Thursday, February 11, 2016

Life In Iraq’s Tikrit Returns To Normal

Tikrit was retaken in March of last year. Afterward elements of the Hashd al-Shaabi and the Jabouri tribe burned down and destroyed sections of the city and several surrounding towns in revenge for the Camp Speicher massacre where the Islamic State (IS) killed over 1,000 cadets. Residents of the area were also not allowed to return for months because they were suspected of being IS sympathizers. Now most of the population is back, and life appears to be returning to normal.

National Public Radio (NPR) recently reported on the situation in Tikrit. NPR’s Alice Fordham found the central market open, people shopping, and 70-90% of the original inhabitants back in their homes. The Hashd controlled the presidential palace, but Sunni policemen were in charge of most of the city. Thousands of people have not been able to return to the area however as they have been labeled IS collaborators. Local Shiite tribesmen are also arguing over blood money for family members they lost while the area was under insurgent control. Given what transpired in the district beforehand this was an amazing transformation.

Tikrit was freed from the Islamic State in March 2015 followed by days of looting and destruction of property throughout the district. Three days after the city’s liberation the Salahaddin council called on Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to intervene and stop the burning of homes and stealing. The governor and head of council also protested violations going on in the area. Two security officers told Reuters that homes were being set afire, and the Hashd were behind the attacks on buildings. This was happening not only in Tikrit, but the surrounding towns as well. On April 6, Prime Minister Haidar Abadi said that 152 houses and shops had been destroyed in Tikrit, but didn’t say by who. Even by the end of April, there were still stories of buildings being damaged. A Tikrit municipal worker for example, was quoted in the Financial Times stating that 300 out of 600 structures in the north of the city were wiped out including two mosques. The Tikrit area was the site of the Camp Speicher massacre. IS and members of the Albu Ajeel tribe were blamed for rounding up 1,700 cadets from the base and executing them. When the Tikrit operation was launched many Hashd units said they wanted revenge for that bloodbath. That was why they carried out these acts.

Five months later Human Rights Watch released a report on the destruction of the Tikrit area. It found that Badr, the Ali Akbar Brigades, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, Saraya Khorasan, Jund al-Imam and Sunni volunteers destroyed at least 1,425 buildings in Tikrit, Dour, Albu Ajeel and Alam, 950 of which looked like they were blown up and 400 burned. 200 people were also arrested and 160 were never seen again. This all happened after the district was liberated, and supported the press reports made at the time. Many officials however denied that the Hashd were responsible instead blaming gangs and local tribes. Abu Mahdi Muhandis for example, the deputy commander of the Hashd acknowledged that there were violations going on in Tikrit, but blamed criminal gangs. Adnan Asadi a parliamentarian from State of Law said that elements of the press were carrying out a smear campaign against the Hashd, while a Hashd spokesman blamed Sunni tribes. The Hashd and its supporters obviously did not want to admit to any wrong doings, and neither did the government in the end. While everyone seemed to admit that there was a period of lawlessness after the Tikrit area was freed, the Hashd were never held responsible.

The next phase of the Tikrit story was the decision over who would be allowed to return. The major issue was over IS sympathizers. The Albu Ajeel and Albu Nasr tribes were blamed for not only joining IS, but the former was accused of taking part in the Speicher massacre. The Jabouri tribe, that sided with the government and fought IS, also wanted blood money for its members that were killed in the fighting. Because of their ties, the Jabouris were able to return, mostly to the town of Alam outside of Tikrit early on. By the middle of June, people who had been vetted started heading back to the district. In November the mayor of Tikrit claimed that 90% of the residents were home, and the United Nations reported that Salahaddin had the most returns overall in the country. Even some Albu Ajeel members were allowed to go back as long as they were not deemed pro-insurgent after a reconciliation meeting was held, and the Hashd signed off on it. Some 120,000 people have not been allowed back however. This has happened in other parts of the country as well. Tribes, the Hashd, the Peshmerga, etc. have all blocked people they believe to have joined the insurgents from going back to their homes. The government has tried to mediate some of these disputes, and even offered to pay blood money for dead relatives, but as in the case of Tikit, tens of thousands have still been excluded. They will remain displaced as a result, and have to re-settle in other parts of the country or perhaps try to move to Europe as others are currently attempting.

