Iraq – Security Situation – September, 2017

1,958 Killed and 1,261 Wounded In Iraq In August 2017. While the number of security incidents was down from July to August 2017 the number of casualties went up due to several mass graves being discovered and the Battle of Tal Afar.

There was a total of 357 incidents reported in Iraq in August 207. That was down from 477 in July, and marked another low in the country since the 2003 invasion. With fighting in Ninewa winding down Baghdad returned to the most violent province in the country with 98 incidents. That was followed by 90 in Ninewa, 47 in Diyala, 41 in Anbar, 28 in Kirkuk and Salahaddin each, 13 in Babil, 3 in Dhi Qar, 2 in Basra, Maysan, and Sulaymaniya each, and 1 in Irbil, Karbala, and Qadisiyah each.

There were 1,958 deaths and 1,261 wounded in Iraq in August. The former consisted of 14 Peshmerga, 35 Hashd al-Shaabi, 58 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Hashd, 118 ISF, and 1,733 civilians. The latter was made up of 3 Sahwa, 40 Hashd, 53 Peshmerga, 100 ISF, 677 ISF and Hashd, and 388 civilians. By province that broke down to 2,393 casualties in Ninewa, 261 in Baghdad, 186 in Salahaddin, 130 in Anbar, 94 in Kirkuk, 60 in Diyala, 50 in Karbala, 41 in Babil, 2 in Irbil, and one each in Qadisiyah and Sulaymaniya.[1]

Security In Iraq, Sep 1-7, 2017

Violence in Iraq hit another low during the first week of September 2017. There were only 62 incidents reported in the media. Since the Mosul battle concluded the Islamic State has been rebuilding and been in retreat resulting in fewer attacks across the country. The start of September was also marked by the Eid holiday, which led to higher security in places like Baghdad.

Broken down by province, Baghdad was the most violent with 17 incidents. That was followed by 12 in Ninewa, 9 in Salahddin, 7 in Anbar, 6 in Diyala, 3 in Babil, 2 in Basra, 2 in Dhi Qar, 2 in Najaf, 1 in Kirkuk, and 1 in Sulaymaniya. It’s been years since such low security numbers have been recorded.

There were just 68 people killed and 73 wounded during the week. 1 Peshmerga, 3 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 64 civilians lost their lives, and 6 ISF, 10 Hashd, 13 Peshmerga, and 45 civilians were injured during the week. 39 of those casualties were in Baghdad, 32 in Anbar, 23 in Salahddin, 15 in Ninewa, 12 in Kirkuk, 10 in Babil, 7 in Diyala, and 3 in Najaf. These are historic lows. For years Iraq has been averaging triple digits in both dead and injured each week. That has all changed in recent months.

There were only 7 incidents in Anbar during the first week of September, but the nature of those attacks showed that the Islamic State was attempting a comeback. First, a car bomb was dismantled west of Ramadi, and a suicide bomber arrested within the city itself. The militants executed 16 people in the western towns of Qam, Ana and Rawa, an area still under IS control. It is this area along the Anbar-Syria border that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to be hiding. Finally, an air strike was blamed for killing 7 and wounding 2. There are few attacks in Anbar, but they are becoming more sophisticated with constant suicide and car bomb attempts showing that the militants are attempting to intensify their operations.

The Islamic State was still active in northwest Babil. There were 3 IEDs, two in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, which resulted in a total of 10 Hashd being wounded. In 2014 Jurf al-Sakhr was freed, and the entire population forced out to secure the highway to the holy sites in the south. That led to an almost complete succession of incidents in the province. In the last few months however, IS is back, and carrying out routine attacks upon the Iraqi forces and civilians. These are still relatively small like laying IEDs along roads, but is a decided change from the previous situation.

Security was tight in the capital during the Eid holiday. There were still 17 incidents, which was just below the weekly average. There were no mass casualty bombings, just the regular mix of shootings and IEDs, which left 8 dead and 31 wounded. These are some of the lowest recorded figures in Baghdad since 2003. 39 casualties used to be a daily total, not that for a whole week.

There were few incidents in Diyala, just 6 total. There were two shootouts with insurgents in the Qara Tapa and Hamrin districts. Otherwise the rest were IEDs and mortar fire on a checkpoint. IS is rebuilding in the province, which has led to an uptick in violence.

