kurds moved into the northern section of the governorate including Kirkuk city after the ISF fled the area. Like Diyala as well that has led to heavy clashes with insurgents. 27 peshmerga died and another 89 peshmerga and one Asayesh have been wounded as a result. Turkmen police units and volunteers have also been involved in the fighting, and they together with the Kurds have born the brunt of the violence in the province. Towards the end of the month the security forces supported by militiamen also launched an operation in the Bashir area, which has gone badly for them. Again, reporting is limited, but on June 29 at least 14 militiamen were wounded, and 30 were killed the following day. In June there were 61 incidents, 172 killed, and 224 wounded versus just 24 attacks, 42 deaths, and 64 injured in May.

After the fall of Mosul on June 10 the ISF has suffered continued setbacks in Ninewa province. It was hoping to use Tal Afar in the western section as a base to free Mosul, but that fell to militants on June 22. Insurgents have captured other towns since then as well. After IS took over the border crossings between Ninewa and Syria the Assad government launched air assaults there as well on June 26 that killed 6 Iraqis and wounded 11. Baghdad has begun air attacks upon Mosul and Tal Afar too. Like the shelling of Fallujah those are causing civilian casualties with 13 deaths and 48 injured so far. The attack upon Tal Afar also led to atrocities. Amnesty International believes that 50 prisoners were executed there on June 15 by the security forces. The peshmerga were already in the disputed areas of Ninewa before the fall of Mosul, and like in the rest of the country they have come under attack by insurgents. 12 have died and another 26 wounded so far. In total, there were 91 incidents, 400 killed and 266 wounded in June. In May there were 183 attacks, almost all small and targeted ones in Mosul with 204 killed and 372 injured. With Tal Afar fallen it is unlikely that the government will launch any offensive operations there for the time being. That leaves the Kurds to take the brunt of the fighting there for now.

Violence in Salahaddin had been ramping up in the previous months and has now become the main battlefront between Baghdad and its militia allies and the insurgents. The northern section of the governorate was lost to the government after Mosul. The town of Baiji was taken, but the refinery has continued to be a point of contention. The security forces were successfully able to defend the facility even after most of the units there left. On June 26 special forces landed at Tikrit University by helicopter, which went badly when one crashed. That turned into a larger operation supported by militias that attempted to probe further into Tikrit, but was turned back by extensive IEDs being laid across the surrounding roads. That effort has since stalled. The peshmerga have been deployed to the eastern half of the Tuz Kharmato district in the western part of Salahaddin. They have been involved in some firefights with insurgents leaving 4 peshmerga dead and 20 wounded. In May there were 180 attacks, 237 killed, and 330 wounded. In June there were 174 incidents, but 738 deaths and 728 injured. The fighting in Salahaddin is largely deadlocked. The ISF and militias will continue to launch operations there, but will have a difficult time holding any new ground they may take. On the other hand, they are heavily committed to the defense of Samarra with its Askari shrine so they will not give much more ground there either.  

Finally in the south the Islamic State continued to launch car bombs. In June they hit Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, Wasit, and for the first time this year Najaf with one vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) each. Those left behind 30 dead and 130 wounded. None of these occurred after June 11 showing that perhaps the Islamic State was placing its priority on striking the center of the country rather than the south, and that led to the temporary respite.

Violence In Iraq By Province June 2014
Province
Attacks
Killed
Wounded
Attack Types
Anbar
155
498
100 ISF
11 Sahwa
387 Civilians
571
50 ISF
12 Sahwa
509 Civilians
89 Gunfire
16 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
10 Car Bombs
11 Suicide Bombs
(7 Suicide Car Bombs)
Babil
45
227
57 ISF
170 Civilians
290
58 ISF
232 Civilians
17 Gunfire
13 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
3 Car Bombs
4 Suicide Bomb
Baghdad
203
420
59 ISF
11 Sahwa
350 Civilians
934
135 ISF
21 Sahwa
778
69 Gunfire
88 IEDs
17 Sticky Bombs
17 Car Bombs
8 Suicide Bombs
(5 Suicide Car Bombs)
Basra
8
17
1 ISF
16 Civilians
12
12 Civilians
7 Gunfire
1 Car Bomb
Dhi Qar
1
1
1 Civilian
19
19 Civilians
1 Car Bomb
Diyala
130
227
32 ISF
19 Pesh
8 Sahwa
168 Civilians
337
52 ISF
59 Pesh
14 Sahwa
212 Civilians
77 Gunfire
29 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
6 Car Bombs
3 Suicide Bombs
(2 Suicide Car Bombs)
Karbala
1
5
5 Civilians
12
12 Civilians
1 Car Bomb
Kirkuk
61
172
2 ISF
27 Pesh
143 Civilians
224
16 ISF
89 Pesh
1 Asayesh
118 Civilians
32 Gunfire
21 IEDs
4 Car Bombs
1 Suicide Bombs
Najaf
1
13
13 Civilians
70
70 Civilians
1 Car Bomb
Ninewa
91
400
82 ISF
12 Pesh
306 Civilians
266
69 ISF
26 Pesh
171 Civilians
48 Gunfire
17 IEDs
4 Car Bombs
2 Suicide Bombs
(1 Suicide Car Bomb)
Salahaddin
174
738
482 ISF
4 Pesh
1 Sahwa
251 Civilians
728
180 ISF
20 Pesh
528 Civilians
91 Gunfire
69 IEDs
9 Car Bombs
5 Suicide Car Bombs
Wasit
1
1
1 Civilian
17
17 Civilians
1 Car Bomb

