Iraq Theater

Iraqi troops repel ISIS assault on Mosul

Just one day after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched an assault on Samarra in central Iraq and briefly took control of five neighborhoods, the jihadist insurgent group attempted to seize Mosul June 6. Hundreds of ISIS fighters "advanced on Mosul from the northwest and deployed in large numbers in the west of the city," Reuters reported. Three Iraqi soldiers and four police troops were killed in the resulting clashes. In southern Mosul, a suicide assault team made up of five heavily armed ISIS fighters attacked a weapons depot and killed 11 soldiers. Some of the members of the team detonated their suicide vests during the raid. And in the nearby village of Muwaffakiya, a minority Shabak community, a pair of suicide car bombs killed six people.

ICC reopens probe into UK Iraq detainee abuse

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, announced May 13 that she will reopen a preliminary investigation into alleged mistreatment and killings of Iraqi detainees in Iraq by UK military forces from 2003 through 2008. Bensouda stated that her office received new information in January from two human rights organizations implicating UK officials in detainee abuse. The Rome Statute (PDF) of the ICC allows the prosecutor to "initiate investigations ... on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court." Although Iraq is not a State Party to the ICC, the ICC does have jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed by state nationals in Iraq. To comply with the statute, the ICC must examine several factors during the preliminary investigation, such as "jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice" to determine if such issues meet the Statute's criteria for opening a full investigation. The ICC's original preliminary investigation into this matter, which ended in 2006, did not meet the "required gravity threshold" of the statute. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the ICC in 2006, emphasized that if new information were to surface, the statute affords the ICC the ability to reopen the investigation. The new information received by the ICC in January alleges additional cases and details of detainee mistreatment than were available in the original investigation.

Syria: test ground for anti-Shia jihad?

A terrifying report on Communities Digital News April 25 notes an "Anti-Shia Alliance" convention held the previous week in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, attended by thousands of militant Sunnis who called for "jihad" against Shi'ite Muslims. Several Indonesian government officials were in attendance. During the conference, a Shi'ite journalist, covering the program for Ahlulbait Indonesia, reported being detained, interrogated, and beaten by group organizers and attendees. The international conference issued an "Anti Shia Declaration" which resolved that "The alliance will take any necessary measures to maximize the prevention of the proliferation of heretical teachings by Shia followers." In a speech, bin Zein al-Kaff, leader of Indonesiia's Anti-Heresy Front, said "It's time that we declared jihad against them…We should not tolerate them anymore."

Iraq temporarily closes Abu Ghraib prison

The Iraqi Justice Ministry on April 15 temporarily closed Abu Ghraib prison due to security concerns. Reports indicate that Iraqi authorities are concerned about the growing power of a Sunni-backed insurgency within the Anbar province, in close proximity to the prison grounds. A government official reportedly announced wednesday, however, that the prison's closure was temporary until security issues can be resolved. In the meantime, the government has transferred approximately 2,400 inmates to other high security prisons throughout the nation.

Iraq: oil output surges —with terror attacks

Iraq's oil production surged to its highest level in over 30 years last month. In its monthly oil report published March 14, the International Energy Agency said Iraq's oil output jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day. The country hasn't pumped that much oil since 1979, when Saddam Hussein rose to power. (WSJ, March 14) Paradoxically, the jump comes amid a new outbreak of Iraq's terrorist insurgency. A series of car bomb attacks targeting commercial areas and a restaurant killed at least 19 people March 15 in Baghdad. On March 9, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle at a checkpoint where dozens of cars were lined up in the southern city of Hillah, killing 21 civilians—the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed 42 people that day. Last year, Iraq saw the highest death toll since 2007. The UN said violence killed 8,868 last year in Iraq. (AP, March 15; AP, March 9)

HRW: Iraq women being abused in detention

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Feb. 6 that Iraqi security officials are detaining thousands of women illegally and subjecting them to torture, ill-treatment and threats of sexual abuse. HRW found that officials are coercing confessions and holding trial proceedings far below the international standard. HRW's report includes interviews with imprisoned women, their families, their lawyers and prison medical staff, along with court documents and information from meetings with Iraqi officials. This report came after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to reform Iraq's criminal justice system in January 2013. Maliki said that his reforms would begin with releasing falsely imprisoned women.

Iraq executes 26 on terrorism offenses

The Iraq Ministry of Justice announced on Jan. 21 the execution of 26 Iraqi nationals for terrorism-related offenses. A statement from the Ministry website said the executions took place on two days before. Human rights groups have long opposed the use of capital punishment in Iraq and the overarching legal system employed in the country, where reports of torture and forced confessions have surfaced. According to an annual report by advocacy organization Human Rights Watch, Iraq executed at least 151 people in 2013, up from 129 in 2012, and 68 in 2011. According to the report, up to 48 criminal offenses are subject to the death penalty under Iraqi law. Iraqi officials defend capital punishment on the grounds it is sanctioned by Islam and it is an effective way to curb the insurgency in the country.

Qaedists lose ground in Syria; gain in Iraq

Syrian rebels on Jan. 3 launched an offensive against the Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), attacking the Qaedist strongholds at several locations in the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib. The offensive included forces from the both the nominally secular Free Syrian Army and the new Islamic Front alliance. The Islamic Front apparently launched the offensive after one of its commanders, Hussein al-Suleiman of the Ahrar al-Sham militia, was tortured to death by ISIS militants.  He was reportedly detained after he went to meet with an ISIS delegation in an effort to settle a dispute that arose in the village of Maskaneh in rural Aleppo. A gruesome photograph of Suleiman's disfigured body has circulated widely on social media, spakring outrage against ISIS. (Daily Star, Lebanon, Jan. 4; Daily Star, Jan. 3)

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