Kirkuk only witnessed one incident. That was the execution of 12 people in the Hawija district. IS has been murdering people there for months now on any number of charges from being accused of attempting to escape to working with the security forces. Hawija is also the next area to be liberated by the Iraqi forces. Baghdad was hoping to move on the area quickly, but there have been disputes with Kurds over how the operation will be conducted that is causing delays.

The Iraqi forces were cleaning up the Ayadiyah sub-district of Tal Afar, and there were sporadic incidents in Mosul as well. In Ayadiyah, 32 suicide bombers were killed in mopping up operations. In Mosul, two suicide bombers were arrested, and there were a few shootings. The attacks in Mosul highlighted that there are still some insurgent cells operating. They do not pose a real threat, but they still have a presence within the city.

The other place where the militants are re-grouping is in Salahaddin. They have been intensifying their attacks in recent weeks. During the start of September for example, they carried out 16 suicide bombings including an assault upon a power station in Samarra. There were four other clashes with IS fighters, mostly in the north and around Tikrit in the center.

Week Security

Incidents

Dead Wounded
Jul 1-7 141 798 331
Jul 8-14 105 298 86
Jul 15-21 87 124 72
Jul 22-28 107 189 122
Jul 29-31 37 50 25
JUL 477 1,459 636
Aug 1-7 80 143 188
Aug 8-14 88 955 124
Aug 15-21 73 97 100
Aug 22-28 85 674 132
Aug 29-31 31 30 40
AUG 357 1,958 1,261
Sep 1-7 62 68 73

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The Iraqi military has talked Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi into attacking the last remaining territories held by the Islamic State simultaneously. Those are the Shirqat in northern Salahaddin, Hawija in southern Kirkuk, and west Anbar. The Iraqi forces are moving into position, although political disputes with the Kurds are temporarily holding things up.

The Iraqi forces (ISF) are openly talking about taking on Anbar, Kirkuk and Salahaddin all at the same time. After Tal Afar in western Ninewa was liberated, some commanders were pushing for invading the last Islamic State lands in one big push. One of those was General Sami al-Aridhi of the Counter Terrorism Forces, also known as the Golden Division. Aridhi argued that the militants were defeated, and attacking them in multiple areas all at once would be the finishing blow. Those commanders have one the day and the ISF are now moving into position in all three provinces.

Iraqi units from Ramadi, Fallujah, and Baghdad are all heading west in Anbar. The Iraqi Air Force has also picked up its bombing of Islamic State positions. There have also been regular sweeps through the western half of the province in shaping operations before the big push comes. The latest was on September 5 involving the army and Tribal Hashd units looking to cut IS supply lines. British and American forces are going to support the Iraqis as they have in all the latest offensives.

Hawija is the largest section of Iraq, which the insurgents still hold. As soon as Tal Afar was done in August, the ISF began sending its forces there. What’s been holding things up is disputes between the Kurds and the central government. Prime Minister Abadi said that the Peshmerga would take part in the Hawija operation, but apparently, nothing has been worked out between them yet. Besides coordinating, the Peshmerga are also objecting to the Hashd being part of the attack. The Kurds and joint forces worked together on the Mosul campaign. There were complaints on both sides about that, but it worked out.

Finally, Shirqat, which is nearby Hawija will be assaulted as well. The Salahaddin Operations Command said the preparations are completed already. Forces are in place, and are just waiting for the details surrounding Hawija to be resolved. The start dates for these three areas may not be exactly the same, but they will all start around the same time.[3]

Death toll from Thursday’s coordinated attack in Iraq’s Dhi Qar province has reached 84 with ISIS Takfiri group claiming responsibility.

The midday deadly attacks also left more than 90 injured at a roadside restaurant and checkpoint in the southern part of the province near the city of Nasiriyah.

Dhi Qar is north of the city of Basra and about 200 miles (320km) southeast of Baghdad.

The terrorists began by opening fire at the checkpoint and the restaurant on the main road that links the capital Baghdad with Iraq’s southern provinces.

Local officials say the death toll could rise due to the critical condition of some of the wounded.

The area targeted is often used by Shiite pilgrims and visitors from Iran on their way to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala further north.

