Two former detainees and the father of a man who died in detention have provided details of ill-treatment, torture, and death in facilities run by the Iraqi Interior Ministry in the Mosul area, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

A detainee held by the ministry’s Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Office in an east Mosul prison from January to May 2018 said he witnessed and experienced repeated torture during interrogations, and saw nine men die there, at least two from the abuse.

Another man from Mosul, arrested in March by local police, died during police interrogation in the Mosul police station, his father said. And a man who was held in the Intelligence and Counter Terrorism prison in Qayyarah said he saw other men returning from interrogations with signs of abuse on their bodies.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

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

Iraqis in the holy city of Najaf are being hit hard by US sanctions on neighbouring Iran, which have forced cash-strapped pilgrims to stay at home.

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By John Lee.

Iraq and Jordan have signed a a military-security cooperation agreement.

The agreement aims to exchange expertise and information in the field of border protection, developing intelligence capabilities, joint military exercises, research and technology development, combating terrorism in various forms, training and development.

(Source: Iraqi Ministry of Defense)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Kamal al-Ayash.

As Iraq Sanctions Iran Trade, Saudi Arabia Boosts Border Crossing

Opening the Arar border crossing on Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia could help locals economically. But analysts say it’s also about international influence.

“Work is underway to re-open Arar for commercial purposes before the upcoming Haj season in a manner that benefits both Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” said Abdul Aziz al-Shammari, the Saudi ambassador to Iraq. In a televised interview announcing that the border crossing is to be permanently opened, he said that the Iraqi and Saudi sides have agreed on everything required for the reopening of the crossing for commercial purposes.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia announced its approval for the reopening of the border crossing, and with every such announcement voices supporting normal relations with Saudi Arabia are heard. Local residents also say the border crossing opening will boost economic recovery in the area.

However, the issue of ownership of the border crossing remains a significant stumbling block: It is located within the borders of the Nukhayb district, approximately 300 kilometres southwest of Ramadi, which is in the Anbar province .

The Nukhayb district was created in 1960 and remained part of Anbar province’s Rutba district until 1978 when it was annexed to Karbala for 14 months. It was returned to the Anbar province in 1979 as a result of a crisis between the local population of the Nukhayb district and Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, a former President of Iraq, after which it became a separate district in 2016, following a vote by Anbar provincial council members.

The Arar crossing point is located on the Iraqi-Saudi border, 97 kilometres southwest of the Nukhayb district, and since 2003 has officially only opened during the pilgrimage season so that Iraqi pilgrims can travel to the holy site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The border crossing has two routes; the first passes through the Karbala province and the second passes through the Anbar province.

The local government in the Anbar province highlights the success of its security and service operations every pilgrimage season, while at the same time stressing that this is done without financial allocations to the border crossing. It is also a way of confirming its ownership of the Nukhayb district and the Arar border crossing.

Taha Abdul Ghani, a member of the Anbar provincial council, told NIQASH that “no province other than Anbar has the right to administrate the Arar border crossing, as all documents prove that the Nukhayb district and Arar border crossing fall within the administrative borders of the Anbar province. Any other claim is a slander and a violation of Anbar’s rights.”

“Anbar province has administrated the Nukhayb sub district for 15 years. It allocated huge amounts of money to services and projects in the Nukhayb district in support of all sectors, as well as for logistical services to ensure the success of security plans and the travel of pilgrims through the Arar border crossing.”

In addition to its importance for commercial and tourism purposes, the Saudi-Iraqi border crossing is significant for various local and international political parties for political and security reasons. Observers and experts say that any developments related to the Nukhayb district tend to increase tensions and they stress that economic issues are not the only reasons.

“Controlling the Nukhayb district and the Arar border crossing from the Iraqi side has one specific reason,” retired military man, Mohammed Kartan explains. “Anbar wants to maintain the border crossing with its Sunni environment, specifically the Gulf, and Karbala and Najaf want to impose their control and influence to isolate Sunni elements from their support in the Gulf.

“Whoever controls the Jdaidet Arar border crossing and the Nukhayb district controls important transportation routes between Iraq and Syria that were created when the Islamic State group occupied most of the cities of the Anbar province. These routes were created in an attempt to find alternative ways to bring financial and logistical support to Syria without having to pass through extremist-occupied areas.”

The reopening of the border crossing could serve as an important outlet for Iraqi and Saudi trade, but it is a painful economic blow to Iranian trade, which heavily and directly depends on the Iraqi market.

Kareem al-Nouri, a leader of the popular crowd forces, told NIQASH that “if we assume good intentions on the part of Saudi Arabia, the decision to resume business permanently at the Arar border crossing is a good and useful decision which restores relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. However, we believe that the decision is of a political nature and its timing is not appropriate, especially with the US sanctions on Iran.”

“The opening of the border crossing, which is located in a sensitive and important city that is still categorised as a disputed area, could trigger a real crisis that may evolve into a conflict,” al-Nouri said. “Announcing the opening of the border crossing at this time is not a popular decision and it should be reconsidered.”

The Federal Republic of Germany supports joint Ministry of Interior and UNMAS training to respond to explosive hazards

This week marked the beginning of a 75-day training course in Anbar jointly organized by the Ministry of Interior and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

This course will be the first of its kind, with Iraqi Police instructors and UNMAS instructors working closely side-by-side to train local police in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and improvised explosive devices disposal (IEDD).

Explosive hazards continue to pose a significant risk for people returning to their homes, as well as for the security services providing the initial response to the explosive threat. Displaced people who are returning to former battle areas are likely to encounter explosive hazards.

