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Iraq Civil War 2015

The Iraqi prime minister pledged 29 January 2015 an urgent investigation into accounts that Iraqi security forces and Shia militias gunned down dozens of unarmed villagers after fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. Mohammad Salem al-Ghabban, Iraq's interior minister, led the investigation. Shia armed men accompanied by Interior Ministry SWAT teams and Iraqi soldiers rounded up men in the Sunni village of Barwana. After accusing them of belonging to ISIL, survivors said they were marched to a nearby field where the armed men took away men from the group, and shot them behind a wall. More than 80 civilians were shot dead.

Terrorist activities throughout the country increased significantly during 2015, particularly with Daesh assaults on cities across the west and north. Daesh frequently employed suicide attacks and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). Some attacks targeted government buildings or checkpoints staffed by security forces, while others targeted civilians.

Disappearances and kidnappings were regular occurrences, and some kidnappers who did not receive a ransom killed their victims. There were also cases reported in which the abductor killed the kidnapped individual despite receiving ransom payments. Most kidnappings appeared to be financially motivated. Daesh forces and illegal armed groups engaged in widespread kidnapping of members of Iraqs various ethnic and religious communities. The Ministry of Human Rights reported that the numbers of missing persons from June 2014 to June 2015 had reached 2,935. According to UNAMI estimates, there were numerous execution style killings of victims kidnapped for ransom to intimidate members of their communities.

According to the UN and international human rights organizations, some Shia PMF operating outside government control committed abuses against civilians, including killings, abductions, and destruction of property. AI reported that members of Shia PMF--with participation or noninterference from the military and police--allegedly carried out extrajudicial killings of at least 56 and possibly more than 70 civilians from Barwana, Diyala Governorate, on January 26 (see section 1.a.). On January 23, after reclaiming Diyala from Daesh control, Shia PMF allegedly looted and destroyed eight houses in Saadian and destroyed four mosques in Muqdadiya, Diyala Governorate. A February 15 HRW report, Iraq: Militias Escalate Abuses, Possibly War Crimes, claimed that since June 2014, at least 3,000 persons had fled their homes in Muqdadiya and that some were kidnapped and summarily executed. According to HRW the attacks appeared to be part of a campaign involving the Badr Brigade to displace residents from Sunni and mixed-sect areas and prevent them from returning.

According to AI on January 25, Yezidi fighters looted and burned homes in two Sunni Arab villages, Jiri and Sibaya, in Sinjar. They reportedly executed 21 civilians, including elderly men and women and children, and they injured several others, including three children. They also allegedly abducted 40 residents; at years end the whereabouts of 17 were unknown. Residents told AI that Peshmerga and Asayish security forces present during the attack did not act to stop it.

Daesh forces murdered Sunni tribal leaders; Sunnis who cooperated with the government, including previous Sons of Iraq members; and Sunni clerics who refused to recognize Daesh and its caliphate. Daesh also targeted Sunni civilians who cooperated with the ISF. UNAMI reported that on 01 January 2015, Daesh executed 15 members of the Jumaili tribe in al-Shihabi area of Anbar Governorate. On February 6, Daesh burned alive three civilians in front of residents of Hit District in Anbar Governorate. In both cases Daesh targeted civilians for purportedly cooperating with the ISF by providing information on Daesh members, offering food to the ISF, or for being related to ISF members.

AI reported that a prominent Sunni tribal leader who had called for sectarian reconciliation, Sheikh Qassem Sweidan al-Janabi, was kidnapped on February 13 in Dura in Baghdad. Authorities found the bodies of the sheikh, his son, and his bodyguards a few hours later in Baghdad. Janabi had pressed for the return of 70,000 displaced Sunni residents of Jurf as Sakhr in Babil Governorate.

Daesh reportedly carried out attacks against civilians in Baghdads Shia-majority neighborhoods. UNAMI reported that improvised explosive devices, suicide vests, and VBIEDs caused at least half of all verified casualties in the first half of 2015. For example, on January 30, an attack in al-Bab al-Sharji, Baghdad, killed 62 civilians, injured 109, and damaged or destroyed local shops.

