From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqis forces parade and celebrate in the streets of Mosul as they mark a year since Iraq declared victory against the Islamic State group, the conclusion of a three-year battle to oust the jihadists.

View on YouTube

A total of 41 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 73 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in November 2018*, according to casualty figures recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The figures include ordinary citizens and others considered civilians at the time of death or injury, such as police in non-combat functions, civil defence, personal security teams, facilities protection police and fire department personnel.

The Special Representative for Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ján Kubiš, said the continuing loss of life is regrettable but the latest figures are the lowest since UNAMI began publishing them in November 2012.

“These are not just figures. They are human beings with families. But these figures, sad as they are, also reflect the continuing downward trend in the level of violence as the country recovers from its fight with terrorism and presses ahead towards a stable, prosperous future,” the Special Representative said.

Baghdad was the most affected Governorate, with 55 civilian casualties (23 killed, 32 injured), followed by Ninewa (08 killed and 19 injured) and Anbar (04 killed and 15 injured).

*CAVEATS: UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in certain areas; in some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted above. Casualty figures obtained from the Anbar Health Directorate might not fully reflect the real number of casualties in those areas due to the increased volatility of the situation on the ground and the disruption of services. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

(Source: United Nations)

By Ranj Alaaldin.

The June 2014 takeover of Mosul by the Islamic State group (ISIS) was described as an existential threat to the Iraqi state and the post-2003 political order.

Yet, its emergence was only a symptom of a broader series of crises that had engulfed Iraq over the past decade. While militant groups dominate headlines, it is Iraq’s structural problems that have enabled their emergence.

This includes weakened or partly collapsed institutions; the absence of the rule of law; dysfunctional and corrupt governance; the ascendancy of sectarian divisions; and the disastrous post-conflict reconstruction process that followed the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion.

State fragility in the Levant and the regional proxy war in Syria have exacerbated these challenges and have stifled Iraq’s efforts to stabilize and rehabilitate its institutions.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: Brookings Institution)

Over seven million square meters in areas liberated from ISIS cleared of explosives

The Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) has cleared 7,414,199 square meters in areas liberated from ISIS of explosive devices and difused 43,057 IEDs and UXO pieces, said Siraj Barzani, Head of IKMAA, in an interview with the Kurdistan Regional Government website.

From the 2014 ISIS onslaught until October 2017, three IKMAA units in Duhok, Erbil, and Germiyan, in cooperation with Peshmerga forces, started their plan to clear contaminated areas and raise public awareness of explosive devices.

Mr. Barzani said that poisonous chlorine gas bottles stockpiled by ISIS were also deactivated by an IKMMA team with the assistance and supervision of a special chemical weapons team from the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs and Ministry of Interior.

According to Mr. Barzani:

“IKMMA teams in liberated areas faced a variety of impediments, including fragile security, logistical issues, unsatisfactory information about areas and risks, pressure to hastily clear contaminated areas.”

With financial assistance from foreign governments, international NGOs – MAG, FSD, Handicap International, NPA, DDG, Sterling – participated in these clearing operations.

According to IKMMA, in 1991, 776 square kilometers of the Kurdistan Region were contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance, UXO, laid by former Iraqi regime forces, which has since decreased to 270 square kilometers, a reduction of 65 percent.

According to Mr. Barzani:

“From 1991 until October 2018, there have been 13,233 victims of landmines and other explosive devices. Today, there are fewer victims due to clearance operations and increased public awareness.’’

(Source: KRG)

ISIL’s legacy of terror: at least 200 mass graves in Iraq

More than 200 mass graves containing the remains of thousands of victims have been discovered in areas formerly controlled by ISIL in Iraq, according to a UN report released Tuesday. The report highlights the legacy of ISIL’s relentless campaign of terror and violence and victims’ calls for truth and justice.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights Office have documented the existence of 202 mass grave sites in the governorates of Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Anbar in the northern and western parts of the country – but there may be many more.

While it is difficult to determine the total number of people in these graves, the smallest site, in west Mosul, contained eight bodies while the biggest is believed to be the Khasfa sinkhole south of Mosul which may contain thousands.

The report stresses that these sites could potentially contain critical forensic material to assist in the identification of victims and to build an understanding of the scale of crimes that occurred.

“Evidence gathered from these sites will be central to ensuring credible investigations, prosecutions and convictions in accordance with international due process standards,” the report states. “Meaningful truth and justice requires the appropriate preservation, excavation and exhumation of mass grave sites and the identification of the remains of the many victims and their return to the families.”

Between June 2014 and December 2017, ISIL seized large areas of Iraq and led “a campaign of widespread violence and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law – acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possible genocide,” the report states.

“The mass grave sites documented in our report are a testament to harrowing human loss, profound suffering and shocking cruelty,” said Special Representative for Iraq of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ján Kubiš. “Determining the circumstances surrounding the significant loss of life will be an important step in the mourning process for families and their journey to secure their rights to truth and justice.”