One of the options available to them is to contact local police who, in turn, will be the first responders. The presence of trained local police contributes to a safer environment and mitigates the risks of casualties amongst returnees.

“Explosive hazard clearance remains of the utmost importance in order to allow displaced people to return to their homes. Such clearances are a vital part of our stabilisation efforts” said Dr Cyrill Jean Nunn, Ambassador of Germany to Iraq. “Therefore Germany remains committed to supporting UNMAS in this important task.”

“Capacity enhancement support to enable local police response to explosive hazards is critical for the re-establishment of rule of law in liberated areas” said. Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager. “Germany is a crucial partner for supporting explosive hazard management training and providing advice to the Government of Iraq.”

The generous contribution of EUR 4.5 million from the Federal Republic of Germany allows UNMAS to provide training and advice to National Mine Action Authorities and the Ministry of Interior to mitigate the threat from explosive hazards. This also includes a dedicated Gender Advisor who is working with relevant stakeholders (implementing partners and authorities) to mainstream gender into Mine Action processes.

UNMAS continues to train local police to provide life-saving first response in affected communities. Since January 2018, more than 370 police officers have been trained as first responders and 30 police officers are now able to train other police officers in Anbar and Kirkuk Governorates.

The Federal Republic of Germany remains the largest contributor to UNMAS in Iraq, providing a total of EUR 44.2 million since 2016.

(Source: UN)

Defeat-ISIS Forces Make Progress, Require Continued Coalition Support

Forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continue to make progress. However, the environment in Iraq and Syria is complex and the defeat-ISIS forces require continued support, coalition officials said today.

Army Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, spoke to Pentagon reporters about progress being made against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He spoke via satellite from Baghdad.

“In Iraq, operations continue to secure areas across the country, as Iraq security forces locate, identify and destroying ISIS remnants,” Ryan said. “Last week alone, … operations across Iraq have resulted in the arrest of more than 50 suspected terrorists and the removal of 500 pounds of improvised explosive devices.”

Progress in Iraq’s Anbar Province

Iraqi forces are moving in Anbar province, in the Hamrin Mountains and Samarra. Reconstruction efforts are ongoing with roads reopening in the north. Iraqi engineers “cleaned the main road between Salahuddin and Samarra of IEDs, making travel safer between the two cities,” he said.

In the Baghdad area, the ISF established central service coordination cells, a program designed to use military resources to enable local communities to restore basic infrastructure and services. “Initial efforts by the coordination cells include trash collection, road openings, maintenance of water facilities,” Ryan said.

Syrian Democratic Forces are preparing for the final assault on ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The SDF is reinforcing checkpoints and refining blocking positions ahead of clearance operations in Hajin, Ryan said.

Military Operations, Reconstruction in Syria

In Syria, too, reconstruction efforts go hand in hand with military operations. “In Raqqa, the internal security forces have destroyed more than 30 caches containing 500 pounds of explosives discovered during the clearance operations in the past weeks,” the colonel said.

ISIS remains a concern in both countries, the colonel said. “Make no mistake: The coalition is not talking victory or taking our foot off the gas in working with our partners,” he said.

Defeating ISIS, he said, will require a long-term effort.

“We cannot emphasize enough that the threat of losing the gains we have made is real, especially if we are not able to give the people a viable alternative to the ISIS problem,” Ryan said. “We continue to call on the international community to step up and ensure that conditions that gave rise to ISIS no longer exist in both Syria and Iraq.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

UNHCR welcomes the generous donation of 1.5 million euros from the Government of Finland. The new funds will help UNHCR support vulnerable Iraqis and Syrian refugees in a rapidly changing context.

A year on from the end of fighting in Mosul, the situation in Iraq is increasingly complex.

While the country recovers from conflict, the needs of Iraqis diversify. Almost 3.9 million people displaced by the recent conflict returned to their homes and are restarting their lives. Children are back at school, water and electricity networks are functioning, and devastated communities are seeing the shoots of regrowth. In places hard-hit by the conflict, the conditions for sustainable return are not yet met. Assistance for the 2 million internally displaced Iraqis and the communities that host them must continue for some time to come to discourage people from returning home too soon.

In addition, around 700 people cross the border every month to escape the fighting in Syria that shows no sign of abating.

To meet diversifying needs, UNHCR provides support over a broadening spectrum. From comprehensive humanitarian assistance in camps to community-based projects to promote social cohesion in slowly reforming communities; from psychological assistance for survivors of gender-based violence to support in acquiring the new or replacement identification documents people need to access state social welfare benefits.

“Iraq is an important partner to Finland and the EU,” said Ms. Päivi Laine (pictured), the Finnish Ambassador to Iraq. “We want to support the Iraqis to return home after years of conflict and continue their lives in home communities. It is remarkable that despite its own complicated situation Iraq is generous towards refugees from Syria. UNHCR has been for years a reliable partner and Finland is very satisfied to continue the co-operation in Iraq. The latest donation is 1.5 million euros.”

“The changing context in Iraq requires us to be ever-more nimble in our response,” said Mr. Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq. “Even as cities are rebuilt and communities begin to flourish, hundreds of thousands of people struggle to make ends meet. Flexibility and creativity are at the heart of UNHCR’s work in Iraq, to consistently meet people’s changing needs. Unearmarked funding from donors like the Government of Finland enables us to be responsive and compassionate to the changing situation Iraqis face. With their ongoing support, we will stand with the people of Iraq until the job is done.”

(Source: UN)