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

‘We usually cry when we watch the news’: anguish of Iraq’s Yazidi families

Emma Graham-Harrison and Fazel Hawramy write for The Guardian:

When Laila learnt Islamic State was holding her son in an old school less than 100 miles from the refugee camp she now calls home, she could start to dream of a rescue attempt. Then, when she heard troops were advancing on the group’s last stronghold in Iraq, she even allowed herself to believe they might liberate her boy.

Days later the advance has slowed, there has been no mention of Yazidi captives by soldiers or politicians, and her despair has returned. “Hope is crushed,” she said. “Ever since we lost our kids, no one has done anything, planned anything to rescue them.”

While the fight for Mosul is a key step towards dismantling Isis’s self-declared caliphate, for a group that has endured some of its most extreme brutality and violence, it only poses new dangers. Relatives say the liberating forces have forgotten hundreds of Yazidi women and children held by Isis as slaves in Mosul and are calling for attacking forces to add rescue missions – or at least details of where captives are held – to their battle plan. “We know there are more than 1,000 Yazidi captives – women, girls and boys – in Mosul,” said Ameena Saeed Hasan, a Yazidi activist recently awarded the 2016 Human Rights First award for her work running a rescue network.

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Flee or Stay? For Mosul Residents, Both Choices Are Risky

Tim Arango writes for The New York Times:

The first thing Musar Abid did when he escaped the Islamic State this week was grab a razor.

When Iraqi federal policemen taking part in the offensive to reclaim Mosul from the terrorist group approached his village, Mr. Abid, 41, was elated to see them coming.

But there are a million or more other civilians still in the city, and as they begin taking up the decision of whether to flee or stay, they face increasing hazards. Aid groups and international agencies are racing to prepare the possibility that the trickle of civilians fleeing Mosul, like Mr. Abid, will soon become a flood.

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Islamic State forces attack Iraq’s oil-rich city of Kirkuk

Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report for The Washington Post:

Islamic State gunmen launched a series of coordinated attacks Friday in the northern city of Kirkuk and a nearby power plant, briefly controlling the main police station in their first significant counterattack since Iraqi forces launched an offensive for Mosul.

The Iraqi military said the situation was now “under control” and that three police stations and a political party headquarters were attacked inside the city. It is unclear how many were killed in Kirkuk, but at least 13 people died in the attack on the power plant in the nearby village of Dibbis.

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Displaced People Can’t Move Freely

Human Rights Watch reports:

Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government security authorities are unlawfully restricting the freedom of movement of displaced people in camps near Kirkuk. Despite the lack of hostilities in the area, people are not allowed to leave the camps freely.

Displaced people in the Nazrawa and Laylan camps told Human Rights Watch that they could only leave after obtaining a sponsor, that security forces are taking their identity cards before they can leave the camp, and that they must return the same day. The restrictions have limited residents’ access to medical care, work, and relatives. International aid workers have told Human Rights Watch that authorities in Kirkuk say the restrictions are necessary for security reasons. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), which operates the camps, has asked authorities to remove the restrictions.

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U.S. service member killed in northern Iraq

Jim Michaels reports for USA Today:

A U.S. service member died Thursday from wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. military did not release details. American advisers are with Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul, the largest offensive yet against the Islamic State in Iraq. The serviceman was part of the Mosul operation, said a U.S. official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly.

On Monday, Iraqi forces launched a major offensive to retake Mosul — Iraq's second-largest city — from Islamic State control. American advisers are generally positioned with headquarters and are not engaged in direct combat.

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ICRC steps up aid for Iraq amid fears of post-Mosul sectarian strife

Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters:

As Iraqi families begin streaming out of villages in the path of an army offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State, some fear that the onslaught may stoke future sectarian strife in the volatile region, a senior Red Cross official said on Thursday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is prepared to provide aid to 800,000 people who could flee the looming battle for Mosul, including against any use of chemical weapons, said Patrick Hamilton, the ICRC's deputy director for the Near and Middle East.

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When Mosul’s Cops Return, Will They Seek Reconciliation Or Revenge?

Alice Fordham reports for NPR:

To find Mosul's cops, you drive to a gray dot of a village in an endless desert. The village, Mahana, was retaken from the Islamic State a few months ago and for now it's the police base for cops who left Mosul when ISIS took over more than two years ago.

Iraq's army and its allies are now battling their way through rural areas toward the larger prize of retaking Mosul. Helicopters buzz back and forth from the frontlines. Every breath is bitter with smoke from oil wells set alight by ISIS.

Inside the police base, the mood is upbeat. The police are helping the army with logistics. Presiding over a bank of radios and several battlefield maps is police Gen. Abdulkareem al-Jubouri.

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70 miles, 70 gas stations: The variety of ‘Oil City’

Benazir Wehelie writes for CNN:

About a month ago, photographer Eugenio Grosso traveled a 70-mile stretch in northern Iraq, from the city of Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah in the country's Kurdish region.

He had only one purpose: to photograph the gas stations he saw along the way.

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Iraqi PM says Mosul offensive going faster than expected

John Irish and Marine Pennetier report for Reuters:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Thursday that Iraqi forces were moving faster than expected towards Islamic State's stronghold of Mosul, and that the coordination between Shi'ite militias and Kurds showed Iraq's unity in opposing the group.

Foreign ministers and senior diplomats from several Western and Middle Eastern countries were meeting in Paris to discuss how to restore peace and stability to Mosul after Islamic State has been routed from its Iraqi stronghold.

Speaking on a video conference call from Baghdad, Abadi said all efforts were being made to create humanitarian corridors for civilians fleeing Iraq's second-largest city, where some 1.5 million people still live.

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In Iraq, Death Comes For A Technician Defusing Bombs By Hand

Sophia Jones writes for The Huffington Post:

When Sarbast Salih and his men enter a house formerly held by ISIS, they don’t go through the front door. Instead, they shimmy in through a window.

It’s one small precaution Lt. Col. Salih and his Kurdish Peshmerga unit take when they defuse bombs and clear villages of explosives.

Tasked with detecting and defusing IEDs, the men serve a crucial role in the U.S.-backed operation launched this week to drive ISIS from Mosul, northern Iraq ― the extremists’ last major stronghold in the country.

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