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

Juvenile suicide bomber foiled in Kirkuk

Balint Szlanko and Qassim Abdul-Zahra report for AP:

A juvenile would-be suicide bomber was apprehended in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk before he was able to detonate his explosive belt, Iraqi police said Monday.

Local television footage aired on Kurdistan 24 TV shows a group of police officers holding the young boy while two men are seen cutting off a belt of explosives. After they remove the belt, the boy is seen being rushed into a police truck and driven away.

Also Monday, a British contractor working for an American demining firm was killed while defusing an explosive device in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi. The firm, Janus Global Operations, announced the death Monday without providing further details. The British Embassy in Baghdad and the Anbar Provincial Council also confirmed the incident.

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Battle for Mosul exposes fractures that threaten to haunt post-ISIL Iraq

Youssef Hamza writes for The National:

The run-up to the battle for Mosul, the northern Iraqi city held by ISIL since June 2014, is slow but steady. Government troops are engaged in fierce battles with the militants south of the city while US engineers are busy upgrading an airbase recaptured from the extremist group last month to serve as the main military hub for the operations.

But the months leading up to the final push for Iraq’s second largest city have laid bare some of the fractures that will haunt post-ISIL Iraq. From the growing influence of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias sanctioned by the government to the simmering tensions between Baghdad and authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region.

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New commander will increase tempo of U.S. operations in conclusive stage of ISIS fight

Missy Ryan writes for The Washington Post:

The United States will increase the tempo of operations in support of ground forces in Iraq and Syria as they prepare to tackle the Islamic State’s twin capital cities, according to the new commander of the U.S. military operations against the militant group.

Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who takes command on Sunday of U.S. and allied operations against the Islamic State, said U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria were preparing to move on the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa for what he said would be the conclusive urban battles.

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Iraq hangs 36 men convicted over Speicher massacre

AFP reports:

Iraq has hanged 36 men convicted over the massacre of hundreds of military recruits by Sunni jihadis and allied militants in 2014.

The men had been found guilty of involvement in the Speicher massacre, named after a base near Tikrit where up to 1,700 recruits were kidnapped before being killed. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Abdelhassan Dawood, a spokesman for the governor’s office in Dhiqar province, said on Sunday: “The executions of 36 convicted over the Speicher crime were carried out this morning in Nasiriyah prison. The governor of Dhiqar, Yahya al-Nasseri, and the justice minister, Haidar al-Zamili, were present to oversee the executions.”

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Pregnant IS Rape Victims Face Challenges Upon Returning to Iraq

Rikar Hussein writes for Voice of America:

Two years after Islamic State militants attacked the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq and took thousands of women and girls as sex slaves, many victims are now returning home pregnant or, in some cases, with newborn babies, Iraqi sources tell VOA.

Those victims are faced with contradicting cultural and legal challenges: While the former type of challenge is compelling them to undergo abortions or abandon babies, the latter is criminalizing their actions, those sources say.

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Reconstruction Begins on Baghdad Shopping Complex Bombed in July

Ben Kesling writes for The Wall Street Journal:

Government officials on Saturday began the reconstruction process on a central shopping complex weeks after it was destroyed by the deadliest suicide bombing in Iraq in years, amid criticism for their failure to help businesses struggling to rebuild in the busy commercial area.

Mayor Zekra Alwach toured the complex in the central Karrada neighborhood, shortly after trucks began clearing rubble. She promised compensation to victims and government funds to shop owners.

July’s truck bombing struck as streets were packed with revelers breaking fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and was claimed by Islamic State militants. The extremist group regularly stages suicide attacks across the capital, a return to more guerrilla-style tactics as it loses ground on the battlefield.

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Iraqi Forces Push Islamic State Out of Western Iraqi Town

AP reports:

Iraqi forces pushed Islamic State fighters out of a pocket of territory near the key western city of Ramadi on Friday evening, the military said, following a string of recent victories against the Sunni militant group in the sprawling western Anbar desert.

Iraqi forces are now largely moving north, ahead of an eventual push on the country's second-largest city of Mosul, which has been under Islamic State group's control for the past two years. Mosul is also the IS's last remaining urban bastion in Iraq.

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Smithsonian, other agencies protect artifacts in Iraq, Syria

Joe Davidson writes for The Washington Post:

When we think of the war against Islamic State terrorists, the Defense Department, the State Department and the intelligence agencies come to mind.

We should add the Smithsonian Institution to the list.

The Smithsonian, better known for museums ringing the Mall, is one of a half-dozen agencies cited in a Government Accountability Office report on the “Protection of Iraqi and Syrian Antiquities.” Smithsonian experts provide cultural property protection training in countries facing war or natural disasters.

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New UN report lays bare widespread ISIL ‘atrocities’ committed against Yazidis in Iraq

UN News Centre reports:

A new United Nations report lays bare the widespread and systematic manner in which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Da’esh) has committed “terrible atrocities” against the Yezidi and other ethnic and religious communities, the UN envoy for Iraq said today, calling for the perpetrators to be fully and properly held to account.

Compiled by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the report details heart-wrenching testimony of Yezidi survivors of ISIL atrocities in Iraq since the attack on Sinjar in August 2014, including accounts of systematic and widespread killings, sexual violence and sexual slavery, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, forced conversions and forced displacement, among other abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.

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Under the gun

The Economist reports:

"The Lord is my shepherd,” says the psalmist, but Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf is finding it devilishly hard to tend his flock. As archbishop of Mosul’s Syriac Orthodox church, he has been chased out of one of Christianity’s oldest dioceses. Most of his congregation fled when the city was conquered by the jihadists of Islamic State (IS); now he ministers to what is left of it in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Archbishop Nicodemus says he was the last senior churchman to leave Mosul in July 2014. Since then, he says, 32 churches in Mosul and in the surrounding plain of Nineveh have been burnt or put to other uses. His cathedral is now a mosque dedicated to jihad. “For the first time in the history of Christianity, there are no Christians praying in Mosul,” he adds, weeping. “Even under the Mongol hordes and Hulagu Khan [in the 13th century] it wasn’t so bad.”

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