Friday, March 30, 2018

Security In Iraq, Mar 22-28, 2018

The number of incidents reported in Iraq during the fourth week of March surpassed the yearly mean due to an increase in Islamic State attacks as well as an ongoing operation by Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Those two factors also resulted in a very high death count for the week. March is shaping up to be the month that IS switched from scattered hit and run attacks after railing from its territorial defeat to when it regrouped and converted back to openly confronting the Iraqi government. It has access to rural areas from Anbar and Ninewa straight across to Diyala, and has targeted local officials and security forces. These are the same tactics it used in its comeback after the Surge.

There were 81 incidents recorded in Iraq from March 22-28, 2018. That was the largest figure in six months since 91 during the week of September 15-21, 2017. There was 1 incident in Dohuk, 6 in Irbil, 6 in Kurdistan, 6 in Ninewa, 7 in Anbar, 8 in Salahaddin, 11 in Baghdad, 11 in Kirkuk, and 25 in Diyala. That was the most incidents in Diyala since the second week of January 2016 when there were 26 and was the major reason for the high total.

The government’s response to the jump in attacks has been for Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to twice call on the media to stop reporting on incidents. He claimed that some of the stories are false, and that mentioning insecurity is helping the Islamic State.

Security Incidents In Iraq By Province Mar 22-28, 2018
Dohuk 1
Irbil 6
Kurdistan 6
Ninewa 6
Anbar 7
Salahaddin 8
Baghdad 11
Kirkuk 11
Diyala 25

Casualties In Iraq By Province Mar 22-28, 2018
Dohuk 1 (1 Killed)
Salahaddin 15 (14 Killed, 1 Wounded)
KRG 17 (16 Killed, 1 Wounded)
Baghdad 18 (6 Killed, 12 Wounded)
Kirkuk 18 (6 Killed, 12 Wounded)
Anbar 23 (14 Killed, 9 Wounded)
Ninewa 24 (14 Killed, 10 Wounded)
Diyala 52 (36 Killed, 16 Wounded)
Irbil 106 (106 Killed)

There were 213 killed and 61 wounded during the week. 1 Turkish soldier, 2 Peshmerga, 9 Hashd al-Shaabi, 41 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 46 civilians and 114 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) died, while 14 Hashd, 18 ISF, and 29 civilians were injured. Those casualties occurred across Dohuk (1), Salahaddin (15), Kurdistan (17), Baghdad (18), Kirkuk (18), Anbar (23), Ninewa (24), Diyala (52), and Irbil (106). 5 bodies were found in a mass grave meaning there were 208 violent deaths. That was the largest count of 2018. The cause was Turkey’s attack upon the PKK, which resulted in 123 deaths. Subtract that and there were 85 killed in the rest of the country, which would still be the third highest of the year.

During the last two weeks, there has been a low number of incidents in Anbar, but casualties have jumped. During the fourth week of March there were 7 incidents resulting in 14 dead and 9 wounded. That included a fake checkpoint where 7 police were killed by IS, and attack upon the Trebil border crossing that left 3 soldiers dead and 2 wounded, along with a series of IEDs that also left casualties amongst the army. Fake checkpoints have been one of the new tactics IS has brought out in March that highlighted the group’s return to offensive operations. They have also occurred in different provinces showing that this is not a localized phenomenon.

An Anbar councilman on the security committee said that the roads in the west are insecure. He said that the army is not present at night, and that IS is still organizing in desert areas. He called for 4,000 more police to help hold the area. Similar statements have been made by local officials for weeks now. It also shows a worrying trend that the security forces are retreating at night not only in Anbar, but in places like Kirkuk and others as well. The inability to hold border, rural, mountain and desert regions again is happening across central Iraq allowing the insurgents ample room to regroup and launch attacks from.

The government held two sweeps in Anbar during the week. One was north of Fallujah, and the other in the west. These operations have proven ineffective as the security forces go through an area and then leave. Without a permanent presence, the militants cannot be contained and eliminated.