The report also documents how families of the missing face significant challenges in establishing the fate of their loved ones. At present, they must report to more than five separate State entities, a process that is both time-consuming and frustrating for families who remain traumatised by their loss, the report states, calling for the establishment of a public, centralised registry of missing persons as well as a federal Office of Missing Persons.

“ISIL’s horrific crimes in Iraq have left the headlines but the trauma of the victims’ families endures, with thousands of women, men and children still unaccounted for,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

“These graves contain the remains of those mercilessly killed for not conforming to ISIL’s twisted ideology and rule, including ethnic and religious minorities. Their families have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. Truth, justice and reparations are critical to ensuring a full reckoning for the atrocities committed by ISIL.”

Kubiš said the report was aimed at supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting and excavating these mass graves, through the work of Iraq’s Mass Graves Directorate and its international partners. Bachelet and Kubiš reiterated their support to the Government of Iraq in carrying out this significant task.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for a multidisciplinary approach to the recovery operations with the participation of experienced specialists, such as weapons contamination and explosives experts and crime scene investigators. It calls for a victim-centred approach and a transitional justice process that is established in consultation with, and accepted by, Iraqis, particularly those from affected communities.

The report also calls on the international community to provide resources and technical support to efforts related to the exhumation, collection, transportation, storage and return of human remains to families, as well as their identification, particularly by helping strengthen the Mass Graves Directorate.

More here, here and here.

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Severe dust storms have facilitated advances by the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in recent days, putting the largest Iraqi city alongside it at risk.

Otherworldly shades of red, orange and sandy yellow were an intermittent backdrop for days across most of western Anbar, with very low visibility rendering airstrikes and other coalition activities against the terrorist group still in control of Hejin across the border in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province difficult.

IS has retaken the entire Syrian side of the Baghouz area and the town of Soussa in recent days, Al-Monitor was told by security sources working near the border on Oct. 29.

Click here to read the full story.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions today on Afaq Dubai, an Iraq-based money services business (MSB) that has been moving money for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Today’s designation follows action taken by the Department of Defense—announced on October 11—against a key ISIS financial facilitation group.  This MSB is a part of ISIS’s financial network that includes an array of other MSBs, hawalas, and financial facilitators in the Middle East.

OFAC named Afaq Dubai as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, ISIS.  Contrary to what the name may imply, this MSB is located in Iraq and does not have any branches in the United Arab Emirates.

“This Iraq-based MSB is a part of ISIS’s complex network of money services businesses, hawalas, and financial facilitators funding terrorism across the Middle East.  We are targeting this network in concert with the Department of Defense as part of this Administration’s ongoing campaign to cut off ISIS’s ability to launder money and move illicit funds,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.  “Even as ISIS’s hold on territory is eliminated, we will continue to search for and shut down the illicit financial networks ISIS utilizes to fund terror attacks and sustain operations.”

Today’s action is a continuation of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to shut down financial facilitators and MSBs worldwide that move money on behalf of ISIS.  It follows the designation of two ISIS financial facilitators in September with ties to the Caribbean and the Middle East.  In December 2016, OFAC designated Selselat al Thahab Money Exchange in Iraq, ISIS financier Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, and his company, the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria.  Prior to his death, al-Rawi used the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria and a global network of financiers to move millions of dollars on behalf of the terrorist group.

OFAC closely coordinated today’s designation with the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), which released details on October 11 regarding its joint action against members of a key ISIS financial facilitation group, who leveraged this MSB as part of its operation.   Coordinated actions such as those conducted by DoD and Treasury this week disrupt and curtail ISIS’s logistical infrastructure, recruiting, and revenue generation.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of Afaq Dubai subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

DESIGNATED TARGET

Afaq Dubai

Afaq Dubai was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of ISIS.

Afaq Dubai — which is located in Iraq — is part of a network of ISIS-associated money services businesses and financial facilitators in the Middle East.  It is run by two ISIS financiers, and, as of early 2018, laundered money for ISIS and provided money to ISIS families.

In May 2018, a Jordan-based ISIS financial facilitator deposited $3 million from Iraqi dinar into three exchanges, including Afaq Dubai.

Identifying information on the entity designated today.

(Source: OFAC)

A total of 75 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 179 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in September 2018*, according to casualty figures recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The figures include ordinary citizens and others considered civilian at the time of death or injury, such as police in non-combat functions, civil defence, personal security teams, facilities protection police and fire department personnel.

Of the overall figures recorded by UNAMI for the month of September, 71 ordinary civilians were killed.

Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate, with 101 civilian casualties (31 killed, 70 injured), followed by Anbar (15 killed and 37 injured) and Salahadin (09 killed and 38 injured). The figures for Anbar were obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar Governorate, and are updated until 30 September, inclusive.

*CAVEAT: UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in certain areas; in some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and might not fully reflect the number of casualties due to the increased volatility of the situation on the ground in Anbar and the disruption of services. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

(Source: United Nations)

The coalition continues to help forces in both Iraq and Syria establish security and stability in areas that have known nothing but oppression since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria reared its head five years ago, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Baghdad, Army Col. Sean Ryan noted that Iraqi forces are working together across the country to rid the nation of the last remnants of the terrorist group.