According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a total of 125 Iraqi civilians lost their lives, and 188 others were injured as a result of terrorist attacks and other acts of violence across Iraq in August.

A large number of the fatalities were recorded in the capital province of Baghdad, where 45 civilians were killed and 135 others wounded during the same period.[4]

The Iraqi government has liberated over 90 percent of the country’s territory from ISIS Takfiri terrorist group, government spokesman Saad al-Hadisi.

The Iraqi Army has been continuing its offensive despite limited possibilities in terms of weaponry as up to a third of it had been earlier seized by ISIS, al-Hadisi told RIA Novosti.

The government says more than 2.2 million of refugees have returned to the country’s areas retaken from ISIS terrorists.

The Iraqi forces assisted by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in June fully recaptured the northern city of Mosul, the de facto capital of the ISIS terrorist group in the Arab country. The city was occupied by ISIS in June 2014 and ISIS ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate at the city’s iconic Grand al-Nuri Mosque.  Following this strategic victory, early September Iraqi forces and PMF volunteers liberated, Tal Afar, another major bastion of ISIS in the country.

Iraqi government forces, backed by allied fighters from PMF, are now engaged in a major military operation aimed at liberating the town of Hawija in the oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk from ISIS Takfiri terrorists.

The offensive to retake Hawija is difficult due to the intense concentration of ISIS leaders and elements in the town plus the high number of civilians, whom the terrorists have held as human shields. Hawija is one of the last Iraqi towns still controlled by ISIS terrorists who occupied it after capturing Mosul and several other Iraqi cities in mid-2014.[5]

Unlike previous government campaigns against the Islamic State the west Anbar operation will be conducted in stages. The first, was the taking of Akashat, which occurred over the weekend. The Iraqi forces will move on the Iraq-Syrian border and a number of other towns before taking Rawa, Qaim and Ana, the ultimate goals.

On September 16, the Iraqi forces seized Akashat. A mixed force of the army’s 1st and 8th Divisions, Anbar police units, Hashd, Tribal Hashd, and border police all took part. Rather than putting up a fight, the Islamic State withdrew beforehand. While there was no combat inside the town, the Iraqi Air Force claimed it killed over 100 insurgents. The Air Force also dropped leaflets over west Anbar telling people their liberation was coming soon.

Originally, some Iraqi generals wanted to attack west Anbar, Shirqat in Salahaddin and Hawija in Kirkuk simultaneously. Political disputes between the Kurdish and central government however have put Hawija on indefinite hold, so Anbar is going first.[6]

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[1] Musings on Iraq – 1.958 Killed and 1.261 Wounded In Iraq In August 2017, 3 September 2017, available at: http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2017/09/1958-killed-and-1261-wounded-in-iraq-in.html (accessed 19 September 2017)

[2] Musings on Iraq – Security in Iraq, Sep 1-7, 2017, available at : http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2017/09/security-in-iraq-sep-1-7-2017.html (accessed 19 September 2017)

[3] Musings on Iraq – Hawija Shirqat Wesr Anbar All Expected To Be Assaulted Simultaneously By The Iraqi Forces, 11 September, 2017, available at: http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2017/09/hawija-shirqat-west-anbar-all-expected.html (accessed 19 September 2017)

[4] ALWAGHT – ISIS Terror Attack Kills 84 in Iraq, 10 Iranians Among Victims, 15 September 2017, available at: http://alwaght.com/en/News/110125/ISIS-Terror-Attack-Kills-84-in-Iraq,-10-Iranians-among-Victims (accessed 19 September 2017)

[5] ALWAGHT – Iraq Forces Liberated 90% of ISIS-Held Territory: Govt. Spokesman, 11 September 2017, available at: http://alwaght.com/en/News/109742/Iraq-Forces-Liberated-90-of-ISIS-Held-Territory–Govt-Spokesman (accessed 19 September 2017)

[6] Musings on Iraq – West Anbar Operation To Proceed in Stages, 18 September 2017, available at: http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2017/09/west-anbar-operation-to-proceed-in.html (accessed 19 September 2017)

[7] Al Jazeera – Iraq war map: Who controls what, updated 5 September 2017, available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2016/08/iraq-war-map-controls-160830115440480.html (accessed 19 September 2017)