For the fourth straight week incidents in Baghdad have declined. The first week of March there were 24, which was in line with the rest of the year. Then there were 17 the second week, 14 the third, and then 11 the fourth. There were three days when there were no attacks reported at all in the capital, something that has rarely happened since 2003. Since the start of 2018 there was a roughly 33% increase in incidents in Baghdad versus the previous year. Now that has suddenly changed. It’s unclear why this has happened. The government forces went through Tarmiya in the north twice during the week. That town has been mentioned before as a hotbed of IS activity, and is part of the Baghdad Operations Command’s attempt to secure the Baghdad belts to protect the city itself.

As mentioned earlier, Diyala was the main causes of the large number of incidents during the week. Attacks in the governorate have fluctuated over the last year plus, but the fourth week of March marked a huge jump in IS activity. There was an ambush on the Kirkuk-Baghdad highway that left 8 police dead, an attempt on a parliamentarian’s life with an IED on his motorcade, a gun battle along the Iranian border, and two local mayors were executed. The 25 incidents occurred all across the province as well. The ISF launched two sweeps, one in the Muqtadiya area in the center and the other in Sadiya in the northeast. Diyala is one of the main province where IS has been rebuilding. Attacks though have gone up and down for months now. This was a huge surge. The targeting of the security forces and mayors also showed a decided change in tactics. The former showed that IS was willing to openly confront the ISF, while the later was part of an undermining of Diyala government, something the insurgents did before after the Surge to assert control over rural areas, which were then used to go after the cities.

Kirkuk was the third province showing signs of a more aggressive Islamic State. The group carried out three kidnappings of police and Hashd. The group also burned the homes of 11 tribal Hashd. A car bomb went off in Kirkuk city as well, the first such incident in the country since the fourth week of January. Almost all of these attacks occurred either in the south, especially in the Hawija district or within Kirkuk city, which is where all of the violence has been centered in the governorate for several months now. Not surprisingly these are the same areas politicians have constantly mentioned to Baghdad about. The governor for example, complained there were spaces between the federal forces and Peshmerga that were created after the central government moved into the province in October, which are being exploited by IS. It was reported that the United States sent a delegation to try to get the Peshmerga to return to disputed areas in Iraq, which would include Kirkuk to help fill in those gaps. Moqtada al-Sadr even mentioned the insecurity in the province and offered to send his Sayara al-Salam militia to help.

In March, Turkey launched its latest incursion into Kurdistan focusing upon northern Irbil to try to root out the PKK. Via a series of air strikes, Ankara claimed it killed 114 PKK fighters. 1 Turkish soldier and two Peshmerga lost their lives as well during this period. By threatening to expand its scope to Sinjar in west Ninewa, President Recept Tayyip Erdogan succeeded in getting the PKK to withdraw from that district, a major political coup.

There were just 6 incidents in Ninewa. One was a long gun fight in Qayara south of Mosul however that left 2 soldiers dead and 5 wounded. An MP accused the Imam Ali Brigades of kidnapping, torturing and intimidating Sunnis in Baaj and Sinjar in the west. Hashd leader Abu Muhandis replied that there had been some crimes by the Hashd, but they had all been punished. He went on to say that the Hashd had been blamed for the activities of gangs and IS, and called for investigations into the matter.

Salahaddin is the fourth province IS has become more aggressive. That was highlighted by the kidnapping and execution of 9 police officers at a fake checkpoint. IS then posted their deaths on social media. The Associated Press had a detailed account of the grisly murders. There were two gun battles with IS as well. The government had one clearing operation in the Makhoul Mountains, another one of those remote areas where the government has lacked a permanent presence and IS has been allowed to regroup in.

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
Feb 15-21
Feb 22-28
Mar 1-7
Mar 8-14
Mar 15-21
Mar 22-28

Violence By Province Mar 22-28, 2018
7 Incidents
14 Killed
1 Civilian
13 ISF
9 Wounded
2 Civilians

2 Shootings
5 IEDs
1 Rocket
11 Incidents
6 Killed
6 Civilians
12 Wounded
12 Civilians

4 Shootings
4 IEDs
25 Incidents
36 Killed
5 Hashd
14 ISF
17 Civilians
16 Wounded
5 Civilians
11 Hashd

9 Shootings
9 IEDs
3 Mortars
1 Rocket
1 Incident
1 Killed
1 Civilian

1 Turkish Air Strike
6 Incidents
106 Killed
2 Civilians
2 Peshmerga
102 PKK

4 Turkish Air Strikes
11 Incidents
6 Killed
1 Hashd
5 Civilians
12 Wounded
3 Hashd
9 Civilians

2 Shootings
3 IEDs
3 Sound Bombs
1 Car Bomb
2 Mortars
6 Incidents
16 Killed
1 Turkish Soldier
3 Civilians
12 PKK
1 Wounded
1 Civilian

