March’s edition of my south Iraq SIGACT monitoring and analysis including 3D video map, SIGACT Map, and incident report pivot table. Monitoring in March captured a total of 48 incidents, 7 killed, and 9 injured.
Monitoring parameters were as follows:
> Serious violent incidents
> Tribal fighting
> Protest activity
> Arms trafficking
> Maritime incidents
VIDEO TOUR: Incidents in March 2018
SIGACT MAP: South Iraq March 2018
N.B Click “view larger map” for full functionality.
PIVOT TABLE: South Iraq March 2018
March saw a consolidation of improving security conditions across the south. This was largely an effect of February’s large-scale security operations which continued throughout March and sought to reimpose stability on the south in the leadup to elections in May. Levels of violence (aggregating serious violent incidents, tribal fighting, and terrorism) registered 19 incidents, 12 of which where in Basra Province, 4 in Basra City. There was a steep decline in incidents occurring in previously troubled spots which became the focus of security operations. For example, al-Qibla, in south-west Basra, was the starting point of February’s military deployments and registered only 1 violent incident in March, compared with 4 in January. However, Abu al-Khasib, south of Basra, saw similar levels of violence to January with 2 incidents, one involving tribal fighting, resulting in 2 injured (including a senior police officer) and 1 killed.
The two heatmaps below show where incidents across all three categories of violence occurred in March:
Despite this reduction in violence, the overall incidents captured in March remained steady at 48. This number was boosted by the high rates of small and large-scale protests throughout the month (29, almost 1 per day, up from 22 in February). This increase will continue as elections draw closer and various groups attempt to leverage concessions, benefits and political gains.
The heatmap below shows the distribution of protest activity across the south in March:
Overall, monitoring captured 48 incidents in February: Basra 27; Dhi Qar: 12; Maysan: 1; Muthanna: 8. Of these, tribal fighting accounted for 8; serious violent incidents 8; terrorism 3; and protest activity 29.
Continuing security operations
Last month’s report covered the 20 February deployment of units from the 9th Armoured Division along with special forces and counter-terrorism units in an effort to dampen down escalating levels of criminal violence and tribal fighting across the south. These operations continued in March, with significant operations in Basra as well as new deployments in al-Qurnah and al-Zubair in Basra, and al-Shatrah and Nahiyat al-Fadhliya in Dhi Qar. These operations resulted in hundreds of arrests: 490 in ten days from the beginning of March across Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Wasit, and Maysan, seizing large amounts of drugs and weapons (mortars, machine guns, kalashnikov rifles, handguns); 20 arrests in al-Qurnah during the second week of March. Local sources in Basra and al-Zubair to the west reported a marked increase in stability as a result of military units providing additional security. Serious violent incidents and rates of tribal fighting were both down with monitoring capturing 8 and 8 incidents respectively throughout March. Sources also reported on expanding coordination between the local administration, security organs, and Hashd units in providing local security, particularly in Muthanna.
Rates of protests increased during March, reaching almost 1 per day. Some were localised protests focused on specific grievances such as delays in the payments of wages or allocation of land. Others made specific demands for improvement in services or specific infrastructure projects which targeted the political process around the federal budget and upcoming elections. On 7 March, for example, residents in Jibayish, east of Nasiriyah, gathered to demand action on completing the second phase of a road project connecting the town to Nasiriyah. Other protests were larger in scale and were more directly linked to upcoming elections. Samawah in Muthanna has been the site of multiple protests in recent weeks, often bringing hundreds to the streets in increasingly tense security conditions. On 23 March, hundreds marched form the Corniche to the city centre after a candidate in the Sadrist supported Sa’iroun electoral list was barred from standing because of previous affiliation with the Ba’th Party.