On Monday (8th Dec), the Defense Ministry announced that over the last 24 hours, security forces had detained 16 men on terrorism charges. The Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday (9th Dec) a successful, wide-scale operation that included 6 simultaneous raids which resulted in the arrest of 12 members of a terror cell that specialised in car bombs. Police and intelligence units also seized weapons, rudimentary explosives and 2 car bombs. It seems that intelligence (including fingerprints) was collected from a recently dismantled car bomb, which allowed security forces to identify those involved in the cell and pursue further investigations.
Over the past weekend, reports emerged about a bizarre event where a blast took place in an abandoned commercial building on Filisteen (Palestine) Street, eastern Baghdad. Special Forces troops raided the building and found 1 dead person and six others wounded in what turned out to be a relatively vast IED and sticky bomb factory. The wounded were arrested and an investigation was opened – both incidents are thought to be ISIS-related.
As Shia pilgrims from across Iraq began making their way to the holy city of Karbala for the annual commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (an important figure in Shia Islam), Baghdad and its peripheral belts were flooded with security forces and Shia paramilitaries. Multiple reports emerged of IEDs, car bombs and booby-trapped houses being dismantled or detonated in the Amin, Mansour and Baya’ areas in the capital and the Tarmiya, Mushahada, Nahrwan, Arab Jubour and Adwaniya areas in Baghdad’s peripheries.
Also on Tuesday, a barrage of mortars struck the Kadhimiya, Shu’la and Hurriya areas of northern Baghdad. The terror attack killed 4 civilians and wounded at least 12 others. Reports have also emerged of an intricate operation that took place last week, southeast of Baghdad, where ISOF (Iraqi Special Operations Forces and units from the Iraqi Army’s 17th Division raided a two-storey abandoned building in the Wehda area.
The operation yielded encouraging results, with 6 ISIS militants arrested and a huge weapons cache seized. The cache included 17 explosive vests, 59 120-mm mortar shells and 76 sticky bombs in addition to other small arms, explosives, military uniforms and fake identification papers. This operation is being hailed by security officials as a great victory, with PM Haider al-Abadi promising to reward those involved.
Extremely violent clashes have taken place in and around the Anbar government complex in central Ramadi as ISIS militants launched a multi-pronged assault from the north, west and south. The fighting has been taking place for a few days now, with Iraqi security forces (ISF) and local tribes (mainly Albu Fahd and Albu Alwan) successfully repelling the assault. Initial estimates put the militants’ death toll at above 38 (including at least 6 suicide bombers) while at least a dozen ISF/tribesmen have reportedly perished. Heavy fighting has also been raging across the al-Houz district of southwestern Ramadi.
According to the Ministry of Defense, coalition airstrikes have killed dozens of ISIS militants and destroyed several artillery pieces and missile-launching platforms inside the town of Hit. ISF backed by tribes have recaptured several areas near Hit, including al-Dolab, al-Tulaihiya, al-Kanshiyah and al-Tahmaniya.
Iraqi Army units from the 7th and 8th Brigades are involved in the huge troop deployment on the outskirts of Hit alongside a huge number of tribesmen (including members of the Albu Nimr tribe), as they prepare to storm Hit. Estimates put the number of volunteers being trained by Iraqi and US trainers inside the nearby Ain al-Asad Air Base at 14,000. These volunteers will support ISF in recapturing areas across Anbar province.
Heavy clashes have also taken place in Fallujah’s peripheries on Wednesday (10th Dec) as units from the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division (backed by police units and Albu Issa tribesmen) recaptured the Bayar area, south of Fallujah. This operation has strengthened the Iraqi Army’s control over the area stretching between the provinces of Anbar and Babil. Clashes were also reported in the Karma area, northeast of Fallujah, where ISF and Shia paramilitaries (reportedly Badr Brigades) advances resulted in at least a dozen dead militants.
An Iraqi airstrike struck an ISIS checkpoint in Kubaisa, southwest of Hit. 9 militants were reportedly killed, including a Chechen and 2 vehicles were destroyed.
Diyala Police chief Lt. Gen. Jameel al-Shammari announced on Tuesday the liberation of 6 small villages in the Zaid area, northeast of Baquba. The villages were reportedly used as camps to house and train ISIS militants. Heavy clashes reportedly resulted in around 30 dead militants, with the remaining elements fleeing into the Hamrin Mountains.
Heavy clashes have taken place during the last 72 hours in the Mu’tassim sub-district, south of Samarra, as ISIS assaulted the area and captured the town’s centre. The initial attack included a truck bomb that was apparently driven by British militant, Abu Abdullah al-Britani.
Reinforcements, including an armoured brigade, were sent to Samarra on Wednesday to beef up security in the city. Lt. Gen. Imad al-Zuhairi (Samarra Operations Command leader) announced that ISF (backed by Shia paramilitaries) have recaptured 60% of the sub-district with the aim of completely recapturing the remaining areas in a matter of hours.
A suicide bomber driving a Humvee rigged with explosives rammed and detonated the VBIED in a school building in the Dijla area, north of Samarra, which was being used by Shia paramilitaries as a base, killing 12 fighters.
Relentless fighting between Iraqi security forces (backed by Shia paramilitaries) and ISIS has taken place for months now in the cluster of towns in southern Salah ad-Din province. Clashes and airstrikes have become a daily occurrence in Balad, Dhulu’iya, Dujail, Yathrib and Ishaqi (to name a few). Reports emerged on Wednesday that ISF and local volunteers fully recaptured the village of Albu Haswa, east of Dujail, reportedly killing 30 ISIS militants in the process. Also on Wednesday, Shia paramilitaries targeted and destroyed two vehicles carrying a number of ISIS militants, who all subsequently died.