BAGHDAD:

The Iraqi Army continues to clamp down on ISIS terror cells inside Baghdad and it’s peripheries, with the Ministry of Defense announcing on Friday (Dec 12th) that the Iraqi Army (in cooperation with Ministry of Interior intelligence units) have arrested 2 ISIS terrorists. The first terrorist was arrested in al-Duwanim, western Baghdad, and was suspected of rigging car bombs. The second ISIS terrorist was arrested in al-Tarmiya, north of the capital, and was suspected of being part of a youth recruitment cell.

In a press conference, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Shammari (Commander of Baghdad Operations Command) hailed a successful, wide-scale operation to protect Shia pilgrims on their way to and from Karbala for the annual Arba’een pilgrimage to commemorate Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. He revealed that multiple operations resulted in the killing of 7 ISIS militants and the arrest of 24 others, as well as the freeing of 4 kidnapped individuals and the seizing of huge caches of medium and heavy weaponry. These operations also resulted in the dismantling or detonation of 4 car bombs, 22 IEDs, 4 suicide vests and 3 booby-trapped houses.

ANBAR:

On Thursday (Dec 11th), a huge force comprised of police, army and tribal forces tried to penetrate the outer layer of ISIS defenses around the township of Hit but were unsuccessful after hours of fierce clashes. 11 ISF troops (including a special forces regiment commander, Brigadier Haitham al-Juburi) reportedly perished in the fighting, while 53 ISIS militants were reportedly killed. While the assault was blocked, ISF still managed to tighten their grip on the town’s peripheries. Since then, the situation has been dormant, with a hardly any changes regarding ISF penetrating into the town.

After speaking with high-ranking government officials in Baghdad (including Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri), Anbar provincial chairman Sabah al-Karhout announced that Baghdad will send military reinforcements to security forces in the province, as well as intensifying both Iraqi and coalition airstrikes. These complaints aren’t new and aren’t specific to Anbar, with ammunition shortages and lack of air support hampering ISF progress on multiple battlefronts. On Monday (Dec 14th), Iraqi news outlets reported that massive reinforcements had reached the Ain al-Asad Air Base near al-Baghdadi town and the headquarters of Anbar Operations Command in Ramadi.

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On Friday, ISIS militants attacked the town of Wafa’ (32km west of Ramadi), with local police forces initially putting up a good fight but subsequently running out of ammunition, leaving them with no more options but to retreat. Police and tribal forces withdrew to the 18th police brigade headquarters on the border of the town. Violent clashes have raged across the city of Ramadi for a few weeks now, with no end in sight. 19 police officers were killed during the attack on Wafa’. ISIS has deployed multiple suicide bombers in Humvee vehicles which were seized from security forces, with one such attack killing 3 ISF personnel and injuring 16 others. ISIS militants are trying to break into the city’s southern districts, with ISF successfully repelling these attacks but morale and ammunition being heavily depleted. Intense clashes are taking place in the southwestern district of Houz, with ISIS occupying multiple areas in the district. Anbar Police commander Gen. Kadhim al-Fahdawi announced that around 100 ISIS militants have been killed during clashes in the central districts of Ramadi.

Haditha was put under curfew on Saturday, after ISIS militants began to clash with the Iraqi Army and police units stationed around the city, backed by local tribesmen. Security forces were able to detonate a car bomb that tried to enter Haditha at it’s southern entrance, killing the driver in the process.

On Sunday (Dec 14th), the Ministry of Defense announced that units from the Iraqi Army’s 8th Division killed 19 ISIS militants in the Albu Hussein and Yatama areas of Amiriyat al-Fallujah. ISIS militants tried to enter the district from the south but ISF and tribal forces successfully repelled the attack. Units from the 1st Division killed 3 militants and destroyed an armed vehicle in a nearby area. Units from the Jazira and Badiya (Island and Desert) Operations Command in the town of Baghdadi were able to detonate a car bomb under control after it was spotted parked near a fuel station. ISF also opened fire upon an unresponsive vehicle that was approaching their checkpoint in Haqlaniyah at a fast speed, detonating the car bomb. ISIS militants are currently assaulting Baghdadi from it’s northwest, west and east. They have entered several parts of the town and are heavily shelling residential areas, causing mass displacement. On Monday afternoon, news emerged that ISF and tribal forces had broken the siege on the town of Baghdadi and were quickly regaining lost areas.

