Iraq Civil War 2016
The emergence of ISIL was facilitated by the protracted conflicts in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic and the resulting political and security instability, as well as by the weakening of State institutions and the inability of the two States to exercise effective control over their territories and borders. In less than two years, ISIL has captured large swathes of territory in both Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, which it administered through a sophisticated, quasi-bureaucratic revenue generating structure that was sufficiently flexible and diversified to compensate for declines in income from single revenue streams.
ISIL also benefited from its relationship with individuals and groups involved in transnational organized crime. It used its financial resources to support ongoing military campaigns, administer its territories and fund the expansion of the conflict beyond Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, and it has developed an extremely effective and sophisticated communications strategy to ensure that its distorted vision of the world resonates with a small but growing number of disaffected individuals who are disengaged from, or no longer identify with, the core values of their societies.
Despite the efforts of the international community to counter ISIL through military, financial and border-security measures (which have recently inflicted substantial losses), ISIL continued to maintain its presence in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. It is also expanding the scope of its operations to other regions.
The Iraqi security forces, the Peshmerga, the popular mobilization forces and local fighters, with support from the international counter-ISIL coalition, made further progress in retaking Iraqi territory from ISIL, with military successes in Anbar governorate and along the central axis of Iraq towards the city of Mosul. Between 23 and 25 August 2016, the Iraqi security forces launched a major operation to recapture Qayyarah, south of Mosul, which was consolidated on 10 September. The Iraqi authorities announced on 20 September concentrated efforts to regain control of Sharqat, Salah al-Din governorate, which were successfully completed two days later. That progress notwithstanding, ISIL continues to operate in pockets in the surrounding areas, from northern Tikrit to Qayyarah, including the outskirts of Sharqat and Bayji.
The security situation remained unstable throughout Iraq. ISIL continued to encounter consistent losses of resources and territory. In response, it increased the number of terrorist attacks. A total of 44 vehicle bombs and suicide vest attacks targeted the Iraqi security forces, killing 346 security personnel and wounding 249 others. ISIL continued to target civilians on a daily basis, with an average of more than five incidents per day across Iraq. In Baghdad governorate alone, there were a reported 297 incidents involving explosive devices, killing 427 civilians and wounding 1,658 others.
Iraq continued to engage with its neighbours, the international counter-ISIL coalition and the wider international community to secure political, economic, humanitarian and military support for combating ISIL. Meanwhile, the Government continued to work towards its national reconciliation and reform objectives, including addressing its fiscal constraints. Iraq remained active in multilateral organizations, including the League of Arab States, as well as the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Member States, of which Iraq holds the presidency for 2016.
On 8 August 2016, a delegation from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan travelled to the Islamic Republic of Iran to pursue follow-up discussions on a potential pipeline agreement. There were repeated incidents of armed conflict between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan across the Iranian-Iraqi border. Following these developments, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government led by its Minister of the Interior, Karim Sinjari, visited Tehran on 14 August and met the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, to discuss how to resolve the cross-border skirmishes. The incidents ceased for now.
UNAMI continued to receive reports of abductions, killings and persecution by ISIL of those opposed to its ideology or rule. For example, ISIL reportedly abducted 15 civilians from Hawijah, Kirkuk governorate, on 30 July for cooperating with the Iraqi security forces and assisting civilians to flee from ISIL-held areas. On 31 August, ISIL allegedly beheaded nine civilians with a chainsaw in Tall Afar, Ninawa governorate, after a self-appointed ISIL court accused them of joining the resistance against the group. ISIL continued to target those who sought to flee from areas under its control. For example, on 3 and 4 August, an estimated several hundred internally displaced persons attempted to leave villages controlled by ISIL in Hawijah district. It is estimated that at least 60 people may have been killed, either while seeking to flee or after being caught by ISIL.
Further reports were received that ISIL may have used weaponized chemical agents in attacks during the reporting period. On 22 July, ISIL mortar attacks in the Tall Afar area reportedly resulted in three Peshmerga fighters suffering from breathing difficulties and sore eyes, and one of them additionally from burns. On 22 and 23 August, ISIL allegedly shelled a village in Qayyarah, Ninawa governorate. Some 20 residents reportedly experienced breathing difficulties. UNAMI could not verify whether weaponized chemical agents had been used.
Two months into Mosul operations, which began on 17 October, more than 99,300 Iraqis are currently displaced. Over 53,700 are from the central Mosul sub-district of Merkaz Mosul. Cumulatively, more than 106,400 individuals have been displaced by Mosul operations since 17 October; more than 9,500 of those who were displaced have returned to their places of origin.
In 2016, UNAMI recorded a total of 19,266 civilian casualties: 6,878 killed and 12,388 wounded. These casualty figures do not include the civilian casualty figures for Anbar for the months of May, July, August and December. UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas; in some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care. Since the start of the military operations to retake Mosul and other areas in Ninewa, UNAMI has received several reports of incidents involving civilian casualties, which at times it has been unable to verify. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.
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