Friday, February 16, 2018

Security In Iraq, Feb 8-14, 2018

Security has remained steady in Iraq since the start of the new year. Nearly every week there has been around 60 incidents. That was slightly above the rate seen at the end of 2017. The main cause of the increase was an uptick in attacks in Baghdad, followed by occasional outbursts in Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salahaddin.

There were 65 incidents in the 2nd week of February 2018. That was the fifth straight full week with 60 incidents. That was spread across Anbar (3), Salahaddin (9), Kirkuk (10), Ninewa (10), Diyala (12), and Baghdad (21). Those led to 63 deaths and 93 wounded. The dead consisted of 4 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 8 Hashd al-Shaabi, 51 civilians, with another 5 Hashd, 13 ISF, and 75 Civilians injured. By province, Kirkuk had 9 casualties, Ninewa 16, Anbar 18, Diyala 18, Baghdad 45, and Salahaddin with 50.

Security Incidents In Iraq By Province Feb 8-14, 2018
Anbar 3
Salahaddin 9
Kirkuk 10
Ninewa 10
Diyala 12
Baghdad 21

Casualties In Iraq By Province Feb 8-14, 2018
Kirkuk 9 (2 Killed, 7 Wounded)
Ninewa 16 (15 Killed, 1 Wounded)
Anbar 18 (2 Killed, 16 Wounded)
Diyala 18 (10 Killed, 8 Wounded)
Baghdad 45 (14 Killed, 31 Wounded)
Salahaddin 50 (20 Killed, 30 Wounded)

For more than a year, attacks have fallen off in Anbar. There were just 3 incidents from February 8-14. One was a suicide bomber however in Ramadi that killed 1 Hashd and wounded 14. For several weeks, almost all the violence was in western Anbar, but that has now shifted back to the center of the governorate.

Agence France Presse had a story about how locals were opposed to the return of Islamic State families to Anbar. AFP interviewed a man who fought in the war who said he would not allow any militant families back to his area. He said if any came back, they would likely be killed. There are approximately 380 IS families confined to two camps in the governorate. This is an issue across Iraq where relatives of insurgents have been widely rejected. Many have been expelled and barred from their homes. This will be a lasting aftermath of the conflict.

Since the start of 2018, Baghdad has driven violence in Iraq. There were 21 incidents there during the week. A car bomb was discovered and dismantled, showing another attempt at a mass casualty bombing by IS. Last week, a woman suicide bomber was chased into a school where she detonated her device in Tarmiya. That raised fears that there was more insurgent activity in the Baghdad belts. It’s not the Baghdad belts in general that are the problem, but the north and the south where most attacks have come from for more than a year now. What has really gone up is the number of IEDs. There were 12 during the week, with 9 targeting shops and markets to cause as many casualties as possible. Luckily those figures have remained low for most of 2018 with just 14 dead and 31 wounded the 2nd week of February.

Nearly every week local officials in Diyala complain about an IS presence there. This time it was the head of the provincial council who warned that the border with Salahaddin remained unstable, along with the area north of Baquba. There was also a report that after the insurgents were defeated on the battlefield they retreated to the Diyala-Iranian border where they have hidden in caves and the mountain ranges. In fact, the Islamic State is active in all the rural areas of the governorate, which is seen in the locations of the weekly attacks.  

Kirkuk is another problem area. The governor said that IS was still a threat in the rural areas of the province. While part of that was true, there were a lot of attacks in Hawija in the south with 4 out of 10 incidents there during the week, Kirkuk city has also been a favorite target. The Hashd and army have responded by forcing out several hundred families from Hawija. Human Rights Watch reported that 235 families had been pushed out of the district and put in camps in Daquq. The Hashd destroyed and looted some of their homes in the process. There was also a security operation in the south aimed at going after the new White Flags insurgent group at the start of February. Al Mada claimed that was actually aimed at securing oil wells in the area, which had just been taken from the Kurds in October. Even if that wasn’t true, the Iraqi forces were only active for one day, which could to have been a serious sweep.

The insurgency in Ninewa is at a very low level. There were just 10 incidents there spread across the west and Mosul. That included a suicide bomber hitting a checkpoint in Baaj, and another one killed in Hatra. In the former, which is just along the Syrian border 4,500 families returned. Tal Afar, which is to the east of Baaj remained largely empty. The Health Ministry said only 30% of the displaced were back. That was because there were few services, and many people were banned from returning because of there is affiliations. After the Mosul battle was over the Hashd swept west and expelled all of the civilians there and would not let them return, creating a security zone. That has finally begun to change in Baaj at least.

Mosul remained an issue. First, there were two confrontations between the Hashd and Iraqi forces since the start of February. In one case, Hashd beat up a police officer, and were then arrested. More Hashd arrived and tried to break into the police station to free their men. In another, the Hashd clashed with the army in west Mosul after an argument at the fourth bridge. This has happened off and on for weeks now as the Hashd were given control of most of the city and seemed to be emboldened by that responsibility. That dynamic has finally changed as Prime Minister Haidar Abadi ordered them out of the city, and into the outskirts turning over power to the local police and the army’s 20th Division.

