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

Irate Iraqis Recall Horrors of IS Prisons

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

As he talks, Ahmed picks through debris in Hamam Alil, Iraq, from what once was a neighbor's home, now destroyed by war. In corners of this former house, closet-like cells provide evidence the property and others like it were used as prisons, with former inmates saying as many as seven people were crammed into each cell.

“On their very first day here, Daesh brought people here,” he continues, using the Arabic expression for IS, an insult to the group. “They confiscated the house.”

Iraqi soldiers were the first to be slaughtered, he adds, followed by others, like police or government workers, or anyone suspected of disagreeing with the militants. At one point, he says, he visited nearby fields - the killing place of choice - and saw hundreds of corpses.

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The road to Mosul

Maya Gebeily writes for AFP:

There are only about 80 kilometres (50 miles) between Arbil, the developing capital of the Iraqi Kurdish region, and Mosul, the last remaining Iraqi city held by the Islamic State group. But as I learned during two weeks covering the Mosul offensive, sometimes it only takes a few dozen kilometers to go from one universe to another, passing surreal worlds along the way.

AFP photographers, video-journalists, drivers and I crossed those 80 kilometres almost every day, navigating poorly-paved roads, checkpoints, and towns scarred by both the jihadists’ two-year reign and the brutal battles it took to reach their last bastion in Mosul.

Our coverage was from that front line inside the city. But the journey itself -- the descent from bustling Arbil into war-battered Mosul -- was a story in its own right.

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Freed from Mosul, Iraqi brothers carry scars of Islamic State rule

Patrick Markey writes for Reuters:

Freed from Islamic State rule in Mosul by Iraqi forces who are fighting to recapture the city, the Hassan family bear more scars than most from two years under the jihadists' self-declared caliphate.

The family tragedy parallels Mosul's own recent history, from its storming by Islamic State in 2014, and the imposition of the group's ultra-hardline rule in its de facto capital, to the Iraqi military campaign to retake it which has led to ferocious fighting in eastern districts.

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A look inside the walls of a prison in Iraq, and into the tortured minds of female ISIS militants held there

Hollie McKay writes for Fox News:

Behind the graffiti-speckled cement walls of the Women and Children's Prison here in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, an array of female ISIS jihadists languish along with scores of prostitutes, murderers and other criminals.

“Some have been tried, some are still waiting for their sentences," the facility's female manager, Diman Bayeez, tells in her office. "They are here for various offenses … Because of ISIS, we have more and more terrorists."

The facility is designed to hold as many as 150 inmates, but it has more than double that – about 325 women and children. Of those, only a fraction are accused of terrorism.

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Voices of Iraq: Minorities on the edge of extinction

Moni Basu writes for CNN:

In the offices of a Kurdish government ministry created to promote ethnic and religious harmony, a Jewish man -- one of the last in Iraq -- reflects on his nation's past of persecution and a future darkened by ISIS.

"Iraq," says Sherzhad Memsani, "is a graveyard for ethnic and religious minorities. We never expected another Holocaust would happen. But it did."

ISIS killed and tortured Iraqis who did not subscribe to their extreme brand of Islam. Thousands of others fled their homes to escape the militant group's brutality. Now, some of Iraq's religious and ethnic minority communities teeter on extinction.

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In secret phone calls, Mosul residents tell of being afraid to leave their homes

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

As night falls in Mosul, Ahmed is glad to have made it through another day. His house in the Fasalea neighbourhood is near the front line that winds through the eastern districts of the city, putting him at risk of becoming yet another civilian to fall victim to the battle.

The fighting in eastern Mosul has been fierce since Iraqi special forces breached the city’s perimeter on November 1. As the military slowly grinds down ISIL’s resistance, the population is caught up in the middle of the deadly conflict.

"Both Daesh and the military are hitting civilians. We are surrounded by Daesh, but the military doesn’t know in which houses the enemy is hiding," says Ahmed over the phone.

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Inside Northern Iraq’s top Trump-themed restaurant

Peter W. Stevenson writes for The Washington Post:

Donald Trump's eating habits are well-documented. The president-elect is known to enjoy his steaks well-done, and to have a weakness for fast food fare — with a particular taste for Big Macs and suspiciously-vaguely-named McDonald's "Filet-O-Fish" sandwich.

But he probably hasn't tried the food at a new restaurant bearing his name and likeness.

That's because the new seafood joint, Trump Fish, sits deep in the heart of Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

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Islamic State made weapons in Mosul up to military standards: report

Reuters reports:

Islamic State militants have been producing weapons on a scale and sophistication which matches national military forces and have standardized production across their self-styled caliphate, an arms monitoring group said on Wednesday.

Conflict Armament Research (CAR) said the jihadist group had a "robust supply chain" of raw materials from Turkey, and the technical precision of its work meant that it could not be described as "improvised" weapons production.

"Although production facilities employ a range of non-standard materials and chemical explosive precursors, the degree of organization, quality control, and inventory management indicates a complex, centrally controlled industrial production system," it said in a report following visits last month to six facilities once operated by Islamic State in eastern Mosul.

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Iraqi Shi’ite forces aim to clear border strip with Syria

Ahmed Rasheed and Saif Hameed write for Reuters:

Iraqi Shi'ite forces fighting Islamic State west of Mosul aim to clear a large strip of land on the border with Syria to prevent the militants melting into the remote desert region and using it as a base for counter attacks, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Popular Mobilisation fighters - mainly Shi'ite, Iranian-backed paramilitary groups who form part of a wider Iraqi force waging the eight-week Mosul campaign - have deployed west of the city to cut the route to Islamic State-held territory in Syria.

They have taken an air base south of the town of Tal Afar, about 60 km (40 miles) west of Mosul, and linked up with Kurdish peshmerga fighters to seal off the town's western flank.

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Islamic State turned Mosul into city of terror and darkness

Lori Hinnant writes for AP:

Before the militants’ takeover, Iraq’s second-largest city was arguably the most multicultural place in the country, with a Sunni Muslim Arab majority but also thriving communities of Kurds, Shiites, Christians and Yazidis. Together, they had created Mosul’s distinct identity, with its own cuisine, intellectual life and economy.

But the Islamic State group turned Mosul into a place of literal and spiritual darkness.

It began with promises of order and of a religious utopia that appealed to some. But over time, the militants turned crueler, the economy crumbled under the weight of war and shortages set in. Those who resisted watched neighbors who joined IS turn prosperous and vindictive. Parents feared for the brainwashing of their children. By the end, as Iraqi troops besieged Mosul, the militants hanged suspected spies from lampposts, and residents were cut off from the world.

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