Tikrit is part success story, part tragedy. The Hashd and fighters from the Jabouri tribe destroyed sections of the city and surrounding towns out of revenge for the Speicher massacre and joining the insurgency. Over 100,000 people have also been kept from their homes because of those same accusations. On the other hand, the majority of the district is now returning to normality. People are back at work and school, and trying to start over. They are trying to think about the future, but the recent past is still in their memories as so much destruction was left in the wake of the Islamic State, and the retaliation that followed its expulsion from the district. The same pattern is being played out in other parts of the country as well, and will likely leave deep scars after the war is long over.


Abbas, Mushreq, “Displaced Iraqis still wait to return home,” Al Monitor, 6/24/15

Arango, Tim, “After Iraqis Wrest Tikrit From ISIS, Sectarian and Tribal Tensions Persist,” New York Times, 5/9/15

Bradley, Matt and Nissenbaum, Dion, “’Chaos,’ Charges of Abuses Follow Retaking of Tikrit,” Wall Street Journal, 4/3/15
- “Iraq, U.S. Are Divided on What’s Next in Battle Against Islamic State,” Wall St Journal, 4/5/15

Daragahi, Borzou, “Sacking of Tikrit district highlights Iraq tensions,” Financial Times, 4/30/15

Fordham, Alice, “After Retaking Iraqi City, Shiite Militias Accused Of Targeting Sunnis,” National Public radio, 4/7/15
- “The Fragile Peace Of An Iraqi City Once Run By ISIS,” NPR, 1/29/16

Habib, Mustafa, “Tikrit After The Extremists: A Ghost Town Ruled By Gunmen,” Niqash, 4/30/15

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Militia Abuses Mar Fight Against ISIS,” 9/20/15

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement in Iraq Exceeds 3.2 Million: IOM,” 10/16/15

Al-Jawoshy, Omar and Arango, Tim, “Iraqi Families Return to Fragile Stability in Tikrit After Liberation From ISIS,” New York Times, 6/22/15

Al-Jibouri, Ghazwan Hassan, “Family Feuds That Last, And Last: As Extremists Withdraw in Salahaddin, Iraq’s Tribes Demand Justice,” Niqash, 10/22/15

Al Mada, “75% of displaced returns in Salahuddin..but Saddam’s tribe abandons Awija willingly,” 11/3/15
- “Jubouri: Iraq needs figures like al-Sadr and what happened in Tikrit will not deter us from freeing Anbar and Mosul,” 4/5/15
- “Karim al-Jubouri leave Tikrit to protest against the “violations” within the city,” 4/3/15
- “Salahuddin announce the return of 8,500 displaced families to Tikrit and role,” 7/30/15
- “Salahuddin clans agree to the return of the people of Albu-Ajeel, excluding only 300 people,” 9/28/15
- “Salahuddin Council rejects the return of families involved with Daash,” 5/7/15
- “Tikrit after liberation: “Daash” executions aggravate disputes .. tribal and local government restricted movement,” 4/24/15

Morris, Loveday, “Iraq chased Islamic State out of Tikrit. Getting residents back is still a battle,” Washington Post, 6/19/15

Al Rafidayn, “Popular crowd acknowledges the existence of some lurking in their ranks and prepared to bring them to justice,” 4/5/15

Reuters, “After Iraqi forces take Tikrit, a wave of looting and lynching,” 4/3/15
- “First families return to Tikrit since city retaken from IS,” 6/15/15

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “What really happened in Tikrit after ISIL fled,” Al Jazeera, 4/7/15

Shafaq News, “Najafi: looting and burning of property in Tikrit revenge and overturning victory,” 4/3/15
- “Senate Salahuddin: We want intervention of Sistani to stop burning Tikrit .. government is incapable,” 4/3/15

