Monday, March 16, 2015

Iraq Goes On The Offensive In Salahadin, Kirkuk and Anbar


At the start of March 2015, the Iraqi government launched multiple offensives to squeeze the Islamic State in the western and northern sections of the country. The Tikrit operation was the largest to date, but there was a supporting move by the Kurdish peshmerga into southern Kirkuk to cut off supply lines to Salahaddin province, along with a sweep through eastern Anbar to try to secure western Baghdad’s suburbs. IS responded with a huge wave of suicide car bombs, which failed to stop the advances. There was little doubt that the government was going to win in these fights, but the larger question is whether it can hold onto its gains, something it has struggled with in the past.

There were 133 security incidents reported in the press from March 8-14, 2015. Baghdad province led for the week once again with 47 followed by 25 in Salahaddin, 23 in Anbar, 20 in Ninewa, 12 in Kirkuk, four in Babil, and two in Diyala. For the month there was an average of 21.7 incidents per day, which was down from the 23.3 seen in February, and the 26.2 of January. Overall, attacks have been declining since the summer.

The second week of March saw 348 deaths and 656 wounded. The former consisted of 105 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 1 sahwa, 26 Hashd al-Shaabi/Popular Mobilization Units, 26 Peshmerga, and 190 civilians, while the latter was made up of 151 ISF, 1 U.S. soldier, 8 sahwa, 11 Hashd, 88 Peshmerga, and 397 civilians. The American was wounded by a ricochet while standing guard at the Besmaya training base in southern Baghdad on March 11. Kirkuk had the most deaths with 103 due to a mass grave being discovered there. After that was Baghdad with 88, Salahaddin with 70, Anbar with 58, Ninewa with 18, Babil with eight, and Diyala with three. Casualties for the week were roughly the same as the previous one. Like attacks, the number of killed and injured has been heading downward as well. In February there was an average of 61.7 deaths per day and 95.8 wounded. This month there has been 50.5 fatalities and 88.7 injured per day.

Violence In Iraq By Week Jun. 2014-2015
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jun 1-7
228
612
1,020
Jun 8-14
234
1,889
890
Jun 15-21
177
804
755
Jun 22-28
207
740
800
Jun 29-30
59
127
236
JUN
905
4,172
3,701
Jul 1-7
203
526
651
Jul 8-14
214
577
628
Jul 15-21
230
444
1,009
Jul 22-28
224
589
801
Jul 29-31
66
163
230
JUL
937
2,299
3,319
Aug 1-8
270
1,122
885
Aug 9-14
180
710
1,152
Aug 15-21
150
731
499
Aug 22-28
156
523
798
Aug 29-31
59
125
289
AUG
815
3,211
3,623
Sep 1-7
169
616
751
Sep 8-14
168
467
731
Sep 15-21
170
625
794
Sep 22-28
157
396
576
Sep 29-30
49
126
287
SEP
713
2,230
3,139
Oct 1-7
175
456
687
Oct 8-14
189
560
880
Oct 15-21
159
499
780
Oct 22-28
160
346
596 + 1,230
Oct 29-31
72
574
227
OCT
755
2,434
3,170 + 1,230
Nov 1-7
154
611
828
Nov 8-14
134
470
607
Nov 15-21
139
323
479
Nov 22-28
139
321
640
Nov 29-30
40
206
535
NOV
606
1,931
3,089
Dec 1-7
148
581
482
Dec 8-14
156
233 + 166
444 + 1,113
Dec 15-21
133
377
340
Dec 22-28
161
558
494
Dec 29-31
91
117
233
DEC
689
2,032
3,106
Jan 1-7
184
434
464
Jan 8-14
170
730
493
Jan 15-21
182
390
515
Jan 22-28
189
466
894
Jan 29-31
90
288
529
JAN
815
2,308
2,895
Feb 1-7
155
380
688
Feb 8-14
170
406
559
Feb 15-21
165
573
364
Feb 22-28
165
371
687 + 386
FEB
655
1,730
2,683
Mar 1-7
172
372
587
Mar 8-15
133
348
656

