Wednesday, April 30, 2014

30 April 2014

It is now 5:00 p.m. local time in Ramadi and balloting is still underway. Voting has been moderate according to political observers in Anbar. There have been numerous irregularities as well as security violations.

Two houses were blown up today: one was the home of Khalid Al-Alwani, a member of the Iraqi parliament; the second was the home of Hameed Hashem, a member of the Anbar Governorate Council in Fallujah.

Elsewhere, mortar rounds have struck a number of polling centers in Anbar, the most significant being the polling station in central Ramadi. Two explosive devices were detonated in Al-Kubaisa township in western Anbar, and a number of mortar rounds were targeted at a number of polling stations in Hit, also in western Anbar.
Voter participation has been moderate throughout Anbar. Among the many irregularities was the absence of polling centers in areas that had been designated as additional polling venues to replace the ones within the cities.

Voter turnout in Hit was very low (about 5%). The turnout in the rural areas around Ramadi was relatively high, with the exception of the city's southern and southwestern sectors where the turnout was low. The highest turnouts in Anbar were reported in Ana and Al-Qa'im townships. Objections are still being raised by representatives of the competing blocs, most prominent of which were those involving the intervention by the army that blatantly called on voters to cast their ballot in favor of particular entities.

Voting is still underway, but there is some voter disapproval of the curfews that have prevented them from getting to the polling centers that are within the cities while they are now living outside them, requiring voters to travel long distances that they cannot cover on foot. The army has not undertaken to transport them and there are still a number of western regions whose residents are facing difficulties in reaching their designated polling centers, especially those in Ramadi.

Among other problems, a technical breakdown of the electronic polling equipment, and the late arrival of some centers' personnel, in addition to the absence of female supervisors which delayed women from casting their ballots, especially in the governorate's western regions.

There has been no balloting in Al-Garma, Fallujah, and Al-Saqlawiya in eastern Anbar, because of the ongoing security operations.

Military operations are still ongoing in many of the districts of these population centers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

29 April 2014

The parliamentary elections are due to take place tomorrow (Wednesday), but late last night a car bomb was detonated at a polling station in the center of Haditha in western Anbar, injuring a number of military and police personnel assigned to guarding the station.

This morning a number of mortar rounds struck a number of polling stations in Ramadi, indicating the difficulties being faced in conducting the balloting. The election commission has announced that it has completed all the preparations for the general balloting; the commission has set up more than 40 polling stations to be used by those displaced from their homes in Ramadi and Fallujah and who are now taking refuge in the western Anbar townships.

In Fallujah, there is no possibility of conducting any balloting and there are no polling stations in the city that has continued through today to be plagued by indiscriminate shelling; 2 women have been declared killed and 7 others were wounded as a result of the shelling of a number of the city's residential districts.

Clashes and shelling are also ongoing in Al-Garma's residential districts, including the areas around the Al-Ru'oud Bridge that has been the scene of major clashes between army forces and the 'Tribal Revolutionaries'.

Today, everybody is awaiting tomorrow's balloting that just might alter the political map of Iraq and that of Anbar in particular.

Monday, April 28, 2014

28 April 2014

This morning, more than 50 polling stations were opened in Anbar Governorate to allow 91,082 members of the Internal Security and those of the police and the army, as well as hospital and prison personnel to cast their votes. The polling went smoothly in spite of the curfew in most of Anbar's regions. The first few hours of voting drew large numbers of voters but by this afternoon the numbers went down, particularly in places where some military operations are still underway.

In Habbaniya, a number of mortar shells targeted a polling station but there were no casualties and only slight damages to the station. An army patrol was also the target of an explosive device which killed 3 people and injured 4 others.
There have been some technical problems when some of the electronic polling machines broke down, but replacements were on hand. The representatives of the candidates' blocs registered some procedural violations which led to delays in allowing the representatives into the stations which was supposed to take place at 7:00 a.m. but the delay lasted until 9:30.

Today has been set aside in the polls for members of the security, police, and army personnel to cast their votes. Some of the violations observed by the bloc representatives and civil observers included the fact that some high-ranking army officers had ordered some of their personnel and pressured them in one way or another to vote for the bloc headed by the Defense Minister, Sa'adoun Al-Dulaimi, and which is expected to take first place in the balloting as a result of the inappropriate interference.
The polls are due to close at 6:00 p.m. to enable the Election Commission to announce some results and percentages in the voting.

