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Northern Regional Report 13 September

September 13, 2017  

The below is a summary and discussion of recent developments throughout the region. Information is garnered from a variety of sources and has been vetted whenever possible. Please note: Friday and Saturday reporting is reduced at regional levels.

Note: For above mapping, please scroll over individual spots to see further details. Due to developments outside of Talos control, some map features are temporarily unavailable.

  1. Significant activity continues to be reported in Ayadhiya
  2. Routine pro-referendum rallies in Kurdish Region
  3. Several insurgents reportedly killed during operation in eastern Diyala

Significant activity continues to be reported in Qasabat al-Ra’I Village of the Ayadhiya sub-district, located north of Tal Afar. On 12 September, Iraqi Army airstrikes targeted a number of IS positions in the village, reportedly killing 30 insurgents including 11 suicide bombers as well as a ranking IS official from Tal Afar identified as Mohammed Mahdi Mohammed Farhan. Though such casualty counts are likely inflated in accordance with routine reporting practices, they highlight a continued significant presence of insurgents in this enclave.

On the night of 12 September, security forces clashed with an unspecified number of IS fighters including suicide bombers during a search operation Qasabat al-Rai Village. Casualties were reported on both sides. Related developments continue to be underreported, and likely overshadowed by political developments surrounding the Kurdish independence referendum. As before, it remains difficult to assess the extent of Iraqi military control in and around the village as related security operations continue.

On 13 September, reports surfaced that former Operation Inherent Resolve Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend released a memo declassifying the location of 81 locations of unexploded ordnance (UXO) dropped by Coalition aircraft during the Mosul Campaign. This follows reporting last month that these locations would be released in order to support EOD removal efforts in areas of West Mosul. UXO from Coalition actions remains just a small portion of overall residual explosive threats in the city, which will likely take years to clear. Demining organizations continue to be stretched thin amongst prolific IED employment, and new commitments in Tal Afar.

In other Mosul-related developments, a Russian IS fighter that was previously captured in the city was sentenced to death by hanging. The fighter confessed to conducting “terrorist operations” against Iraqi security forces since 2015. This individual is the first Russian-born militant to receive a death sentence by the Iraqi government. On the night of 12 September, a Hashd al-Shaabi member armed with a sniper rifle shot and killed an individual in Sada Village of Tall Kayf. The motive behind this abnormal shooting is unclear.

Kurdish Region:
Routine pro-referendum rallies were noted in different areas of the Kurdish Region. As initially discussed on 12 September, it was reported that an agreement was reached between the KDP, PUK, and Gorran, to reactivate the Kurdish parliament. The initial lack of Gorran confirmation of an agreement increased the likelihood that an agreement was not finalized despite these claims. Later reporting indicated the parties are planning to hold another joint meeting concerning this issue at the Gorran headquarters in Sulaymaniyah in a last ditch effort to achieve their consent.

Meanwhile, PUK and KDP officials have stated that the Kurdish parliament will resume sessions as ambitioned on 14 September, stating they have a sufficient number of MPs for quorum. This strongly indicates intent to convene without Gorran representation if an agreement is not reached in accordance with previously noted threats. In any event, the proceedings that transpire on 14 September will be important to take note of as referendum reporters strive for some level of perceived legitimacy.

KRG Parliament File photo: Rudaw/Farzin Hassan.

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani continues to vow that the referendum will proceed despite the Iraqi parliament’s vote calling the referendum constitutional. During a later news conference on 12 September, Prime Minister Abadi stated Kurds were continuing to “illegally export” Kirkuk’s oil, and called “upon the Kurdish leadership to come to Baghdad and conclude a dialogue” surrounding this focal point.

On 13 September, Badr Organization Hashd al-Shaabi forces conducted a small military parade in central Tuz Khurmatu depicted below. This measure likely served as effort to promote their presence in this mixed-sectarian town ahead of the Kurdish independence referendum, and also supports recent reporting of Hashd al-Shaabi forces reinforcing their presence outside Tuz in support of the Hawija Operation. Some reporting indicates additional Kurdish security forces were deployed in Kirkuk in a similar show of force intended to highlight their level of control in areas of the disputed province.