Violence By Province In Iraq March 2015
Province
Mar 1-7
Mar 8-15
Anbar
24 Incidents
71 Killed: 22 ISF, 31 Sahwa, 18 Civilians
77 Wounded: 31 ISF, 46 Civilians
14 Shootings
1 IED
1 Suicide Car Bomb
3 Mortars
1 Rocket
23 Incidents
58 Killed: 34 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 23 Civilians
147 Wounded: 26 ISF, 8 Sahwa, 113 Civilians
7 Shootings
1 IED
24 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Rocket
3 Mortars
Babil
5 Incidents
8 Killed: 1 Hashd, 7 Civilians
13 Wounded: 2 Hashd, 11 Civilians
1 Shooting
3 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
4 Incidents
8 Killed: 1 ISF, 7 Civilians
33 Wounded: 4 ISF, 29 Civilians
4 IEDs
1 Car Bomb
Baghdad
56 Incidents
75 Killed: 7 ISF, 4 Hashd, 5 Sahwa, 59 Civilians
229 Wounded: 16 ISF, 13 Sahwa, 16 Hashd, 184 Civilians
15 Shootings
30 IEDs
6 Sticky Bombs
1 Car Bomb
3 Mortars
2 Rockets
47 Incidents
88 Killed: 5 ISF, 83 Civilians
245 Wounded: 10 ISF, 1 US Soldier, 234 Civilians
15 Shootings
25 IEDs
4 Sticky Bombs
2 Car Bombs
1 Mortar
Basra
5 Incidents
4 Killed: 4 Civilians
3 Shootings
1 Sticky Bomb
-
Diyala
13 Incidents
17 Killed: 3 Hashd, 14 Civilians
23 Wounded: 3 ISF, 4 Hashd, 16 Civilians
6 Shootings
3 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
1 Car Bomb
2 Incidents
3 Killed: 2 ISF, 1 Civilian
3 Wounded: 3 ISF
1 Shooting
1 IED
Kirkuk
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 ISF
1 Shooting
12 Incidents
103 Killed: 1 ISF, 23 Hashd, 26 Peshmerga, 53 Civilians
105 Wounded: 10 ISF, 5 Hashd, 87 Peshmerga, 3 Civilians
8 Shootings
1 IED
1 Suicide Bomber
4 Car Bombs
1 Mine
Ninewa
31 Incidents
120 Killed: 2 ISF, 118 Civilians
12 Wounded: 12 Civilians
17 Shootings
11 IEDs
20 Incidents
18 Killed: 1 ISF, 17 Civilians
10 Wounded: 1 Peshmerga, 9 Civilians
12 Shootings
5 IEDs
Salahaddin
37 Incidents
76 Killed: 24 ISF, 28 Hashd, 24 Civilians
233 Wounded: 54 ISF, 122 Hashd, 57 Civilians
18 Shootings
14 IEDs
1 Suicide Bomber
6 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Car Bomb
3 Mortars
25 Incidents
70 Killed: 61 ISF, 3 Hashd, 6 Civilians
113 Wounded: 98 ISF, 6 Hashd, 9 Civilians
9 Shootings
12 IEDs
3 Suicide Bombers
3 Suicide Car Bombs

Car Bombs In Iraq March 2015
Date
Location
Dead
Wounded
Mar 1
Mar 2
East of Samarra, Salahaddin
4
Mar 3
South of Tikrit, Salahaddin
4
12
Mar 4
Mar 5
Abu Dishir, Baghdad
Alam & Tal Ksaiba x3, Salahaddin
7
37
Mar 6
Mar 7
Bastan, Anbar
Bani Saad, Diyala
Tuz Kharmato, Salahaddin
13
47
Total
10
28
96
Mar 8
Zoba, Anbar
Mahmudiya, Babil
Jamila, Baghdad
10
32
Mar 9
Mullah Ali x3, Kirkuk
5
30
Mar 10
Mullah Abdullah, Kirkuk
Baiji, Salahaddin
2
16
Mar 11
Ramadi x17, Anbar
Hurriya, Baghdad
Diom, Salahaddin
29
79
Mar 12
Saqlawiya, Anbar
3
5
Mar 13
Diom, Salahaddin
6
11
Mar 14
Ramadi x5, Anbar
11
14
Total
34
66
187

The Islamic State responded to the government’s offensive with a huge wave of suicide car bombs (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices). There were 34 successful detonations of VBIEDs during the week leading to 66 deaths and 187 wounded across Anbar, Babil, Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Salahaddin. Almost twice as many were destroyed before they reached their targets. An example of the intensity of these attacks occurred on March 11 when IS launched a multi pronged attack upon Ramadi with 17 suicide car bombs. Three days alter another five struck the city. The two VBIEDs in Baghdad and the one in Babil were the only ones during the week aimed just at civilians. All the rest were part of assaults on government forces.