“The various security elements — to include the [Iraqi forces], the peshmerga, counterterrorism services and the federal police — are all working together to continue securing their country,” he said.

In Ninevah province, Iraqi forces continue to find and disarm improvised explosive devices and continue to root out ISIS holdouts. In the mountains of Kirkuk, the Iraqi federal police and the Kurdish peshmerga work together to secure remote villages.

Out west, in Anbar province, border security forces continue to prevent ISIS fighters from streaming into the country, the colonel said.

“For its part, the coalition is … enabling the [Iraqi] efforts to secure Iraq by advising strategic leaders, training thousands of Iraqi service members and divesting equipment they need to effectively secure their country,” he said.

Coalition members also continue to train Iraqi forces. Since the effort started in 2015, coalition forces have trained more than 175,000 Iraqis in basic soldier skills and specialized fields such as intelligence, law enforcement, medical support and aviation.

Syria

In Syria, the picture is more complex and dangerous. Ground operations for Phase 3 of Operation Roundup have begun, and Syrian partner forces continue clearance of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, Ryan said. “Hajin and the surrounding villages are the last remaining territory acquired by ISIS in the coalition’s area of responsibility, and the victory by the Syrian Democratic Forces there will mean that ISIS no longer holds territory,” he added.

ISIS fighters are trying desperately to hang onto the territory, and hard fighting lies ahead, the colonel told reporters. “Despite this, we are confident that the SDF will prevail,” he said.

In Tanf earlier this month, Marines conducted training to reinforce partner forces, he said. “The coalition has supported the SDF through air support, as well as training and equipment,” Ryan said. “Additionally, in liberated areas, the coalition trained internal security forces to maintain the peace and security in liberated cities, provide basic law enforcement support, as well as specialized services such as counter-[improvised explosive devices] and engineering.”

Ryan noted changes in Iraq as Army Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve from Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II.

Ryan said the military stabilization efforts are going well, but are not enough. “Security creates the space for rebuilding,” he explained. “Residents only gain hope for the future when their children can go to school free from harm, women go buy basic necessities in local shops, and when they can go to their jobs that allow them to support their families. Ultimately, the military cannot fight its way to stability.”

The cost of reconstruction is high, with estimates of rebuilding Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — pegged at $100 billion. “We call on all nations to help those who have sacrificed tremendously fighting this global threat,” Ryan said.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

The coalition continues to help forces in both Iraq and Syria establish security and stability in areas that have known nothing but oppression since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria reared its head five years ago, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Baghdad, Army Col. Sean Ryan noted that Iraqi forces are working together across the country to rid the nation of the last remnants of the terrorist group.

“The various security elements — to include the [Iraqi forces], the peshmerga, counterterrorism services and the federal police — are all working together to continue securing their country,” he said.

In Ninevah province, Iraqi forces continue to find and disarm improvised explosive devices and continue to root out ISIS holdouts. In the mountains of Kirkuk, the Iraqi federal police and the Kurdish peshmerga work together to secure remote villages.

Out west, in Anbar province, border security forces continue to prevent ISIS fighters from streaming into the country, the colonel said.

“For its part, the coalition is … enabling the [Iraqi] efforts to secure Iraq by advising strategic leaders, training thousands of Iraqi service members and divesting equipment they need to effectively secure their country,” he said.

Coalition members also continue to train Iraqi forces. Since the effort started in 2015, coalition forces have trained more than 175,000 Iraqis in basic soldier skills and specialized fields such as intelligence, law enforcement, medical support and aviation.

Syria

In Syria, the picture is more complex and dangerous. Ground operations for Phase 3 of Operation Roundup have begun, and Syrian partner forces continue clearance of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, Ryan said. “Hajin and the surrounding villages are the last remaining territory acquired by ISIS in the coalition’s area of responsibility, and the victory by the Syrian Democratic Forces there will mean that ISIS no longer holds territory,” he added.

ISIS fighters are trying desperately to hang onto the territory, and hard fighting lies ahead, the colonel told reporters. “Despite this, we are confident that the SDF will prevail,” he said.

In Tanf earlier this month, Marines conducted training to reinforce partner forces, he said. “The coalition has supported the SDF through air support, as well as training and equipment,” Ryan said. “Additionally, in liberated areas, the coalition trained internal security forces to maintain the peace and security in liberated cities, provide basic law enforcement support, as well as specialized services such as counter-[improvised explosive devices] and engineering.”

Ryan noted changes in Iraq as Army Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve from Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II.

Ryan said the military stabilization efforts are going well, but are not enough. “Security creates the space for rebuilding,” he explained. “Residents only gain hope for the future when their children can go to school free from harm, women go buy basic necessities in local shops, and when they can go to their jobs that allow them to support their families. Ultimately, the military cannot fight its way to stability.”

The cost of reconstruction is high, with estimates of rebuilding Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — pegged at $100 billion. “We call on all nations to help those who have sacrificed tremendously fighting this global threat,” Ryan said.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)