On the other hand, there were still a large number of dead and explosives littered in the western section of Mosul. Reuters and Al Maalomah both had stories on the noxious fumes that are present in that half of the city from the rotting bodies. The authorities claimed these were IS members, but others say there were plenty of civilians in the rubble as well. Whatever the case, the civil defense forces, which area responsible for recovering the dead refused to clean up insurgents. That could pose a serious health issue. The other major problem is the preponderance of unexploded ordinance. The senior program manager of the U.N. Mine Action Services (UNMAS) Pehr Lodhammar told Reuters that it could take up to 10 years to clear all the explosives leftover from the battle. This included Coalition bombs as well as IS IEDs. So far around 25,000 have been removed from the city, and there are still thousands more.

Salahaddin was the fourth province with sporadic trouble. One area that was especially true in was Tuz Kharmato in the northeast. Security Forces claimed the White Flags were hiding in the mountains on the outskirts of the district despite two operations in the area since the start of the year. The group was allegedly smuggling oil for funding. On the other hand, there were members of the security forces who denied there was any danger. Another element was that the Peshmerga withdrew from Tuz in October as the federal forces moved in. The Kurds were talking about making a return under the guise of providing security. Finally, a few weeks ago, a local official told the press that most of the displaced Kurds were back in Tuz. Rudaw disputed that going to two camps where half of 8,000 families had gone back in one, but only 45 out of 262 in the other had made the trip.

Security In Iraq 2017-18
JAN 2017
1,891 + 399
2,511 + 1,634
3,504 + 278
3,302 + 2,925
865 + 1,700
Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14
Jan 15-21
Jan 22-28
Jan 29-31
JAN 2018
Feb 1-7
Feb 8-14

Violence By Province Feb 8-14, 2018
3 Incidents
2 Killed
1 Civilian
1 Hashd
16 Wounded
11 Civilians

1 Shooting
1 Suicide Bomber
21 Incidents
14 Killed
13 Civilians
31 Wounded
2 Hashd
29 Civilians

5 Shootings
12 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Car Bomb Dismantled
12 Incidents
10 Killed
1 Hashd
9 Civilians
8 Wounded
8 Civilians

4 Shootings
10 IEDs
10 Incidents
2 Killed
2 Civilians
7 Wounded
3 Civilians

4 Shootings
3 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Mortar
10 Incidents
15 Killed
3 Hashd
10 Civilians
1 Wounded

4 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
9 Incidents
20 Killed
3 Hashd
16 Civilians
30 Wounded
3 Hashd
24 Civilians

4 Shootings
3 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb


Agence France Presse, “Revenge awaits families of IS fighters in Iraq’s Anbar,” 2/11/18

Ebraheem, Mohammed, “Islamic State still poses serious threat to Kirkuk’s security, governor warns,” Iraqi News, 2/13/18

Al Forat, "URGENT Security source: the dismantling of a car bomb in Karrada," 2/9/18

Al Ghad Press, “Al-Baaj council announces the return of all displaced persons to the district,” 2/13/18
- "The final result of the Ramadi bombing hit 15 dead and wounded," 2/8/18
- “The popular crowd begins to withdraw from Mosul and spread to its outskirts,” 2/12/18

Hatha al-Youm, "Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga are conducting a military operation to track down the White Flags launched in Kirkuk," 2/3/18
- "Three members of the popular crowd were killed by a suicide bombing west of Mosul," 2/10/18

Human Rights Watch, “Families with ISIS relatives Forced into Camps,” 2/4/18

Jalabi, Raya, “Battle over bodies rages quietly in Iraq’s Mosul long after Islamic State defeat,” Reuters, 2/5/10

Al Maalomah, “Deputy: Thousands of bodies are still under the rubble in old Mosul as a result of US bombing,” 2/12/18

Al Mada, “Daash fails to declare the Halabja mandate and hideouts revealed in Sulaymaniya,” 2/4/18
- “The operation in Tuz did not find the White Banners and ended within one day,” 2/13/18
- “Tal Afar stumbles back to life 5 months after her liberation,” 2/7/18
- “Tarmiya is no longer a safe city and 4 clearance operations failed to secure it,” 2/8/18

Al Masalah, “Diyala: Our border with Salahaddin is still a direct security threat,” 2/3/18

Miles, Tom, “U.N. says bombs will litter Mosul for more than a decade,” Reuters, 2/14/18

Mostafa, Nehal, "Troops kill suicide attacker before blowing himself up, south of Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/10/18

Rudaw, “’Still afraid,’ Tuz Khurmatu IDPs watching, waiting to go home,” 2/5/18
- “UPDATE: ISIS threat to Tuz Khurmatu ‘removed’: security forces,” 2/7/18

Shafaaq News, “Members of the crowd beat a police officer in Mosul and attempted to break in to rescue them,” 2/3/18
- “Peshmerga commander reveals plan to restore areas in Tuz Khurmato,” 2/14/18

Sotaliraq, “The popular crowd clashed with the army, injuring a soldier and arresting four police in Mosul,” 2/14/18

Westcott, Tom, “No surrender: ‘White Flags’ group rises as new threat in northern Iraq,” Middle East Eye, 1/31/18


Anonymous said...

Are there any sources of info/interviews of those families forcibly displaced? How do we know they had anything to do with IS? And what are the conditions they are currently in?

One could argue this amounts to ethnic cleansing and use of concentration camps not too dissimilar to the boer war. Of course media hysteria about IS means opposing militants basically get a free pass. Do you have any opinions on this matter?

Joel Wing said...

Human Rights Watch has a few reports on forced displacement that includes interviews with people. The International Organization for Migration also has polling on displaced where a large number have said they were banned from returning because they were considered IS families. Those are two main sources right there besides occasional news articles on the subject.

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