Both Baghdad and the Islamic State had major operations going in Anbar during the second week of March. March 5 the ISF, tribes, and Hashd forces began a campaign to clear Garma in eastern Anbar. Baghdad officials complained about an increase in mortar fire upon western suburbs, which was believed to be originating from insurgent groups in Garma. By March 10 it was said the city was secured along with the surrounding villages. On the other hand, IS went on the offensive itself in Ramadi. The militants had gained ground in the city in recent months, but many neighborhoods remained contested and were constantly changing hands. Beginning on March 11, IS began an all out assault upon government positions led by its suicide bombers, followed by mortar and gunfire. The attacks were mostly repulsed. Overall, Anbar remains one of the few provinces where the Islamic State is still massing its forces for large operations, but they have not made any tangible advances in months. Conversely, the Iraqi forces in the governorate do not have the manpower to hold any areas they clear leading them to constantly go back to the same areas such as Garma, which had been swept through eight times previously since September.

Baghdad remained under threat from improvised explosive devices. There were 30 the first week of the month and 25 the second. From March 8-14 43 people were killed and 163 wounded as a result making IEDs by far the main driver of casualties in the province. Most of these were aimed at shops and markets to maximize destruction. There were also two car bombs during the week. The deadliest was on March 11 in Hurriya next to a medical clinic that left 18 dead and 48 wounded.

On March 9 the peshmerga began moving into southern Kirkuk in a supporting operation to Baghdad’s push on Tikrit. The Kurds’ goal was to clear Hawija, which is the main insurgent stronghold in the province, and cut off supply lines into Salahaddin. The Kurds made steady progress, but suffered 26 dead and 98 wounded in the process. There were likely more losses that were not reported in the press. The sweep led to the discover of a mass grave with up to 50 bodies in it on March 14 in Shamsa. IS launched four car bombs during the week in Mullah Ali and Mullah Abdullah to try to slow the Kurds. Kurdish officials have repeatedly said that they are only interested in protecting Kurdish areas, but this showed that they were willing to work with Baghdad to move out of their comfort zones to confront IS.

In Ninewa IS continued with its harassing attacks upon peshmerga forces. Almost every day it launched some type of probing mission against the Kurds in places like Sinjar and the Makhmour sub-district. IS also destroyed the Khorsabad ruins, bombed the Mar Gorges church twice, along with the Dor Sharukin palace in the Mosul area. This was part of the IS’s on going campaign to show its opposition to apostasy and pre-Islamic history. What is more important and going largely unreported is that IS is going through these sites to loot them for artifacts it can sell for funding, and then destroying them for propaganda.

Finally, Salahaddin has been the main focus of the fighting in the country. Since the beginning of March Dour, Alam and Albu Ajeel were freed, and northern and eastern sections of Tikrit had been breached. That cost the lives of 61 ISF and three Hashd, along with 98 ISF and 6 Hashd being wounded. The real numbers are likely far higher as the government has largely stopped reporting its losses. By the end of the week there was a pause and call for reinforcements to take the urban core of Tikrit. The main focus of the media has been on the conduct of the pro-government forces, specifically whether any militia units will carry out abuses or sectarian cleansing, which has happened in other parts of the country. So far a video was posted on March 10 allegedly showing Asaib Ahl al-Haq burning homes in Albu Ajeel. The Salahaddin council has acknowledged that some homes have been destroyed, but that they belonged to IS members. Mass graves have also been discovered in that town with anywhere from 300-400 bodies in it, many believed to be victims of the Camp Speicher massacre where IS executed 1,200 after the fall of Tikrit in June. If there are going to be any violations this would be where they would occur as the local tribe is blamed for taking part in the Speicher killings. There was one report by the Washington Post that some displaced who were suspected of being pro-IS had not been allowed to return to their homes. Otherwise, in other areas such as Alam to the west of Tikrit the government and Hashd are trying to get displaced families to return. That town was the only one in the area to resist the insurgents when they took over during the summer. Members of the local Jabour tribe have been assisting with the fight as well. They opposed IS during the summer and have been targeted ever since then by the militants as a result. When Tikrit is taken there is also little chance for any cleansing as most of the population has fled in the months since the IS take over. Besides the issues of abuses, there is the other issue of whether the government can hold all these areas that it has just taken. After previous offensives in Salahaddin, such as the one in Baiji the ISF and allies lost control of the area within weeks, because it didn’t have the forces to hold it. According to some reports, there is no plan for what to do with the Tikrit area after the current operation is over. The provincial council is now in talks with Hashd elements to try to get local tribes to take over security, but nothing has been agreed upon so far. This will determine whether the current sweep is successful or not.