So far, none of the factions who have been fighting against the government forces have not nominated or backed anybody officially. The armed groups of the 'Tribal Revolutionaries' have apparently chosen to remain quiet, as their statements have always indicated that they do not expect much from the political process, but rely rather on the military option in attaining the realization of their demands.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

27 April 2014

There has been an escalation of the security situation in Ramadi with an increase in violence in the city's southern districts.
A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at the Anbar Emergency Regiment, killing five people and injuring seven others.

A gunmen wearing a suicide vest and driving an explosives-loaded car blew himself up along with his car on the Al-Ghadhaf Bridge connecting the governorates of Anbar and Karbala between Al-Nukhaib township and Ramadi in the southwest of Ramadi.
Polling stations are still being targeted, particularly those set up in schools. In Ramadi, the detonation of a car bomb targeted one such polling station, but nobody was hurt although the building suffered extensive damage.

In Fallujah today, 16 people were wounded by the indiscriminate shelling that began Saturday night and continued through this afternoon. The casualties include three killed and 13 wounded, in the shelling of several of the city's residential districts.

There has been heavy shelling targeted at Al-Garma and at areas around Al-Ru'oud south of Al-Garma.

Election campaign publicity is still relatively low-level in Anbar's western towns because of the threats by gunmen against the various candidates if they continue campaigning. There is concern that election rigging will be used, given the instability caused by the security situation.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

26 April 2014

At dawn this morning gunmen blew up a school being used as a polling station in the Al-Karabla in Al-Qa'im township in western Anbar on the border with Syria. The school was completely demolished but there were no casualties.

In Ramadi, there are some relatively low-level clashes still going on; the various hot-zone districts are relatively calm, although some gunfire could be heard during the night.

In Fallujah, a large number of families - and some from Ramadi - have migrated towards Kurdistan, firstly as a result of the flooding of the city's southern sector, and also as a result of the continuing indiscriminate shelling that has today caused the death of one resident and injured 6 others.

A pedestrian crossing point has been opened after the flooding of vast areas of Fallujah.

Al-Garma is completely closed off by the army with nobody able to get into or out of the town which has been the target of intensive shelling during the past three days.

Also today, the Anbar Governorate Council has disbursed some of the funds allocated as compensation to the city of Ramadi. The disbursement amounts to 10 million Dinars (about $8400) to each residential home. The amount is insufficient, but the local government has said that it represents the first partial payment of the compensation for those whose homes have been destroyed.

Sheikh Ali Hatem, who had led the Military Council of Anbar Tribal Revolutionaries, left the country yesterday (Friday) by way of the Treybeel crossing into Jordan on his way to Amman. This has raised questions: he is wanted by the government but left the Governorate and the country using his Iraqi passport through the official border crossing at Treybeel. Some are saying that negotiations are about to take place in Amman, and that he secured permission by the central government to leave. Others are saying that he was given a large sum of money that secured his exit to Amman.

Regarding the upcoming elections, there are differences of opinion among the Anbar residents about whether to take part or not. Obviously, there are numerous hindrances, particularly in Ramadi and Fallujah that can only undertake a limited partial balloting.

Friday, April 25, 2014

25 April 2014

The most important development in Anbar is that the flood waters have now swept into Al-Nu'aimiya and the southern and southeastern sectors of Fallujah. As a result, hundreds of families have had to abandon their homes there. The flooding - with the continued closure of the Fallujah barrage by the groups of gunmen - has now affected huge tracts of cultivated land in the southern and southeastern sectors of Fallujah. The crops in the fields there have been totally destroyed.
Also in Fallujah, two people were killed and 3 were injured in the ongoing indiscriminate shelling of a number of the city's districts.

In Ramadi, occasional clashes have been reported in the northeastern districts of the city.

With regard to the election situation, a second polling station within a school inside the city was attacked yesterday with gunmen throwing a hand grenade into the building; there were no casualties but the building was damaged. This is the second attack on a polling station after the attack in Hit township. Gunmen have been distributing leaflets in a number of Anbar's population centers, calling on citizens not to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections, and threatening those who do with dire consequences.

Contrary to social media reports, the Fallujah barrage has not been shelled by Iraqi forces; some equipment being used by the gunmen have been shelled, but these are about half a kilometer from the barrage. Experts are saying that the army would never hit the barrage itself because its damage or destruction would have a negative effect.