بـالـفـديـو….استعراض مصغر لعناصر من الحشد الشعبي – منظمة بدر في وسط قضاء طوزخرماتو

Опубліковано ‎خبر عاجل‎ 13 вересня 2017 р.

Near Hawija on 12 September, three Coalition strikes destroyed six IS tunnels. On 13 September, unofficially reported Iraqi Air Force airstrikes killed an IS Investigation Officer, identified as Abu Omar al-Iraqi, along with four of his associates, inside an IS headquarters in Hawija City.

On 13 September, Wasta Rasul, the commander of the Peshmerga South Kirkuk Front, discussed the need for Peshmerga involvement in the upcoming Hawija Operation. The official stated to the effect that each of the joint forces involved should have responsibility for its own separate axis of advance due to the province’s disputed nature. Rasul emphasized that Peshmerga fronts stretch from Tuz to Makhmour, while the Hashd al-Shaabi only have access along the Hamrin Mountains, and Iraqi military access was similarly limited.

The official added that he is not sure conditions will be met for Iraqi security forces to pass through Kurdish-controlled fronts as was seen in the battle for Mosul. This reporting underlines Peshmerga frustrations that they could be marginalized in the upcoming operation amongst longstanding coordination challenges, with planning already taking place to prioritize the use of alternative axes of advance if Iraqi security forces are not permitted to stage in Kurdish-controlled areas.

On 13 September, joint security forces including the 110th Hashd al-Shaabi Brigade, supported by Iraqi Army aircraft, launched a large-scale security operation in Abdullah al-Hatam Village near Naft Khana, eastern Diyala. Security forces reportedly killed 14 insurgents, destroyed two IS staging areas, two motorcycles, and two IEDs. These events follow another largescale operation in nearby areas on 9 September, which achieved similar claimed effects of at least 14 insurgents killed.

These operations highlight a strong underground IS footprint along the easternmost fringes of the Hamrin Mountains. Operations intended to clear IS militants from this corridor, referred to by IS as their Mountain Governorate, are expected to intensify as a key supporting effort associated with future operations in Hawija. Related priorities are in effect for counterparts in Salah ad Din, with another set of major operations anticipated in a major IS support zone located in the Mutabija area.

In related developments on 12 September, Hashd al-Shaabi forces repelled an IS attack on the border of the Mutibijah area. The attack comprised of four pickup trucks likely outfitted as technicals, with the convoy reportedly completely destroyed with an unspecified number of insurgents killed.

Kurdistan Region parliament to reconvene on Thursday morning – Rudaw
The Kurdish parliament is scheduled to meet Thursday morning after it was closed because of tensions between the two largest Kurdish parties two years ago, a statement from the parliament and a senior Kurdish official said. The media office of the Kurdish parliament issued a brief statement on Wednesday saying that they have secured enough signatures to call for the meeting.

Public Opinion Poll For Kurdistan Regional Government’s Independence Referendum – Ekurd

KDP attempts to disrupt Shaswar Abdulwahid’s forum in London – NRT
A number of members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) attempted to disrupt a forum of Shaswar Abdulwahid in the U.K. House of Lords on Tuesday (September 12). Abdulwahid, the chairman of the “No for Now” Movement, had a forum arranged in the U.K. House of Lords at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. A number of KDP members went by the party tried to prevent the meeting from getting started.

Mandali people to vote in Khanaqin on referendum day for security reasons: Commission – K24
Following the recent escalation of tensions in Mandali over the town’s participation in the upcoming Kurdistan Region referendum, the Electoral Commission has decided to place ballot boxes assigned to the people of Mandali in nearby Khanaqin. The Kurdistan Region has scheduled a referendum on independence for Sep. 25. Over five million people are eligible to vote, including people in the disputed territories.

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