Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraqi forces seize ancient site of Hatra from IS

Ahmad al-Rubaye reports for AFP:

Iraqi forces seized the UNESCO-listed ancient site of Hatra from the Islamic State group Wednesday, the latest archaeological jewel to be wrested from the jihadists' grip.

Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces fighting IS around Iraq's second city Mosul said they had "liberated the ancient city of Hatra... after fierce clashes with the enemy".

The Hashed forces launched their offensive at dawn on Tuesday and swiftly retook villages in nearby desert areas and the Hatra archaeological site.

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For some Mosul men, escape leads straight to the interrogator

Ulf Laessing writes for Reuters:

The Iraqi intelligence officer kept barking the same question at the 46-year-old man who was looking nervously at his hands after having escaped Mosul: "Why do you still have a beard?"

Having walked with his wife and children across frontlines in Iraq's second-largest city, dodging gun fights between Iraqi forces and Islamic State, the man, Mohammed, was hoping for a tent and the chance to rest in the crowded Hammam al-Alil camp for displaced people.

Instead he ended up being interrogated and then detained - a fate shared with an estimated 2,000 others accused of having ties to the Sunni Muslim militants, according to human rights activists.

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Pipeline blown up in Kirkuk: Official

Rudaw reports:

An oil pipeline was blown up in the city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, said a police official, adding that the fire has not been contained as of yet.

Brig. Sarhad Qadir, Kirkuk Suburban Police Chief confirmed to Rudaw that “On Wednesday morning, a pipeline between the villages of Drkai Arab and Sartika in the area of Sargaran had been blown up and later caught fire.”

Qadir added that they tried to put out the fire but have been unsuccessful thus far.

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On the Mosul Front, a Brutal Battle Against ISIS and Time

Michael R. Gordon writes for The New York Times:

Clambering onto a rooftop with a small group of soldiers from Iraq’s counterterrorism service, we scanned the Islamic State’s stronghold in western Mosul as one of its armored car bombs maneuvered toward the front line.

Within minutes, there was an enormous explosion — a shoot of red flame and a funnel of black smoke that reached into the sky.

This time, at least, there were no friendly casualties. The Iraqi troops who were clawing their way forward in the streets below had piled enough debris ahead of them that the suicide driver was stopped short of his target. All over the city, you can see that kind of wreckage and ad hoc barriers, put up by both sides.

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Mosul businesses start reconstruction without waiting for final IS defeat

Mohammed Al-Ramahi writes for Reuters:

Some businessmen in Mosul have begun rebuilding their shattered premises without waiting for financial support from the cash-strapped Iraqi government or for the final defeat of Islamic State in the city.

"If we wait for support, it could take a long time," said Rafeh Ghanem, who owns an automotive spare-parts business in the eastern side of the city.

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Iraqi forces now attacking ISIS militants with drones in Mosul

Jim Michaels writes for USA Today:

Iraq’s military has turned the tables on the Islamic State’s drone tactics by improvising its own unmanned aircraft to drop grenades and other small munitions on the militants in the key battle for Mosul, U.S. officials say.

The development comes as the threat from Islamic State drones has been effectively neutralized with the help of U.S. and coalition forces, which rushed counter-drone technology to the battle for the city.

Earlier this year Mosul became a proving ground for the emerging threat of cheap drones used by terror groups. The militants were using the small unmanned aircraft for both attacks and surveillance.

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Iraqi forces using siege and stealth to evict Islamic State from Mosul

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Iraqi forces are using siege and stealth tactics to drive Islamic State militants out of Mosul's Old City, an Iraqi general said, as his forces sought to minimize casualties among hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the cramped, historic neighborhood.

Explosions from two car bombs could be heard nearby as Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi spoke to Reuters at his command post on Monday, and a Reuters correspondent saw thick smoke rising from the blasts.

"Most houses in the Old City are very old and its streets and alleyways are very narrow," said Assadi, a commander of Iraqi counter-terrorism units in Mosul. "So to avoid civilian losses we are using siege, but that does not mean we will not enter the Old City."

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IS militants posing as police ‘execute’ civilians in Mosul

AFP reports:

At least 15 civilians were killed by Islamic State militants posing as liberating security forces in central Mosul, officials said on Tuesday.

The victims were killed after welcoming the militants, who were wearing police uniforms in an attempt to trick the residents into showing their support for the federal forces, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and a local official said.

The statement did not specify how many were killed in that manner but Hossameddin al-Abbar, a member of Nineveh provincial council, told AFP at least 15 civilians were shot dead.

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As war wrecks ancient Iraq, Erbil works to rebuild citadel

Ulf Laessing writes for Reuters:

High on a rocky outcrop, just 50 miles from the fighting that is wrecking historic sites across Iraq, workers are busy laying out floor tiles, determined to save at least one ancient structure amidst the turmoil.

The team is rebuilding the last remains of the fortified citadel in the Iraqi-Kurdish capital of Erbil, constructed on top of the world's longest continuously-occupied site according to UNESCO, parts of it up to 8,000-years-old.

While Islamic State sends out suicide bombers and snipers in Mosul to the east, the authorities in Erbil are already looking ahead to the day when they can pull in more visitors.

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Iraqi troops capture largest neighborhood in western Mosul

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

Iraqi troops on Tuesday drove out Islamic State militants from the largest neighborhood in the western half of the city of Mosul, a senior military commander said, a major development in the months-long fight to recapture the country’s second-largest city.

On Tuesday, special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi told The Associated Press that the sprawling al-Tanek neighborhood was now “fully liberated and under full control” of the security forces. Al-Saadi did not provide more details.

To the east of al-Tanek, Iraqi forces have been facing tough resistance from IS in Mosul’s Old City, an area that stretches along the Tigris River, which divides Mosul into its eastern and western half. The Old City’s narrow alleys and densely populated areas have made it hard for troops to move forward.

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