April’s edition of my south Iraq SIGACT monitoring and analysis. Monitoring in April captured a total of 55 incidents, 15 killed, and 17 injured.
Monitoring parameters were as follows:
> Serious violent incidents
> Tribal fighting
> Protest activity
> Arms trafficking
> Maritime incidents
SIGACT MAP: South Iraq April 2018 (Click “View larger map” for full functionality)
PIVOT TABLE: South Iraq April 2018
In April there were indications that improving security conditions across the south that followed the launch of a major security operation in February were beginning to unravel with a return to pre-February levels of violence. Violent incidents (aggregating serious violent incidents, tribal fighting, terrorism and kidnapping) registered 31 incidents, 20 of which occurred in Basra province, 15 in Basra city. These incidents resulted in 15 killed and 17 injured. This was up from much lower figures for March (19 total violent incidents; 7 killed; 9 injured). Tribal fighting incidents have reappeared during April with 11 total incidents recorded resulting in 4 killed and 13 injured (up from 8 total incidents in March which resulted in 6 killed and 6 injured). High levels of protest activity continued in the run-up to May’s elections with 24 total incidents recorded (Basra, 13; Dhi Qar, 8; and Muthanna, 3).
Violent incidents and tribal fighting
There has been a significant spike in violent incidents across the south and particularly in Basra, indicating that the security gains that followed the deployment of military units, special forces, and police in February have been shot-lived and failed to address the underlying structural divers of violence. On 4 April, at the Hayy al-Risala junction in al-‘Amarah, a group of armed men attempted to assassinate a judge, seriously wounding him in the leg and stomach. On 14 April Basra City was hit by 3 separate IED attacks in Hayy al-Muhandiseen, al-Muwafaqiya, and al-Jazzera al-Thaltha. These were small devices (150-200 grams) and resulted in minor injuries and material damage. On 30 April there was an IED attack on a coffee shop in northern Basra City, such locations have previously been frequent targets of attacks.
Tribal fighting incidents also re-emerged in April. On 11 April tribal fighting in Hayy al-Salam south-west of al-‘Amarah resulted in 1 killed and 9 injured. On the same day, a number of arrests were made following an outbreak of violence between the al-Mushahir and al-‘Aseed tribes around Gharraf north of Nasiriyah. There was a total of 5 incidents in Dhi Qar province. A number of these involved tribal disputes, daga (revenge killings) such as an incident in Hayy al-Rafedain in Nasiriyah on 25 April; and the al-Jinn tribe has been involved in violence around al-Ruwaimi after they refused to accept ‘atwa (a cessation of hostilities in order that blood money can be paid to settle a dispute). There were a further 5 tribal fighting incidents in Basra province: in al-Qurnah; al-Ghumayyij, where 33 arrests were made and weapons seized following outbreak of violence; Safwan; and Basra city itself.
Protest activity remained high with 24 protests across the south, particularly in Basra, Nasiriyah, al-Seeba (near Abadan in the south of the province), Samawah, and Rumaytha in Muthanna province. The majority of these protests were small-scale and sector specific (contract workers, local government administration, health sector etc). Protesters were often demanding job opportunities in these sectors and in the energy sector. These features suggest a lack of coordination and connection between the protests and political actors or the trade union movement. They do, however, give an indication of the degree of dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and services in the south.
One of the biggest protests in the month saw thousands in a tribal gathering from Shatt al-‘Arab district demonstrate against the exclusion of Sheikh Muzahim al-Tamimi from upcoming elections (for previous affiliation with the Ba’th party). The al-Tamimi tribe is one of the biggest tribes in Iraq. The scale of this demonstration, compared with the more common pattern of small-scale protests, shows that tribal solidarity can be a key factor for social mobilisation and again reinforces the notion that an underlying social disconnectedness and fragmentation in Iraqi society tends to preclude mobilisation on other bases.