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

Iraqi PM says elections will be fair despite ‘problems’

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi promised to ensure a fair general election next month after raising doubts about the country's electoral body.

“The Independent High Electoral Commission contains many problems,” Mr Al Abadi told reporters in Baghdad on Sunday.

He said “there is nothing independent" about the electoral commission and that the Iraqi parliament, which selects the panel, would be responsible for ensuring that the electoral process was unbiased.

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One killed in car bomb targeting Iraq election candidate

AFP reports:

A car bomb attack targeted an election candidate in Iraq's contested Kirkuk city on Sunday, killing one person and wounding 11, a security official said.

The blast in the multi-ethnic city, some 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Baghdad, came as war-torn Iraq gears up for legislative elections on May 12.

"A civilian was killed and 11 people were injured, including three bodyguards, in the convoy of Ammar Hadaya Kahya, a candidate for the Turkmen Front in Kirkuk," the security source said on condition of anonymity.

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Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Protesters Beaten, Journalists Detained

Human Rights Watch reports:

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) security forces detained at least 84 protesters and four journalists in late March, Human Rights Watch said today. Many of the detentions appeared to be arbitrary, either because persons were detained because they were exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, or because their right under Iraqi law to be brought before a judge within 24 hours was ignored. Twelve witnesses said security forces beat many as they attempted to detain them during demonstrations in the cities of Akre, Dohuk, and Erbil. Human Rights Watch received reports of arrests in other towns, including Shiladze, Soran, and Zakho.

Security forces used unlawful force and threats to coerce some protesters and journalists to unlock their phones and give up Facebook passwords, and held the detainees for up to two days before releasing them, all but one without charge. Some were forced to sign a document promising not to attend “unlawful protests”. One journalist said the security forces told him he was no longer allowed to film protests. He refused to sign a commitment not to do so.

“The KRG forces’ heavy-handed tactics in responding to peaceful protests seem intended to silence criticism despite the official narrative of respect for free speech and assembly,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It is a sign of oppression when authorities try to force people to sign away their basic rights to protest.”

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US flags burned as Iraqis protest Syria strikes

AFP reports:

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in several cities on Sunday to protest against US-led strikes on Syria, following a call by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.

"Stop destroying Syria as you destroyed our country," shouted protesters in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, in reference to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

"No to America, no to the bombardment of Syria," they chanted.

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Iraq kicks off election campaign amidst public anger

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's election campaign kicked off amid controversy following the replacement of posters of dead fighters with those of candidates.

Party aides and volunteers across the country on Saturday substituted the images of men killed in the battle against ISIS with those of nominees.

On Sunday morning angry residents took to social media to vent their frustrations.

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1,000 bodies, many believed to be ISIS fighters, buried in Mosul mass grave

AP reports:

Authorities in Mosul have buried more than 1,000 bodies in a mass grave in a desert valley outside the city, most of them believed to be Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group militants, according to a provincial official. More remains are being dug out of the rubble of the district where the fighters made their final stand last year.

Hundreds more bodies are still strewn across or buried in Maydan district nine months after it was flattened in the final battles to retake Mosul, creating one of the grimmest scenes from a brutal war that was compared to the worst urban combat of World War II.

During a recent visit by The Associated Press, pieces of desiccated bodies, often in shreds of fighters' uniforms, were visible scattered in the ruins, which are also laced with unexploded bombs and unused suicide belts. In one place, the crown of a skull stuck out of the dirt, brilliant white with a fringe of leathery scalp and hair. One man lay crushed under the wreck of a car, his legs sticking up in the air.

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16 dead in attack at Iraq funeral of anti-IS fighters: mayor

AFP reports:

At least 16 people died in a bomb attack Thursday during funerals in a northern village for Iraqi fighters killed by the Islamic State group, the mayor said.

It was the deadliest attack in Iraq since a January 16 double suicide bombing in Baghdad that cost 31 lives.

"Two bombs exploded as the funeral procession was entering the cemetery" in Asdira, near the town of Sharqat, the mayor, Salaheddin Shaalan, told AFP.

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Iraq struggles to expel Kurdish militia from the north

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

It won't be easy for Iraq to expel the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) from the country, the head of the Turkmen Association said on Thursday.

The comment follows weeks of heightened tensions between Turkey and PKK fighters based in Sinjar province and other areas of north Iraq.

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi recently called on Kurdish insurgents in Iraq to disarm as Turkey raised the prospects of a military intervention in the country's north.

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Finding Homes Unlivable, Some Iraqis Return to Camps

Rikar Hussein writes for Voice of America:

Hundreds of displaced Iraqis who returned to their homes after the defeat of the Islamic State are now going back to Kurdish refugee camps, due to a lack of services and an impasse in reconstruction, Kurdish and Iraqi officials said.

Falah Mustafa Bakir, the Kurdistan region's foreign relations minister, has announced that about 4,000 displaced civilians mostly from Nineveh province, who went back to their homes after the Iraqi victory over IS last year, have returned to Kurdish refugee camps since January.

"What we are seeing this year is a reverse return to the Kurdistan region," Bakir said Tuesday during a joint press conference with Ramanathan Balakrishnan, the U.N. Population Fund representative in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region.

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Iraq’s football fans enjoy first international club tie since ban

AFP reports:

The match might have ended 1-1, but for Iraqi football fans Tuesday's tie between Baghdad's Al Zawraa and Beirut's Al Ahed will be one for the record books.

It was the first international competitive club game to be played on Iraqi soil in more than 20 years after Fifa lifted a ban on the war-torn country.

"The world saw that Iraq was at the level and that it had the capacity to host a championship," fan Ali Essam said.

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