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq: Humanitarian Bulletin 1-15 October 2015,” 10/20/15

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces halt looting, arson in Tikrit,” 4/4/15

Zeed, Adnan Abu, “Controversy surrounds alleged violations by Shiite forces in Tikrit,” Al Monitor, 4/23/15

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Amnesty & Human Rights Watch Confirm Hashd Revenge Attacks In Iraq’s Muqtadiya

In early January 2016 the Islamic State carried out a double bombing in Diyala’s Muqtadiya that left over a hundred casualties. The attack targeted the Hashd, and in retaliation they went after the city’s Sunnis burning and destroying buildings and killing civilians. The Iraqi government initially did nothing, and then blamed gangs, while the Hashd said it was all the work of insurgents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both talked with residents that confirmed that it was Shiite armed groups that were responsible for the sectarian violence.

The Islamic State provoked the descent into chaos in Muqtadiya. On January 11, the group set off two bombs at a café in the Asri neighborhood that left 46 dead and 55 wounded. Afterward elements of the Hashd carried out revenge attacks in 9 neighborhoods, plus the town of Qubba. They drove cars around with loudspeakers telling Sunnis to leave, while they destroyed buildings. Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch talked with locals who said that armed men came to their houses and took away their relatives who later turned up dead or shot them in front of their residences. Amnesty reported that many of these acts took place in sight of the security forces that did nothing. The Hashd also killed two reporters from Sharqiya TV that had just left Muqtadiya at a checkpoint according to the station. In total, 8 houses, 12 mosques, 36 shops, and 43 people were killed in the days following the bombings. Human Rights Watch was told that members of Badr and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq were responsible. This was just the type of violence that the Islamic State was hoping to provoke. It has played upon the sectarian divisions within the country, and is still hoping to incite them.

While the revenge attacks were going on the Iraqi press and most politicians said nothing, and afterward tried to blame other elements besides the Hashd. A review of nearly twenty Iraqi newspapers showed only two stories on the events in Muqtadiya the day it happened. Afterward, an array of different parties were said to be behind the violence. The head of the city council said it was unknown gunmen, Hadi Ameri the head of Badr who controls Diyala claimed it was Baathists, and some Hashd blamed the Islamic State. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi eventually went to Muqtadiya and promised that the perpetrators would be arrested, and blamed gangs. The police eventually arrested seven people, but none of them were from the Hashd. The authorities were obviously following the lead of the politicians who were trying to downplay the events.

The lack of coverage and the dodging of guilt revealed a lot about the situation in Diyala, and Iraq in general. The province is under the military and political control of Hadi Ameri. He is a powerful figure as his Badr is part of the State of Law list, he is one of the major commanders in the war against the Islamic State, and is close to Iran. His position was why the security forces did nothing while the Hashd were attacking Sunnis, and why there was almost a total press blackout on the situation while it was happening. This is the predicament facing Iraq. It needs the Hashd to fight the Islamic State, but the major elements are trying to carve out their own position in the country to the detriment of the state and Premier Abadi. This problem is not going to go away any time soon.


Alsumaria, “Abadi issued strict instructions to arrest the aggressors on mosques,” 1/14/16
- “Popular crowd: Events in Muqdadiyah caused by international community to destabilize the situation and nothing sectarian,” 1/14/16

Amnesty International, “Iraq: Militia war crimes in Muqdadiya highlight authorities’ persistent failures to hold them to account,” 2/5/16

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq Possible War Crimes by Shia Militia,” 1/31/16

Iraq News Network, “Parliamentary security: the formation of a fact-finding committee to cause Diyala,” 1/14/16

National Iraqi News Network, “IEDs Injures Five Civilians In East Of Baquba,” 1/13/16

New Sabah, “Salim al-Jabouri: State is endangered and everyone is working for the stability of the province,” 1/13/16

Rasheed, Ahmed and Hameed, Saif, “Sunni MPs boycott Iraq parliament and govt in protest at violence,” Reuters, 1/19/16