SOURCES

Abi-Habib, Maria, “At Least 81 Iraqis Killed in Sunni Rebel Attack on Convoy,” Wall Street Journal, 6/23/14

Agence France Presse, "Bombings in Shiite areas of Iraq kill 37," 6/11/14

Amnesty International, “Iraq: Testimonies point to dozens of revenge killings of Sunni detainees,” 6/27/14

Buratha News, "Daash Terrorists attacked two villages north of Mosul and Turkmenistan," 6/25/14

Damon, Arwa, Carter Chelsea, and Smith-Spark, Laura, "Iraq crisis: Kurdish region closes crossings to Iraqis fleeing Mosul conflict," CNN, 6/28/14

CNN, "Syrian warplanes strike in Iraq, killing 57 civilians," 6/25/14

Faqie, Nuwar, "ISIS kills 30 Shiite Militias in Kirkuk," Bas News, 6/30/14

Fox News, “Iraqi forces reportedly pull back from Tikrit amid fierce fighting with ISIS militants,” 6/29/14

Holmes, Oliver and Coles, Isabel, “Iraq helicopter crashes in airborne commando assault on Tikrit,” Reuters, 6/26/14

Iraq Times, "Martyrdom and wounding 18 civilians in a car bombing north of Kut," 6/11/14
- “Martyrdom and wounding 20 people in a car bombing in downtown Nasiriyah," 6/2/14

Lando, Ben, Van Heuvelen, ben, Najm, Jamal, and Tahir, Rawaz, “Baiji refinery nearly falls to insurgents,” Iraq Oil Report, 6/25/14

Al Mada, "20 dead and injured in the bombing of Safwan, southwest of Basra," 6/11/14
- "Killed five people by pounding of the village of Tar Afar, east of Mosul," 6/25/14
- "Najaf Health confirms killing and injuring 21 people in neighborhood blown up," 6/2/14

Morris, Loveday, “Iraq reports effort to recapture Tikrit,” Washington Post, 6/28/14

NINA, "/39/ Volunteers killed and wounded by mortar shells in Jurf al-Sakhar in Babylon," 6/22/14
- "40 people injured due to aircrafts' bombing on several areas in Mosul," 6/30/14
- "83 killed , wounded in Najaf car bomb, medic sources say," 6/2/14
- “1,500 volunteers to fight alongside the security forces, sent to the north of Babylon,” 6/18/14
- “Breaking News..Iraqi flag was raised over the building of the University of Tikrit after cleansing it from the ISIS elements,” 6/26/14
- "Five killed, four injured in a car bomb explosion north of Karbala," 6/11/14
- “Maliki changes the Babylon Operations Commander,” 7/1/14
- "Syrian Air Force strikes Rabia area west of Mosul, kills six and wound 11 others," 6/26/14

Nordland, Rod, “Iraq Says Russian Experts Have Arrived to Help Prepare Jets for Fighting,” New York Times, 6/29/14

Prothero, Mitchell, “Iraqi commandos and Shiite militias battling to retake Tikrit,” McClatchy Newspapers, 6/27/14

Radio Free Iraq, “26 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Iraq,” 6/26/14

Rasheed, Ahmed and Holmes, Oliver, “Mass prisoner deaths in Iraq point to police executions,” Reuters, 6/27/14

Al Rayy, "22 people were injured by a car bomb in a popular market west of Basra," 6/11/14

Rubin, Alissa and Nordland, Rod, “Shiite Violence Traps Baghdad’s Sunnis, Haunted by a Grim Past,” New York Times, 6/25/14

Rudaw, "Kurds Fight ISIS, as Iraqi Army is Halted Outside Tikrit," 6/29/14

Al Rayy, "Diyala police chief: killed nine gunmen who attacked a police station west of Baquba," 6/16/14

Shafaq News, “Sudden withdrawal of security forces from Tal Afar,” 6/22/14

Sly, Liz and Morris, Loveday, "Iraqi parliament to convene July 1; insurgents battle toward key gas field," 6/26/14

Xinhua, "25 security members killed in clashes near Baghdad," 6/29/14

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