|(Institute for the Study of War)|
Recently there has been a dramatic increase in the forced displacement of people from central and northeast Diyala by the Islamic State. This points to a concerted effort to empty rural sections of the province so that the militants can create camps and bases to rebuild its cadres.
For months now there have been stories of Iraqis fleeing villages in Diyala, but those have greatly increased in the last few weeks. In September for example, there were no such reports. That all changed in October. October 18, 12 families left Ramadan village in the Khanaqin district in the northeast by the Iranian border after checkpoints had been attacked and IS issued threats. On October 21, people in Mukhisa, just north of Baquba in the center-west section of the governorate warned that attacks by insurgents would drive more people out if the security forces didn’t respond. They said the surrounding area was already empty of residents. Just north of there, 14 villages were reported devoid of people on October 22. November 1, the village of Islah in the Jalawla district in the northeast just below Khanaqin told the press they would start leaving because of IS operations. Two days later people started departing two towns in the Khanaqin district. Then starting November 15, the residents of Abu Karma northeast of Baquba began leaving due the militants. By November 22, the town was said to be completely empty, along with Mukhisa, which was nearby. November 16, the Migration Ministry reported that 76 families had departed the Khanaqin district in the last month and a half. IS has been able to operate in these areas nearly unimpeded. In the Jalawla-Khanaqin districts there are large areas with no security presence since the Peshmerga were forced out after the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum. In rural areas in the rest of the governorate there are few units either. In a Los Angeles Times piece in October, a village was told by the Iraqi forces that it was on its own after being hit twice by IS mortars. There have been security sweeps through these areas, but the insurgents simply leave and return after they are over. The lack of protection provided by the government has now resulted in this growing displacement.
The Islamic State’s strategy in Iraq is to rebuild its forces and protect its leaders. This is more important than carrying out operations which are currently at their lowest level since 2003. There have been occasional stories of people being forced out of towns and villages in Diyala, but this is the most sustained reports of such activity. The province already has the highest level of attacks nearly every month, so it should be expected that this is where the group is also hoping to set up new camps and bases to continue its comeback.
Baghdad Post, “For the second day in a row .. The displacement of the people of Abu Karma village in Diyala,” 11/15/19
- “A mobilization in one of the villages of Diyala and preparing for a new wave of displacement..Because of the growing activity of ISIS,” 10/16/19
- “Residents of a village in Diyala threatened to abandon their homes because of IS cells,” 11/1/19
Bulos, Nabih, Etehad, Melissa, “In Iraq and Syria, a new phase of the war against Islamic State begins,” Los Angeles Times, 10/7/19
Al Mada, “100 ISIS confusing security in eastern Diyala, taking advantage of the differences of military leaders,” 9/25/19
NINA, “55 Families Displaced From Abu Karma Village Northeast Of Baquba,” 11/17/19
- “An agricultural village in Diyala warns of a wave of mass displacement caused by ISIS cells,” 10/21/19
- “Due To The Activity Of ISIS, Abu Karma Village Empty Of Its Residents,” 11/22/19
- “Families displaced from a village in Diyala due to the growing activity of ISIS,” 10/18/19
- “A Local source in Diyala: Metaibijah and abandoned villages have become a haven for ISIS cells,” 10/22/19
- “Local source: Residents of a village in Khanaqin countryside are completely displaced due to ISIS threats,” 10/19/19
- “The number of displaced families from Abu Karma village in Diyala increased,” 11/16/19
- “Villages On The Outskirts Of Khanaqin Are Experiencing A Wave Of Displacement For Dozens Of Families,” 11/3/19
Sotaliraq, “Khanaqin records the displacement of 76 families within 40 days,” 11/16/19