SALAH AD-DIN

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On Saturday, an armoured brigade was sent to Baiji to prop up security in the district and tighten the siege on Tikrit (to the south) as preparations are about to begin for a wide-scale operation to liberate the city. Reports also emerged that a unit of Shia volunteers in Baiji were attacked by ISIS militants but were able to repel the assault, killing ISIS commander Hajim al-Qaisi and 4 other militants. Fighting has renewed in some parts of the district, including al-‘Asri (eastern Baiji) and the village of Albu Juwari (east of the oil refinery complex). During the weekend, clashes took place in the village of Albu Tu’ma, with at least half a dozen ISIS militants killed, including a prolific sniper. On Friday, reports emerged of ISIS executing 8 members of the Jesat tribe in eastern Baiji, with the reasons for their executions not made available. An IED-clearing operation was launched in the area near al-Fattah Mosque (central Baiji), which resulted in the dismantling of 16 IEDs and 5 booby-trapped houses. On Monday, the Ministry of Defense announced that units from the 52nd Brigade killed up to 40 ISIS militants and destroyed 7 vehicles in clashes in northern Baiji on Sunday.

On Thursday, ISIS overran a Badr Brigades position in the town of Mukayshifah (20km north of Samarra), killing around 11 fighters. The Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) responded with airstrikes against a huge house in the town, reportedly killing up to 30 ISIS militants, who were inside the house (according to the Ministry of Defense). Nearby, units within Samarra Operations Command destroyed 3 ISIS vehicles that were transporting weapons, killing 8 militants inside).

On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense announced that Iraqi security forces and Shia paramilitaries recaptured the areas which had fallen to ISIS in Mu’tassim (south of Samarra). ISIS in the area were dealt a sizeable blow with death tolls ranging between 25-35 dead militants. However, reports continued to emerge of clashes taking place in the district. On Saturday, Federal Police units (backed by Shia paramilitary groups) announced the killing of 33 ISIS militants during heavy clashes in Mu’tassim, as clearing operations were launched to completely secure the area. 37 IEDs were also reportedly dismantled by police engineering units, with army engineers dismantling a further 28 IEDs. Armoured units from the 11th Division are now patrolling around Mu’tassim. Late Friday night, ISIS militants used a shoulder-fired weapon to shoot down a multipurpose EC635 helicopter near Mu’tassim, killing both pilots.

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ISIS gaining a foothold in Mukayshifah and Mu’tassim could have proved to be disastrous due to their close proximity to the holy city of Samarra, which contains the al-Askari shrine that holds immense significance to Shia Muslims. It was an attack on this very shrine that triggered the sectarian civil war period in 2006-2007. In today’s Iraq, such an attack would very likely dissolve any remaining hopes of a united country.

After reinforcements reached the town, a wide-scale operation has started to completely cleanse Balad and it’s peripheries from ISIS elements. Balad and her neighbouring towns of Dhulu’iya and Dujail have experienced daily violence since the June 10 ISIS offensive. Huge numbers of Shia paramilitaries are currently deployed in the area. Even though the town has been under heavy pressure from nearby militants, it hasn’t stopped the Shia villagers from taking in approximately 600 Sunni families who were displaced due to ISIS militants taking over their areas. On Monday, Army Aviation airstrikes hit ISIS positions in Dhulu’iya, reportedly killing 14 militants.

KARBALA:

On Thursday night, 13 Katyusha rockets hit multiple areas in Karbala province. According to Nusaif Jasim al-Khutabi, the rockets were apparently launched from the Nukhayb district of southern Anbar. The platforms used to launch the rockets were apparently seized by security forces. According to Maj. Gen. Qais Muhammad (commander of the Mid-Euphrates Operations Command), one person died and 5 others were wounded during the shelling.

You can follow Haidar Sumeri on Twitter @SumerRising

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