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraqi commander slams US, hails Iran in fight against ISIS in Tikrit,” Associated Press, 3/14/15

Agence France Presse, "IS attacks Iraq's Ramadi with seven car bombs: police," 3/11/15

AIN, "3 car bombs kill, injure 35 security elements in Kirkuk," 3/9/15
- "Wide military operation to liberate east Karma in Anbar," 3/5/15,

Alsumaria, "A medical source: Ramadi hospital received seven bodies and 68 injured today," 3/14/15

Aziz, Diyar, "IS Makes Second Attempt to Destroy Church," Bas News, 3/11/15

Barnard, Anne, “Iraqi Army Cements Hold on Tikrit, but Islamic State Sends a Message,” New York Times, 3/11/15

Barnes, Julian, "U.S. Suffers First Soldier Injury in Renewed Iraq Military Action," Wall Street Journal, 3/13/15

Cunningham, Erin, “Pro-government forces press further into Tikrit,” Washington Post, 3/13/15
- “Unusual alliance provides hope in fight against Islamic State in Iraq,” Washington Post, 3/10/15

El-Ghobashy, Tamer, “For Now, Sectarian Calm in Liberated Iraq Town,” Wall Street Journal, 3/13/15

Independent Press Agency, "Killing and wounding 12 people in detonation of a car bomb in eastern Baghdad," 3/8/15

Al Mada, "Injured 10 policemen including senior officers in a double bombing in Kirkuk," 3/10/15
- "Killing and wounding 22 people in double suicide bombing of police in central Ramadi," 3/14/15
- “Salahuddin discusses with the popular crowd the role of clans in security after the departure of Daash,” 3/14/15

Al Masalah, "The death of 18 civilians and wounded 48 in an explosion in Hurriya," 3/11/15

NINA, "/12/ Fighters of the army and the Awakening killed and wounded in a car bomb explosion southeast of Fallujah," 3/8/15
- "Breaking News../22/ Elements of the security forces killed and wounded in two suicide attacks in Ramadi," 3/14/15
- "Daash blow up Dor Sharukin Archaeological palace in Nineveh," 3/10/15
- "Eight army personnel killed and wounded in north of Fallujah," 3/12/15
- "The IS blew up a church in Mosul and sweep its graveyard," 3/9/15
- "The IS blew up Jospad ruins northern Mosul," 3/8/15
- "A number of soldiers of the Golden Division killed and wounded in two suicide bombers attacks carried out in central Ramadi," 3/14/15
- "An officer killed , another one wounded in a car bomb driven by a suicide bomber west of Tikrit," 3/11/15
- "A soldier wounded in center of Ramadi," 3/14/15

Radio Free Iraq, "10 March 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 2/10/15,
- "11 March 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 3/11/15

Al Rayy, "Martyrdom of w and wounding 6 of the popular crowd in suicide bombing north of Tikrit," 3/10/15
- “Salahuddin Council confirms that the houses that burned belonged to Daash members,” 3/11/15

Shafaq News, "Killing and wounding 17 soldiers in detonation of a suicide car bomber in a Hummer west of Tikrit," 3/13/15

Yacoub, Sameer, "Iraqi officials say bombings kill 11 people around Baghdad," Associated Press, 3/8/15

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