According to AI, Peshmerga and Yezidi armed groups razed villages and towns under their control, with no military necessity to do so. AI reported widespread burning of homes and property in villages and towns in Ninewa, Kirkuk and Diyala governorates that Peshmerga forces captured from Daesh fighters between September 2014 and March 2015 and that remained under KRG administration. The report stated that in one nearly destroyed village, members of the Peshmerga told AI they had blown up houses so that the residents would never return. In another village a member of the Peshmerga told AI that an area had been bulldozed following its recapture in order to create an empty area. Erbil-based NGOs and human rights activists corroborated some of AIs claims.

On 01 April 2015 Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, declared victory over Islamic State in the strategic city of Tikrit, and said that his government was "determined to liberate every inch of Iraqi land."

After ousting Islamic State militants from the city of Tikrit, Iraqi forces still must reclaim large areas of the west and north. A major goal for government forces and the sectarian militias and U.S. airpower backing them was Mosul, the largest city under militant control. But whether the next offensive will target Mosul directly or work towards it through an interim objective was open to question.

In May media outlets reported the discovery of a mass grave in western Mosul containing the remains of 80 Yezidis. A representative from the Yezidi Affairs Council in the IKR reported these individuals were likely victims of Daesh, and the remains showed signs of brutal treatment in captivity. Throughout the year authorities discovered several other mass graves with Yezidi victims of Daesh. Authorities and returning civilians discovered several other mass graves with Yezidi victims of Daesh; by year-end approximately 35 mass graves had been reported. In June the Ministry of Human Rights announced that the government exhumed more than 600 bodies from mass graves in Tikrit; it said that the bodies were mainly those whom Daesh executed at the former Camp Speicher in June 2014.

On July 5, local media reported that a bomb exploded near al-Obeidi District, killing four and injuring 14. A second blast killed four and injured 11 at a restaurant in Jisr Diyala, and two other bombs detonated at bus stops in Shulla and in a northeastern suburb of Baghdad, killing seven persons and injuring nine. On August 13, Daesh detonated a VBIED at Jameela market in Sadr City in Baghdad, killing at least 45 and injuring 72.

Local and international media reported that on July 17, Daesh claimed responsibility for a truck bombing that killed at least 115 persons at a crowded marketplace in Khan Bani Saad in Diyala Governorate. The victims, the majority of whom were Shia, had gathered to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Attacks continued on playgrounds, mosques, government sites, civilian homes, and markets, as well as attacks directed at members of the security forces, public officials, journalists, ethnic and religious minorities, and local leaders opposed to Daesh. Daesh claimed responsibility for many such attacks via its social media platforms.

Numerous reports of Daesh abductions, public executions, and massacres of Sunni tribes emerged in 2015 as members of these Sunni tribes increasingly turned against the terrorist group. On October 4, Daesh executed 70 members of the Albu Nimr tribe in Ramadi in Anbar Governorate, according to international media. The victims were reportedly male relatives of members of ISF, police, and tribal fighters.

In areas it controlled, Daesh engaged in frequent abductions of members of the security or police forces, ethnic and religious minorities, and other non-Sunni communities. In September local and international media reported that Daesh kidnapped 127 children in Mosul, allegedly to force them to attend extremist camps, where they would learn how to use weapons and participate in suicide attacks. Widely published photographs and videos depicted minors wearing Daesh uniforms and using semiautomatic weapons. According to Yezidi activists and political leaders, 2,000 of the estimated 5,000 Yezidi men, women, and children kidnapped by Daesh had been rescued due to assistance from the Office of the KRG Prime Minister and others.

The UN reported that the minimum number of civilian fatalities between December 2014 and October 31, 2015, was 7,200. In attempts to drive out Daesh from northern and western areas, the government targeted Daesh bases, many of which were located in populated civilian areas. Throughout the year the government escalated its use of bombing and shelling, and the collateral damage reportedly killed civilians, including children, in attacks on suspected Daesh locations and infrastructure in civilian neighborhoods, particularly in Anbar Governorate. UNAMI reported that some military operations directly targeted civilian infrastructure, and authorities carried out other operations without taking all appropriate precautions to protect the civilian population.