5 Turkish Air Strikes
6 Incidents
14 Killed
2 Hashd
9 Civilians
10 Wounded
10 ISF

4 Shootings
2 IEDs
8 Incidents
14 Killed
1 Hashd
2 Civilians
11 ISF
1 Wounded

6 Shootings


Abdul-Zahra, Qasim and George, Susannah, “Islamic State haunts northern Iraq months after its defeat,” Associated Press, 3/28/18

Anadolu Agency, "Daesh ambush leaves 8 police officers dead in Iraq," 3/24/18

Baghdad Post, "3 soldiers killed in ISIS attack at Anbar's Trebil border crossing," 3/22/18
- “Anbar’s western road unsecure, under ISIS’ control – Official,” 3/25/18
- "Counter-terror military operation launched in Salahuddin," 3/22/18
- “Muqtada Sadr offers to secure Kirkuk against ISIS attacks,” 3/28/18

Bas News, "Twin Blast in Kirkuk Leaves Several Injured," 3/25/18

Ebraheem, Mohammed, "Landmine explosion kills serviceman, injures 3 others in Anbar," Iraqi News, 3/25/18
- "Suspected IS militants kill two Iraqi mayors in Diyala," Iraqi News, 3/27/18

Al Ghad Press, "Large scale military operation launched to pursue Daesh cells north Muqtadiya Diyala," 3/24/18

Hath Al-Youm, "Seven policemen from Dhi Qar were killed along with their driver in an ambush near Baquba," 3/22/18

Iraq Newspaper, "The Killing And Wounding Of 5 Of The Popular Crowd In A Terrorist Ambush Near The Iranian Border," 3/26/18
- "The Killing And Wounding Of A Whole Family In Diyala In A Terrorist Attack," 3/24/18
- "Terrorists Publishing Pictures Of The Burning Of 11 Homes Of The Popular Crowd In Kirkuk On Twitter," 3/27/18

Kurd Press, “Kirkuk villages are under IS control: PUK official,” 3/25/18

Al Maalomah, "Death and wounding of three soldiers by a bomb explosion north of Ramadi," 3/23/18
- "Launched a security campaign to search for Daesh members north of Fallujah," 3/24/18
- "The popular crowd repulsed an offensive in Metibija east Salahaddin," 3/27/18
- "Security forces launch a security campaign in Tarmiya and close the entrances and exits," 3/27/18
- "Unknown assailants attack a girls' primary school in a hand grenade north of Ramadi," 3/28/18

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Iraqi tribal fighter killed in Islamic State attack in Kirkuk," Iraqi News, 3/27/18
- "Mass grave found in Iraq's Diyala, remains of 5 unearthed," Iraqi News, 3/24/18

Mostafa, Nehal, "Islamic State members killed in security operation, north of Baghdad," Iraqi News, 3/22/18
- "Two people injured in bomb blast, four others arrested in operation in Anbar," Iraqi News, 3/28/18
- “U.S. delegation to visit Erbil, Baghdad on redeploying Peshmerga in disputed regions,” Iraqi News, 3/22/18

Muhammed, Hardi, “Fearing ISIS, Kurds abandon homes in southern Kirkuk,” 3/26/18

Sotaliraq, "Daesh gunmen killed two people in Jalawla," 3/27/18
- “An Iraqi parliamentarian accuses the popular crowd of reprisals in Ninewa,” 3/23/18
- "MP Raad al-Dalaki survives an assassination attempt in Diyala," 3/25/18
- "Two soldiers killed in a Daesh attack south of Mosul," 3/27/18

Al Sumaria, "A captain and a shepherd were killed in two explosions in west Anbar," 3/28/18
- "Popular crow: the start of raids and searches in the vicinity of Sadiya Diyala," 3/25/18

Xinhua, "2 soldiers killed in clash with gunmen in central Iraq," 3/26/18
- "9 killed in insurgent attacks in central Iraq," 3/25/18

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