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Links for April 21-27 via ISHM

Key Takeaways:

  • Turkish Warplanes Strike Targets in Sinjar, Drawing Condemnation - Between April 21 and 25, Turkish airstrikes hit targets in Dohuk and Ninewa Provinces. Turkey has been targeting Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq since at least late 2015, despite protests from the Iraqi government. The most significant incident occurred on April 25, when Turkish aircraft hit targets on Mount Sinjar, killing five Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers. While Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s office expressed disappointment at Turkish actions, the Turkish government has defended its airstrikes as a necessary measure to prevent PKK weapons and fighters from reaching Turkey. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga officials have asked PKK fighters to withdraw from Sinjar as tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and PKK continue to grow. One day after the Turkish airstrikes in Sinjar, U.S.-led international coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian stated that the Turkish government had given less than an hour’s notice to Iraqi and coalition forces before launching operations over Iraqi airspace. The same day, Kurdish protection units called for a no-fly zone to be established in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq and Syria to prevent future incidents like this one.  more...
  • Reconstruction and Returns Increase in Eastern Mosul Despite Insecurity; U.S. Development Funding in Jeopardy - On April 24, several Mosul residents expressed desire to return to their homes despite the absence of basic services such as electricity and running water in much of the city. However, some reports have indicated that life is returning to normal in liberated areas of eastern Mosul. One day earlier, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported that 122,137 IDPs have returned to their homes in Ninewa Province since the operation to clear Mosul started on October 17, 2016, although 336,288 remain displaced as of April 27. The push for civilian returns is partly due to overcrowding at existing displacement facilities. On April 23, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that all IDP camps south of Mosul, except Haj Ali camp, are at full capacity, with 600 families arriving to the Haj Ali, Qayyarah Jadah 5, and Qayyarah Airstrip camps in the last three days. The UNHCR estimates that it needs US$ 212 million in 2017 to continue to support IDPs displaced from Mosul, and requested US$ 578 million to support IDPs across the country in 2017, of which, only 18% has been funded. Yet, the UNHCR reported on April 25 that the number of departures from IDP camps has started to surpass the number of arrivals. While Iraq’s IDP crisis continues, and the country faces the daunting task of reconstruction, an April 24 Foreign Policy report indicated that the Trump Administration plans to merge the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and drastically cut assistance programs for developing countries. USAID estimates that Trump’s 2018 budget proposal will require it to cut up to 35 of its field missions, as well as cut its regional bureaus by 65%. It remains unclear how these cuts will impact Iraq.  more...
  • Operations Continue into Western Mosul as Violence Continues in Tal Afar - Iraqi Federal Police and Counter-Terror Service (CTS) forces have made slow advances into ISIS-held western Mosul. As of April 27, Federal Police maintained positions within 300 meters of the al-Nouri Mosque, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of the “caliphate” in 2014. As fighting continues inside Mosul, Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) liberated the archeological site of Hatra, and cleared 12 villages in the al-Hathr district of Ninewa Province, 110 and 65 kilometers south of Mosul, respectively. Meanwhile, unknown gunmen in Tal Afar, 75 kilometers west of Mosul, assassinated the son of the ISIS “Grand Mufti” in the town, following a string of anonymous high-profile killings of ISIS members there over the past few weeks.  more...
  • Security Forces Launch New Offensives Against ISIS in Anbar and Diyala. - On April 22, Diyala Security forces, accompanied by PMU fighters, performed a security sweep of three valleys (Thelb, Hadidi, and Qzla) 80 kilometers northeast of Baquba in Diyala Province. Four days later, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and PMUs launched a four-axis offensive to clear the Mutibija region on the borders of Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces, following months of demands from local politicians and residents for action against this hotbed for terrorist activity. On April 27, the Mayor of Khalis, 15 kilometers north of Baquba, stated that the offensive would allow thousands of displaced families to return to their homes. Meanwhile, operations to clear ISIS militants from parts of Anbar Province also intensified over the past week. On April 23, U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes killed 21 ISIS militants near Rawa, 230 kilometers west of Ramadi. The same day, an ISIS attack in Rutba killed 10 ISF soldiers and wounded an additional 20. Clashes worsened in the areas around Rutba between 23-27 April, and the head of the Anbar Security Council has called on the U.S.-led international coalition to intensify its airstrikes against ISIS in western Anbar, referencing recent attacks on roads and security points near Rutba.  more...
  • Sadrists Meet with PUK in Iraqi Kurdistan as Electoral Commission Head is Ousted - On April 23, representatives from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Sadrist movement met in Erbil to discuss political reform. During the meeting, the Sadrist delegation reportedly called on Kurds to assist in building a more cohesive Iraq rather than push for independence, and proposed holding new elections across Iraq after the current head of the Independent Electoral Commission is replaced. One day later, the Iraqi Parliament announced that it had decided to oust Serbest Mustafa, the current head of the Electoral Commission due to corruption.  more...
    Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.

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