Regarding Al-Garma, northeast of Fallujah, we have witnessed military aircraft dropping exploding drum-shaped objects onto residential houses and the town's public places, spreading fear among the residents.
This is, in fact the first time that this type of weapon has been used in Anbar; it is a cylinder-shaped container about 30 cm in diameter and between 1 and 1.5 meters long, packed with explosives and is dropped from high-flying aircraft.
The leader of the groups controlling Al-Garma is Sheikh Rafa'a Abbas Al-Jumaili, head of the Jumailat tribe in Iraq. There is, of course a large number of gunmen involved, of various convictions and affiliations, but the consensus indicates that those fighting the army are the tribesmen.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

24 April 2014

In the early hours of this morning, gunmen blew up a polling station - which is in fact a primary school - in the Al-Mhammadi township in Hit, killing 3 young men who were guarding the building. The attack took place a few days before the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30th. Armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda have distributed leaflets in Hit, Kubaisa, Al-Mhammadi, and parts of Al-Rutba in western Anbar; the leaflets are warning residents against taking part in the elections.
The Al-Nukhaib township police chief was severely injured and lost an arm and a leg in the detonation of an explosive device near a police patrol. Another police officer was injured and 3 personnel were killed.

In Ramadi today, an attack by groups of gunmen in Al-Hamidhiya and adjacent districts was repelled, and intermittent clashes are still going on at this time.

In Fallujah, a medical source announced today that 6 residents were killed, among them a woman, and 11 others were injured by the indiscriminate shelling of the city's residential districts. The total casualty figures in Fallujah since the crisis erupted at the end of last year now stand at least 259 killed and at least 1,147 injured.

Large areas between Fallujah and Abu Ghraib are now under water to unprecedented levels, with hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of cultivated land being flooded. The situation cannot be resolved because gunmen are still controlling the Fallujah barrage, whose sluice gates they have once again closed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

23 April 2014

Today gunmen launched an attack on the town of Al-Hamidhiya, northeast of Ramadi. Sixteen gunmen were killed and 4 local police personnel were injured in the attack.
Meanwhile limited intermittent clashes have been going on in a number of Ramadi's outer districts. The central and northeastern districts have been relatively quiet.

In Fallujah, today is the third day of the total blockade around the city after the closure of the Maftoul exit/entry point.
The city is still experiencing indiscriminate shelling of many of its districts. Three residents have been killed and 7 have been injured by the shelling.

Regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Anbar Election Commission has moved a polling station from central Ramadi to the Ayn Al-Asad base in Al-Baghdadi township in western Anbar. Activity is continuing with the aim of ensuring success in the voting. The Anbar Governorate Council and some political observers are concerned about the possibility of vote-rigging at the transferred polling station which is now located at an army base where some parties may try to falsify the balloting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

22 April 2014

In Ramadi, the Iraqi security forces have entered the Al-Hawz district, one of the districts that have been the scene of extensive security operations during the past three days; one of its police stations has been reopened after the district was totally secured on all sides. There have also been scattered clashes in a number of other Ramadi districts, particularly in the city's southern sector.

In Al-Khalidiya, there was an attempt on the life of its police chief, Major Mohammed Mar'ee, via the detonation of 3 explosive devices on the main road through the township; he and three others were injured in the attack.

Within Fallujah, the city is closed off on all sides, now that the security forces have closed the Maftoul crossing; this was the only way into and out of the city.
There has also been indiscriminate shelling of a number of the city's residential districts; first reports indicate that 6 residents have been killed and 7 others injured by the shelling.
Also today, a primary school was blown up by gunmen in the Al-Nu'aimiya district; no reason has been determined, but there was no loss of life in the incident.

In Al-Garma, to the northeast of Fallujah, gunmen today attacked an army unit near the April 28th Bridge that spans the Tigris branch; heavy fighting broke out in the aftermath of the attack. The Al-Garma township is still closed off on all sides, following yesterday's violent clashes and the aerial and artillery targeting of the town. The fighting subsided at around dawn today, leaving the area relatively calm.

In Ramadi, a candidate of the Iraqi Union Coalition in the upcoming parliamentary election, Sa'eed Hamoud Darweesh, was injured when 3 explosive devices were detonated near his home; 3 civilians were injured in the attack. This is the second attempt to assassinate a candidate, and this has raised the fear among other candidates with regard to their campaigning.

Campaigning is virtually non-existent in both Ramadi and Fallujah, while there is some low-key campaigning in the governorate's relatively calm western regions, although there were some skirmishes in Hit yesterday, where a mortar round struck a building close to the Local Council. Nobody was injured but the building sustained some light damage.