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

U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS Have Killed Hundreds, Maybe Thousands of Civilians

Sarah Almukhtar writes for The New York Times:

The number of civilians killed in American-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria spiked this year, as efforts to retake Islamic State strongholds intensified and as some procedures for approving airstrikes were changed.

Data compiled by Airwars, a nonprofit group that tracks reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, showed a significant jump in the number of reported deaths in the first three months of 2017.

The military recently confirmed that American-led airstrikes had been responsible for at least 352 civilian deaths since the start of the war against the Islamic State. But Airwars estimated that the total was eight times higher. The group found that at least 3,100 civilians were killed in American-led airstrikes from August 2014 to March 2017.

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Iraqi troops torture and execute civilians in secret videos

Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, James Gordon Meek and Randy Kreider report for ABC News:

Officers of an elite Iraqi special forces unit, praised by U.S. military commanders earlier this year for its role in fighting ISIS, directed the torture and execution of civilians in Mosul in at least six distinct incidents caught on tape.

“That's a murder,” retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann told ABC News after reviewing the graphic footage. “There should be punishment for anyone doing it. It's reprehensible and it shouldn't be allowed on any modern battlefield."

The alarming footage was smuggled out of Iraq by a prize-winning Iraqi photojournalist, Ali Arkady, who spent months embedded in combat with the elite Iraqi troops leading the fight against ISIS late last year. Since turning over his cache of photos and videos to ABC News, he says he has received death threats from the soldiers he once considered friends and has now fled Iraq to seek asylum in Europe.

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Pentagon Blames 105 Civilian Deaths From Mosul Strike On ‘Secondary Explosion’

Bill Chappell reports for NPR:

U.S. personnel "could not have predicted" that dozens of Mosul residents would be in a building where ISIS snipers were firing when they authorized a strike on it in March, the Pentagon says in a newly released report. That airstrike in Iraq killed at least 105 civilians.

"Our condolences go out to all those that were affected," said Maj. Gen. Joe Martin, commanding general of the ground force fighting ISIS. "The Coalition takes every feasible measure to protect civilians from harm. The best way to protect civilians is to defeat ISIS."

The report provides new details about a strike that devastated several families and prompted rights groups to accuse the U.S.-led coalition of not taking adequate precautions to protect people in Mosul, which Iraq is trying to reclaim from the terrorist group.

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Iraq radio show finds talent amid rubble of Mosul

AFP reports:

It’s a radio talent contest with a mission: showcasing the skills of Mosul’s youth after years of militant rule and a months-long battle for the city.

The recorded lyrics of competitor MC Rico, a rapper from Iraq’s second city, filled the studio of al Ghad – Arabic for “tomorrow”.

MC Rico is one of 93 competitors in the contest, all aged between 15 and 25. He is one of the six who made it through to last Saturday evening’s semi-final.

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NATO to join anti-IS coalition: diplomatic sources

AFP reports:

NATO is to join the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, meeting a key demand of President Donald Trump that the alliance do more to fight Islamist terrorism, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

Trump was due to meet NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday to press his case, with the deadly IS-claimed bomb attack in Manchester high on the agenda.

Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he expected NATO to join despite reservations by some members states which are fearful of getting dragged into another conflict.

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Kurdish independence in Iraq likely ‘not if but when’: U.S. general

Phil Stewart writes for Reuters:

An Iraqi Kurdish push for independence from Baghdad appears likely to be a question of "not if but when," in a significant challenge to Iraq's stability, the head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said on Tuesday.

Iraq's main Kurdish parties announced in April a plan to hold a referendum on independence this year, after the defeat of Islamic State militants.

The DIA's director, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, told a Senate hearing that the ability of Iraq's Kurds to reach an understanding with the Shi'ite-dominated government in Baghdad would be essential to avoid renewed conflict.

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US Military Admits Failures to Monitor Over $1 Billion Worth of Arms Transfers

Amnesty International reports:

The US Army failed to keep tabs on more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment in Iraq and Kuwait according to a now declassified Department of Defense (DoD) audit, obtained by Amnesty International following Freedom of Information requests.

The government audit, from September 2016, reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment pouring into Kuwait and Iraq to provision the Iraqi Army.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher.

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“Most wanted” Yazidi urges others to help keep focus on her people’s plight

Belinda Goldsmith writes for Reuters:

An Iraqi parliamentarian and Yazidi activist known as Islamic State's "most wanted woman" wants other Yazidis to step onto the global stage to keep the plight of her people in the spotlight.

Vian Dakhil hit world headlines in August 2014 when she broke down in tears in Iraq's parliament when she plead for help for the religious minority under attack by Islamic State militants in Sinjar, northern Iraq, home to about 400,000 Yazidis.

Since 2014 Dakhil, one of only two ethnic Yazidis in Iraq's 328-member parliament, has campaigned tirelessly to keep world attention on her people, becoming, alongside former Islamic State sex slave Nadia Murad, the face of the Yazidis globally.

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Iraq probes allegations of human rights violations in Mosul

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

Iraq's Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation into allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by its forces fighting the Islamic State group in Mosul.

The allegations were first reported by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine last weekend. The report, authored by an Iraqi photographer reportedly embedded with the police unit, claims he witnessed killing, torture and rape of IS suspects.

The ministry's spokesman, Brig. Gen Saad Maan, said on Tuesday that the newspaper report identifies the Emergency Response Division — an elite unit that answers to the Interior Ministry and has been closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition in the Mosul fight — as the perpetrator of the abuses. Maan did not give a time frame for the investigating but said "legal measures will be applied ... against wrongdoers."

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New bridge reunites Mosul as Iraqi forces gear up for final assault

Reuters reports:

Iraqi military engineers installed a new floating bridge across the Tigris river on Wednesday, reconnecting the two halves of Mosul to facilitate troop deployments ahead of a final assault to dislodge Islamic State.

All five bridges connecting the two sides of the city bisected by the Tigris were struck by the U.S.-led coalition in order to hinder the militants' movements in the early stages of the campaign to retake Mosul last year.

Seven months on, Iraqi forces have removed Islamic State from all but a pocket of territory in the western half of Mosul, including the Old City, where the militants are expected to make their last stand.

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