Sattar, Sardar, “Iraqi Sunnis Plea UN to Stop Shi’ite Militia “Atrocities,”” Bas News, 1/14/16

Sotaliraq, “Amiri: targeting Sunnis is a crime and we will stand against igniting sedition,” 1/16/16
- “Armed groups tell people of Muqdadiyah to choose between leaving and death,” 1/13/16

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Security In Iraq, Feb 1-7, 2016

Heavy fighting continued for the second month in Iraq. That was mostly due to the Islamic State carrying out counter attacks in Anbar after it lost Ramadi. Crime and violence was on going in the capital Baghdad, while a combination of Peshmerga and local Arab tribes were able to free several villages in Ninewa. A mass execution was also announced in the latter province.

There were 145 attacks reported in the media from February 1-7, 2016. That was on par with the levels seen in January, which was the highest amount recorded in five months. Baghdad led the country with 65 incidents along with 35 in Anbar, 16 in Salahaddin, 9 in Ninewa, 8 in Diyala, 6 in Kirkuk, 4 in Babil, and one each in Basra and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

562 people died and 313 were wounded during the week. The high number of deaths was due to a mass execution by the Islamic State in Mosul. 12 Peshmerga 18 Hashd al-Shaabi, 75 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 421 civilians were killed, and 3 Peshmerga, 3 Special Air Service (SAS), 10 Hashd, 56 ISF, and 241 civilians were injured. By province there were 321 reported deaths in Ninewa, 109 in Anbar, 76 in Baghdad, 6 in Salahaddin, 5 in Diyala, and 3 each in Babil, Kirkuk, and the KRG.

In Anbar, the security forces continued to clear out Ramadi’s suburbs, as fighting raged there and in other parts of the province. Albu Shigal, Albu Risha, Albu Soda for the third time, and Sajariya were freed and Juwayba was attacked. The joint forces were said to have cut the supply routes from Fallujah to Khalidiya Island, while there were violent clashes in Sjar, Niamiya, Jeraishi, East Husaiba, Husaiba in the Ramadi area, and Qaim, Thar Thar, Baghdadi and Garma in the eastern and western sections of the governorate. Four suicide car bombs hit the joint forces along with IS artillery fire that left 70 ISF and 13 Hashd dead, and 30 ISF wounded. This was one of the few weeks when the government forces admitted to taking casualties in Anbar. The high level of incidents was due to both the offensive operations of the security forces, and IS launching counter attacks to try to make up for its loss of Ramadi.

Baghdad led the country in violence again. As usual the southern section of the capital saw the most violence with 25 incidents that included 19 IEDs. After that there were 18 in the east, 15 in the north, 5 in the west and 2 in the center. Crime was an issue as usual with four major robberies, and three kidnappings. 17 dead bodies also turned up. That showed that the situation in Baghdad is not just made up of IS operations, but criminals, vigilantes, and Hashd elements.

Violence In Baghdad, Feb 1-7, 2016
Center: 2 – 1 Shooting, 1 IED
East: 13 – 1 Stabbing, 2 Robberies, 2 IEDs, 3 Sticky Bombs, 5 Shootings
Outer East – 5 – 2 Kidnappings, 3 IEDs
North: 9 – 1 Robbery, 1 Stabbing, 3 IEDs, 4 Shootings
Outer North: 6 – 1 Shooting, 5 IEDs
South: 14 – 1 Stabbing/Robbery, 2 Shootings, 11 IEDs
Outer South: 11 – 1 Kidnapping, 2 Shootings, 8 IEDs
West: 3 – 3 IEDs
Outer West: 2 – 1 Sticky Bomb, 1 IED

Turkey was blamed for killing 3 civilians and wounding 2 more in an air strike on the KRG aimed at Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) areas.