During the last several weeks of November, the liberation of Sinjar by Kurdish Peshmerga forces cut the main route in Iraq between Mosul and Raqqah on the Iraqi side of the corridor. Additionally, the advances of Syrian Democratic Forces further restricted the Syrian side of the corridor by putting pressure on key routes east of Ar Raqqah and south of Hasakah. Finally, Iraqi-led advances in two other areas: the Anbar corridor and the Bayji-Baghdad corridor, limited ISILs ability to conduct operations in central Iraq.

Human rights groups and the media reported high levels of sectarian violence. Much of the violence was due to Shia militias--some of which participated as part of the PMF, nominally under government control--killing and abusing Sunni civilians. Successful airstrikes and ISF ground operations to liberate Daesh-controlled areas created civilian security vacuums into which these units moved. The situation worsened during the year, and Sunni civilians faced revenge attacks for Daesh crimes as well as forced displacement from their homes.

In instances when Sunni tribes turned against Daesh and fought with the ISF, Daesh conducted mass executions of tribesmen. According to UNAMI, in December 2014 in Madain, southern Baghdad, a Daesh suicide bomber killed a group of at least 21 Sunni tribesmen collecting their salaries at a military base. The attack injured at least 48 others.

Increased pressure from simultaneous Coalition operations, from the New Syrian Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, to the Peshmerga forces in Northern Iraq, to the Iraqi Security Forces in Central Iraq, are having a cumulative effect - which is the operational weakening of ISIL in those areas, US Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, U.S. Central Command spokesman said 04 December 2015. We will continue to support these operations.

Turkey will have a permanent military base in the northern Iraqi region of Bashiqa near the city of Mosul as its military group training local forces in Iraq has been reinforced with additional personnel, Turkey's Hurriyet reported 05 December 2015. According to Hurriyet, the deal concerning the establishment of the base was signed on November 4 between Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani and then Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu during the latters visit to northern Iraq.

Ankara claimed up to 150 of its troops had crossed into Iraq to train forces battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Dispatching several hundred Turkish troops in Iraq near the city of Mosul without the consent of Iraqi authorities is a violation of international norms and law," the countrys president, Fouad Massoum, said in a statement. The Iraqs leader called for immediate withdrawal of the Turkish troops and asked Iraqi foreign ministry to take necessary steps to preserve the countrys sovereignty and independence. Earlier, Iraqi government has also demanded that Ankara withdraw its forces from the countrys territory and Iraqs foreign ministry has called Turkeys actions a serious breach of Iraqi sovereignty.

An additional and extremely dangerous factor promoting international tensions is the unlawful presence of the Turkish armed forces on Iraqi territory near the city of Mosul, which arrived there without a request and approval of the legitimate government of Iraq, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. We consider this [military] presence unacceptable, the statement says, adding that violation of international law principles, such as respect towards other states' sovereignty is "at the core of the emerging problems."

According to Iraqi media, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi put the Iraqi Air Force on high alert and the ruling National Iraqi Alliance gave the prime minister the go-ahead to take any measures to ensure territorial integrity and protect its borders, including addressing the UN and the Arab League.

Iraq asked the UN Security Council to demand Turkey immediately and unconditionally pull its troops out of northern Iraq. "This is considered a flagrant violation of the principles of the U.N. Charter and a violation of Iraqi territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Iraq," Baghdad's leaders wrote in a letter to the Council 13 December 2015.

Coalition-enabled anti-ISIL ground operations continued to reduce ISILs freedom of movement in several key areas of Iraq and Syria. In three key areas, ISILs freedom of movement between Ar Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, was restricted or denied due to Coalition-enabled ground operations by anti-ISIL indigenous forces.

Due to continuing Daesh-perpetuated violence, womens status suffered severe setbacks. During 2015, Daesh continued to kidnap women and girls, sell, rent, or gift them as forced brides (a euphemism for forced marriage or sexual slavery) to Daesh fighters and commanders, and exploit the promise of sexual access in propaganda materials as part of its recruitment strategy. In March 2015 the Organization for Womens Freedom in Iraq (OFWI) reported that Daesh initially sold women for prices ranging from 110,000 dinars to 1.1 million dinars ($100 to $1,000), and as a woman was sold, resold, and rented to Daesh fighters, the price decreased to 16,600 dinars ($15). According to an OHCHR fact-finding mission, some women discovered to be pregnant in Daesh captivity were forced to have abortions.



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