ISIL did not manage to take control of areas in the Baghdad governorate, although it carried out VBIED attacks on Baghdad frequently since 2014. Mass casualty attacks by ISIL dropped off significantly after the first quarter of 2018. Several security operators are present in the governorate. Baghdad governorate is generally under the control of the Iraqi authorities; however, in practice, authorities share defence and law enforcement roles with the Shia-dominated PMU, leading to ‘incomplete’ or overlapping control with these militias. PMU have no operational headquarters in Baghdad governorate, however, in practice there are ‘substantial bases’ in Baghdad’s belts. Iran-backed militias maintain at least some forces in predominantly Shia areas, especially in Baghdad. ISIL is also still present in the governorate and it was reported that it was building and expanding its support zone in the northern and southwestern Baghdad Belts. Several sources reported on an increased ISIL activity in Baghdad in 2019-2020. It was also reported that ISF had a limited ability to respond to security incidents, terrorist attacks, and criminal activities. Additionally to the other actors in the area, the US has two military bases in Baghdad, one of which inside Baghdad International Airport.
One of the major security developments in Iraq in 2019 and 2020 was the rising tension between Iran and the US. Following the US strikes and Iran’s retaliations to the attacks, Baghdad witnessed mass demonstrations against the US. Large-scale demonstrations in several cities, particularly in Baghdad, were reported, during which security forces fired tear gas cartridges and live munition directly at protesters, in some cases causing numerous casualties. Remnants of ISIL continued to launch frequent attacks, such as use of IED explosions at public areas and suicide bombings, against the Iraqi people and security forces in Baghdad. ISIL intended to return to Baghdad city and was even able to orchestrate several bomb attacks, however, the group seemed to have shifted its focus to the countryside again, as the number of attacks in Baghdad city later dropped significantly. For 2020, ISIL’s primary focus seemed to be on security force targets as opposed to civilians.
ACLED reported a total of 393 security incidents (average of 4.8 security incidents per week) in Baghdad governorate in the reference period, the majority of which coded as incidents of remote violence/explosions. Security incidents occurred in all districts of the governorate, with the largest overall number being recorded in Baghdad city. UNAMI recorded 46 armed conflict related incidents, 42 taking place in 2019 and 4 from 1st January until 31st July 2020 (average of 0.6 security incidents per week for the full reference period).
In the reference period, UNAMI recorded a total of 58 civilian casualties (40 deaths and 18 injuries) in the aforementioned armed conflict related incidents. More specifically, 50 casualties were reported in 2019 and 8 casualties from 1st January until 31st July 2020. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate, this represents 1 civilian casualty per 100 000 inhabitants for the full reference period.
In June 2020, there were 38 766 IDPs in Iraq who originated from Baghdad governorate, of whom 348 were displaced within the governorate. Furthermore, as of 30 June 2020, there were 35 034 IDPs in Baghdad originating mainly from north-western Iraq. Secondary displacement was also reported. With regard to returns, the return of 90 228 IDPs to Baghdad was recorded.
Discovery and destruction of ISIL ammunition caches in different areas in Iraq, including Baghdad governorate was reported. Organised crime, drive-by shootings, uncontrolled militia activity, kidnapping of individuals for political or monetary gain, and corruption, were also reported. Infrastructure damage is consistent with the country average in all sectors except roads, which appear to have suffered the greatest damage, in particular in the districts of Abu Ghraib and Mahmudiyah. Significant residential damage and destruction or poorly functioning of electricity and tap water networks were also reported.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the governorate of Baghdad, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.3