The Peshmerga and Arab tribes worked together to seize several towns in Ninewa. Merdi, Mahane, Wedimah, Gdelah, and Khattab in Qayara and Kudila and Karmendi in Makhmour were freed during the week. The Islamic State launched five days of attacks to try to take back those last two towns, but was turned back. The Kurdish lines throughout the north have been relatively static for months, so it’s a rare occasion when they launch offensive operations. These could be preliminary moves for the Mosul attack, which is planned for sometime this year. 3 members of the English Special Air Services (SAS) were also said to have been wounded in a reconnaissance mission in the province.

Elsewhere in Ninewa IS was blamed for a massive execution. The Iraqi press claimed that the group killed 300 members of the ISF and civilians in Mosul. Other than that there were only 12 other executions reported by the militants.

There was also major fighting in Salahaddin. There were clashes with the insurgents in the Makhoul and Hamrin mountains, and the Alas and Ajeel oil fields. IS has been attacking those fields for months, while Makhoul and Hamrin have been long time strongholds of theirs. There was one successful suicide car bomb in the governorate that hit a gas station wounding 4 Hashd in Tal Kasaiba.

The press had 75 car bombs during the week. 55 were in Anbar, and ten each in Ninewa and Salahaddin. The security forces have been exaggerating the number of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) that they have destroyed for months now so 75 is probably too high. 5 were successful in Anbar and Salahaddin leaving 64 dead and 18 wounded.

Violence In Iraq By Week 2015-16
3,032 + 150
2,546 + 1,499
1,888 + 646
2,141 + 405
3,078 + 4,024
2,239 + 760
1,303 + 314
1,650 + 3,003
1,455 + 124 + 1,322
1,252 + 5,920
Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14
Jan 15-21
Jan 22-28
Jan 29-31
Feb 1-7

Security By Province Feb 1-7, 2016
35 Incidents
109 Killed: 13 Hashd, 26 Civilians, 70 ISF
35 Wounded: 5 Civilians, 30 ISF
14 Shootings
3 IEDs
4 Suicide Car Bombs
2 Artillery
18 Suicide Bombers Killed
15 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
42 Car Bombs Destroyed
4 Incidents
3 Killed: 1 ISF, 2 Civilians
10 Wounded: 2 Civilians, 8 ISF
2 Shootings
2 IEDs
65 Incidents
76 Killed: 4 ISF, 4 Hashd, 68 Civilians
233 Wounded: 8 ISF, 8 Hashd, 217 Civilians
15 Shootings
37 IEDs
4 Sticky Bombs
1 Incident
8 Incidents
5 Killed: 2 Civilians, 3 Peshmerga
3 Wounded: 3 Peshmerga
2 Shootings
8 IEDs
6 Incidents
3 Killed: 1 Hashd, 2 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
3 Shootings
1 Rockets
1 Incident
3 Killed: 3 Civilians
2 Wounded: 2 Civilians
1 Turkish Air Strike
9 Incidents
321 Killed: 9 Peshmerga, 312 Civilians
6 Wounded: 3 SAS, 3 Civilians
7 Shootings
3 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
7 Car Bombs Destroyed
16 Incidents
6 Killed: 6 Civilians
23 Wounded: 2 Hashd, 10 ISF, 11 Civilians
10 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
4 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
5 Car Bombs Destroyed

Car Bombs In Iraq, February 2016
Feb 1
Tal Kasaiba, Salahaddin
Jeraishi & Niamiya, Anbar – 9 destroyed
Alas and Ajeel, Salahaddin – 4 destroyed

Feb 2
Albu Diab, Anbar
Albu Diab, Jeraishi, Garma, Sjar, Thar Thar, Anbar – 10 destroyed

Feb 3
Albu Soda, Anbar – 4 destroyed
Kudila, Ninewa – 4 destroyed
West of Samarra, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed

Feb 4
Outside Fallujah, Anbar – 12 destroyed
Kudila, Ninewa – 3 destroyed

Feb 5
Baghdadi, Anbar – 1 destroyed
Alas, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed

Feb 6
Ain al-Assad, Fallujah, Ramadi, Anbar
Husaiba, Jubba, Thar Thar, Anbar- 8 destroyed
Kudila, Ninewa – 3 destroyed
Hamrin, Salahaddin – 2 destroyed
Feb 7
Albu Shajal, Jeraishi, west of Ramadi, Anbar – 7 destroyed
Mukashifa, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed

5 -  70 destroyed



Adel, Loaa, "Anti-Terrorism forces advance toward Juwiba area east of Ramadi," Iraqi News, 2/6/16
- "Army forces advance to liberate Albu Shehab & Albu Shagl areas in Khalidiya Island," Iraqi News, 2/1/16
- "ISIS executes 300 police and army personnel, civil activists in Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/8/16
- "Security forces kill 44 ISIS militants north of Ramadi," 2/7/16

AIN, "Anbar operations: 82 terrorists were killed today and 68 civilians freed from Daash," 2/7/16
- "Anbar operations: 82 terrorists were killed today and 68 civilians freed from Daash," 2/7/16
- "Defense: freed two villages in southeastern Mosul," 2/3/16
- "Video..destroying a car bomb, killing Daash in Aviation pounding in Mukashifa," 2/7/16

Anadolu Agency, "ISIL attacks kill 37 in Iraq," 2/7/16

ARA News, "Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi allies recapture five villages in Nineveh amid ISIS retreat," 2/2/16
- "Kurdish Peshmerga repels ISIS attack, kills 30 jihadist north Iraqi," 2/7/16

Buratha News, "Iraqi aircraft destroy a car bomb south of Fallujah," 2/4/16
- "Killing at least 12 Daash and destroying three car bombs by shelling east of Ramadi areas," 2/6/16
- "Thwarted another Daash terrorist attack on Alas oil field," 2/5/16
- "Popular crowd thwarted a terrorist car bomb attack in Thar Thar," 2/2/16
- "Thwarted another Daash terrorist attack on Alas oil field," 2/5/16

eKurd, "Kurdish Peshmerga, Arab fighters retake northern Iraq village from Islamic State," 2/3/16

Al Forat, "16 Brigade liberated entire area of Albu Risha north of Ramadi," 2/2/16
- "The crowd blows up two car bombs and kill 10 Daash in Garma near Fallujah," 2/3/16
- "Destruction of 11 Daash car bombs in Fallujah," 2/4/16
- "Urgent counterterrorism clear Albu Soda area east of Ramadi," 2/3/16

Al Mada, "Security forces freed area north of Fallujah, killing 18 Daash members," 2/4/16
-"Two from the popular crowd injured in an explosion of a suicide car bomb east of Tikrit," 2/1/16

Al Masalah, "Foiled a Daash attack in the Hamrin Mountains," 2/6/16
- "War media cell declares victories for the joint forces," 2/1/16

New Sabah, "Security file," 2/5/16

NINA, "Anbar Operations continue to clear Ramadi areas and repel Daash attacks," 2/2/16
- "Daash Executes 12 University Students In Mosul," 2/3/16
- "Daash launched unsuccessful attack with car bombs on liberated sites near Mosul," 2/4/16
- "The Security Forces Finish The First Page Of Cleansing Albu Shijil Area, Kill 18 Terrorists," 2/7/16
-"Turkish Warplanes Bombing Kill 3 Civilians In Northern Kurdistan Province," 2/4/16

Prothom Alo, "IS attack kills over 18 Iraqi soldiers," 2/2/16

Reuters, "Three British troops injured in covert operation in Iraq," 2/6/16

Rudaw, "ISIS ousted from second Makhmour village in less than a week, Peshmerga say," 2/3/16

Sarhan, Amre, "Anbar Council announces liberating al-Sajariyah area east of Ramadi," Iraqi News, 2/4/16
- "Baghdad Operations announces liberating Albu Shajal west of Saqlawiyah, Anbar," Iraqi News, 2/3/16
-"Security forces cut off ISIS supply routes between Fallujah and Khalediya Island," Iraqi News, 2/1/16

Sotaliraq, "Federal Police repel car bomb attack in the Hamrin," 2/1/16

Xinhua, "15 Iraqi security members killed in IS bomb attacks in Anbar," 2/6/16