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

Female genital mutilation falls sharply in northern Iraq – survey

Emma Batha writes for Reuters:

The practice of female genital mutilation has fallen dramatically in northern Iraq, campaigners said on Monday as they urged religious leaders to use sermons and fatwas to help stamp out the ancient ritual.

A survey of nearly 6,000 women with daughters aged four to 14 in Iraq's Kurdish region indicated almost 45 percent had undergone FGM compared to less than 11 percent of their daughters.

"We're very encouraged," said Hannah Wettig, coordinator of the Stop FGM Middle East campaign.

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Ski resort brings winter cheer to Iraq displaced

Mostafa Abulezz and Jean-Marc Mojon report for AFP:

In the fledgling ski resort of Korek in war-torn Iraq, the only battles are snow fights between visitors who often leave their traumatic memories at the foot of the slopes.

That's what Fawaz Behnam and many of the children and adults frolicking in knee-deep powder around him like about the idyllic tourist spot.

"We were very tired and we want to have some fun. Look at the people here enjoying themselves, not like in Mosul," said the 35-year-old, his face flush from the bright sun and cold wind.

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UN Chief: IS on Defensive in Conflict Areas but Is Adapting

Edith M. Lederer writes for AP:

The Islamic State extremist group is militarily on the defensive in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria but is partially adapting by moving to covert communications and recruitment and expanding its areas of attack away from conflict areas, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a new report.

The threat of attacks on airports and aircraft "remains high," he said. The militant group, also known as IS and ISIL, continues to encourage its supporters outside conflict zones to perpetrate attacks "using links to existing local cells," he added.

The report to the U.N. Security Council, which was circulated Monday, said member states highlighted that internal communications and recruitment by IS "are increasingly moving towards more covert methods, such as the use of the dark web, encryption and messengers."

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Awash with Weddings Under Islamic State Rule

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

“She was only 15-years-old, but we were afraid,” says Adiba, a mother of six at a refugee camp outside Mosul. “If she wasn’t married, we couldn’t say anything if militants wanted to take her.”

Adiba, like many parents from Mosul, feared that IS fighters could select her daughter as a wife, and married her to a relative in his late 20s six months after the militants took over.

And while IS-forced marriages never became widespread in now Iraqi-controlled eastern Mosul, the kidnapping and raping of thousands of Yazidi women under the guise of “marriage” was well known. This, along with harsh rules against male/female interaction, lack of jobs and closed schools drove an upswing in weddings in eastern Mosul during the two-and-a-half years of IS rule, according to residents.

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Mosul mine, explosives removal could cost $50 million – U.N.

Stephanie Nebehay writes for Reuters:

A programme to remove mines, explosives and booby traps left by Islamic State forces in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul could cost $50 million, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.

The U.N. Mine Action Service (UNMAS) had previously estimated costs for Iraq as a whole at $50 million this year, but said this could double because of Mosul.

"Clearing IEDs and building clearances is a lot more dangerous than minefields. You need a higher level of technical skill and complex equipment and it's slower. As areas are liberated, you get a better idea of the level of contamination," he said.

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Mosul residents outraged by IS ‘hole fee’

Ammar Karim and Jean-Marc Mojon write for AFP:

Cash-strapped jihadists punching holes in people's homes to move across west Mosul undetected are now asking victims to pay for the labour, several residents said Sunday.

The fee is a modest 7,000 Iraqi dinars (around five US dollars) but adds insult to injury, said residents of Mosul's west bank, where the Islamic State group is digging in for a planned offensive by the Iraqi security forces.

He said IS members told affected residents that the generated income would contribute to financing their defence of west Mosul against the security forces.

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At former jihadist training camp, Iraqi police face drones, crack snipers

Michael Georgy writes for Reuters:

As a walkie-talkie carried word of another casualty from an Islamic State mortar attack, an Iraqi policeman peered through leaves at enemy positions just across the Tigris River. He kept his head low to avoid snipers but also had an eye on the sky.

Minutes later, the militants sent a drone overhead. It carried out surveillance and dropped an explosive. Then mortar bombs landed nearby, sending the policemen running for safer ground.

More than three months into the battle to drive them from their biggest stronghold, the hardline Sunni militants of Islamic State remain lethal and determined, despite being driven from the eastern half of the city of more than a million people.

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US-Led Coalition Trains Mosul Police, Plans for IS-Free Iraq

AP reports:

The U.S.-led coalition is planning for the day when Iraq will be free of the Islamic State group, ramping up training of a future Mosul police force — even as the battle for the rest of the city is briefly on hold.

Sometime during the lull, significant numbers of the security forces are expected to move into villages scattered across the plains of Ninevah province around Mosul and also into parts of the city retaken from IS over the past three months.

With more than 100,000 soldiers, police, tribal and militia fighters deployed for the offensive, Iraqi leaders are aware that after IS militants are routed from Mosul, a well-trained police force will be needed on the ground — to keep the hard-won victory.

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U.N. sees western Mosul assault driving out 250,000 civilians

Reuters reports:

A renewed assault on Islamic State fighters in the Iraqi city of Mosul could force 250,000 civilians to flee, if they can find a way out, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday.

Such an exodus would be on top of roughly 162,000 people already displaced by Iraqi government efforts to retake the city since October. Such numbers, although high, remain well below UNHCR's initial contingency plans, which anticipated a million people or more fleeing from the city.

An expected intensification of fighting around Hawija, 130 km southeast of Mosul, could displace another 114,000, adding to the 82,000 who have fled since August, risking ambushes and death.

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Freed from jihadists, Mosul residents focus fury on Iraqi politicians

Michael Georgy writes for Reuters:

As raw sewage gushed out of a crater made by an airstrike against Islamic State in Mosul, seething residents who sold their clothes to survive had a sobering message for Iraqi politicians boasting of military advances against the group.

"If life does not improve, we will not accept this and there will be a revolt against the government," said Ihsan Abdullah. "If things don't change Islamic State will just come back. Mosul residents will support whoever can help them."

A former traffic policeman, he said he had not worked since Islamic State swept into the city in 2014, leaving him no choice but to sell his clothes for food.

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