Conflict

Anti ISIS operations resume in Diyala as the group targets civilians

Iraq

Iraqi Security Forces have resumed anti-ISIS operations against militants fleeing to Diyala Province from other liberated regions of Iraq.

Iraqi Security Forces have resumed anti-ISIS operations in Diyala Province in eastern Iraq. The resumption of the operations come after ISIS militants fleeing from Mosul, Hawija and Tal Afar fled to the Hamrin mountains and regrouped there.

Since then, the frequency of militant attacks in Diyala has gone up. In January 2018, ISIS gunmen murdered two civilians outside Miqdadiyah hospital, 30km north-east of the province capital Baquba. Towns and villages also continued to suffer from militant raids.

The deteriorating security situation was condemned by many local officials and residents here, especially since the province was declared clear of ISIS militants as early as January 2015. Many local residents and officials have conveyed their opinion that not enough is being done by the security forces to apply pressure to the remaining ISIS cells present in the region. The mayor of Khalis, Adi al-Khadran, believes that the operations conducted by security forces was “inadequate” and “did not achieve its goal of eradicating ISIS from the province”.

It is in response to the ongoing poor security situation and criticism from local residents and officials alike that the governor of Diyala, Muthana al-Timimi announced a new security plan for the province in January 2018.

Since the new security operations began, security forces consisting of the Iraqi police, army and Popular Mobilisation Forces have destroyed four nearby ISIS units. Furthermore, the operation has led to the arrests of many ISIS militants hiding in the province and the discovery of a cache of weapons and ammunition.

However, the effectiveness of the operation is suffering as a result of a lack of unified decision-making amongst the multiple security factions involved. Despite the presence of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, Peshmerga, Sunni tribal forces and the Iraqi Security Forces, the lack of centralised command and coordination is exacerbating the existing security situation.

Although these security concerns are a challenge, there is progress being made towards rebuilding all of the towns and villages destroyed as a result of ISIS scorched earth tactics. The Diyala Health Directorate working alongside the International Red Cross has successfully reconstructed one of 11 hospitals destroyed by retreating ISIS militants. The new hospital in al-Azim district provides a new, fully staffed facility that is open for all and stocked with all the medicines required. Previously, local residents were dependent on temporary medical tents, which lacked basic medical supplies and were severely understaffed.