Tikrit still not fully under control

Despite suggestions that Tikrit is now fully under the control of pro-government forces, reports of clashes throughout the periphery of the city have continued to support previous assessments by the SRM intelligence team, that ISIS forces were unlikely to completely retreat from the area. Whether those positions have been reinforced in order to allow for smaller scale harassing actions, or instead to facilitate a later attempt to re-enter the city, remain to be seen. Amidst continued reports within the international media and human rights organisations of atrocities and looting by Shi’ite paramilitary groups, many have now reportedly withdrawn from the Tikrit area. In addition, and almost certainly in an effort to portray some semblance of the Rule of Law, several Shi’ite PMU members have also been arrested for looting. However, several ostensibly pro-Sunni news organisations have also reported that a significant number of the incidents being attributed to these Shi’ite paramilitary groups, were likely in fact the result of intra-Sunni violence. While there can be little doubt that the paramilitary forces have been engaged in extensive violent activity throughout the country, there is a danger that a lack of international coverage given to this type of reporting may polarise what will likely be the critical debate after the defeat of the terrorist threat. Meanwhile in advance of operations further north, a sizeable force of pro-government troops has now reportedly gathered in the city of Samarra. Alongside the remaining forces in Baiji this confirms earlier analysis by the SRM intelligence team that while the city was undoubtedly of immense religious and therefore propaganda value to both sides, Samarra also likely represented the most geographically advanced staging point for any government assault towards Mosul. A number of exchanges were also reported within Yusufiya, Baghdad Province, and around the area of al-Dujail where a reportedly large terrorist force was engaged by both air and ground based attacks from pro-government forces. Supported by coalition aircraft a large pro-government offensive was also reported in the area of Albu Jasim, north west of Karmah. ISF have also continued their operations throughout Diyala Province, however, these appear to have failed to prevent the mobility of terrorist cells operating there. Separate exchanges were also reported west of Hit, in central Habaniya, and in Amiriyat al-Fallujah. Reports of clashes were also recorded in the vicinity of Taji.

The overall volume of IED attacks returned to their previously heightened levels, with incidents being reported a significant territorial expanse and against multiple different target types. Roadside IED and suicide vest attacks were reported in the areas of Balad Ruz, Diyala Province; Yusufiya and Lutifiyah, Southern Baghdad Province; Mahmoudiya District; Hashimiya, west of Baqubah; and south of Baqubah in al-Dulaim. Several different IED strikes were also reported in West Taji. Meanwhile in the capital, Baghdad, an IED strike near offices in North West Mansour killed two individuals and wounded seven others, while separate strikes in Hayy al-Sihah, Arab Jabour, and at the al-Rashid Market, East Rashid, killed five individuals and wounded 14 others. In West Rashid, an IED strike at a market place in Sayyidiyah killed two individuals and wounded eight, while a separate strike at a livestock market killed two and wounded five others. In Adhamiya, an IED strike at a local park, and a UVIED attack on a member of the Sunni Endowment, left two dead and six others wounded. Meanwhile a UVIED strike in Hayy al-Dawoudi, Mansour, appeared to have detonated prematurely leaving no casualties. A number of other fully constructed IED devices were reportedly discovered by ISF in eastern Karmah, however, that report has not yet been confirmed.

Aerial strikes have continued to harass and destroy terrorist positions throughout the country, with deployments reported in Tall al-Ward, Sinjar, al-Fadhiliya, Khorisbad, al-Qayara, and Jabal Hamrin near Kirkuk. Multiple operations were also reported in support of Kurdish forces elsewhere throughout the provinces of Nineveh and Kirkuk. There were also a number of reports of strikes in the vicinity of Baiji, underlining the continued threat from anti-government tribal forces in that area. While the central ISIS force may have been successfully ejected, no effective move has yet been pioneered by the current administration to solve deeply rooted tribal antagonisms in that area. Further strikes were also reported in and to the west of Mosul, as well as in Ramadi, Fallujah, and across much of the western aspect of Anbar Province. There were also reported of strike in both al-Shirqat and towards the north west of Dujail, Salahhudin Province.