ISF and Iraqi Shia militias continued the operation to retake Baiji district from ISIS. Meanwhile, ISIS increased its VBIED attacks in Baghdad as Shia commemorate the holy month of Muharram with gatherings in the open that make them vulnerable.
Baiji is located just south of Hawija district of southwestern Kirkuk province, an area where ISIS and other armed anti-government armed groups enjoy sanctuary and where the ISF has not had presence since the fall of Mosul. It is also adjacent to Ninewa province, making it a potential staging ground to move towards land and urban centers in northern Iraq that are completely out of government control, such as Mosul. Although the status of the district remains unclear, the targeting of one of the crossings from Baiji to Hawija and the booby-trapping of the other by ISIS is a sign of a defensive posture rather than an offensive move. Also, if it is true that the ISF are clearing the road toward the refinery, this would end a nearly four month siege on the ISF in the facility that has forced the government to use aerial assets to resupply and reinforce it. Elsewhere, ISIS attacks on Iraqi Shia will likely increase as they commemorate the death of Imam Hussein in the month of Muharram and Shia pilgrims head to Karbala from various areas in the country. Finally, Alam is home to Iraqi Sunnis mainly from the Jubur tribe, many of whom are or were senior ISF and government officials, and is known for its anti-ISIS stance. ISIS will likely increase its targeting of the Jubur in Alam as it continues targeting Albu Nimr tribe in Anbar province in an attempt to stamp out any resistance by Sunni tribes.
Source: Institute for the Study of War Iraq Updates