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

Militants ambush convoy with off-duty Iraq soldiers, kill 10

AP reports:

Iraq's military says militants have ambushed a convoy of off-duty soldiers near a town in the country's sprawling western desert, killing at least 10 and wounding 20.

Maj. Emad al-Dulaimi said on Monday that the attack took place the night before near the town of Rutba. He says the militants were armed with assault rifles and rockets.

It wasn't immediately clear who carried out the attack but al-Dulaimi blamed the Islamic State group.

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Rescuing The Last Two Animals At The Mosul Zoo

Robin Wright writes for The New Yorker:

Mosul’s forlorn little zoo, a collection of rusted cages in a park near the Tigris River, was abandoned by its keepers in October, as the Iraqi Army began to liberate the city from the Islamic State. For three months, the zoo was a staging ground for isis fighters. More than forty of the zoo animals died, either as collateral damage—trapped between warring combatants—or from starvation. By January, when the eastern half of Mosul was freed, only two animals had survived: Lula, a caramel-colored female bear, and Simba, a three-year-old lion.

Animals, like people, suffer from war psychoses, including P.T.S.D. During the most intense urban combat in history, Lula ate her two cubs from hunger and stress. Simba had been one of three lions. Simba’s father, weak and emaciated, was killed by his mate to provide food for herself and Simba. In the wild, lionesses hunt for the entire pride. She, too, soon succumbed.

Concerned about the fate of Lula and Simba, residents in Mosul sent frantic Facebook messages to Four Paws International, an animal-protection agency based in Austria, appealing for help. In mid-February, the organization dispatched Amir Khalil to Mosul. Khalil is an Egyptian veterinarian who has spent a quarter century saving animals in war zones on three continents. He found Lula deeply traumatized and starving; her snout protruded through her cage’s rusted bars, anxiously seeking food and water. Simba had grown so scrawny that his rib cage was exposed. He wouldn’t stop pacing in his small enclosure.

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Dolls, teddy bears return to eastern Mosul after Islamic State

Mohammed Al-Ramahi writes for Reuters:

Toy shops are thriving in eastern Mosul, with Iraqi children once again able to buy dolls, teddy bears or action figures after Islamic State was driven out of the area.

The militant group banned toys with faces or eyes during the three years they controlled Iraq's second largest city, including any anthropomorphic animals, which they deemed a form of idolatry.

But when U.S.-trained security forces drove the group from eastern Mosul in January, two toy stores sprang up and there are now 15, toy wholesaler Abu Mohammed told Reuters.

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In the midst of Iraq’s war against Islamic State, a bicycle culture takes root

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for LA Times:

Biking through the rubble-choked streets of this besieged city’s west side, Mohammed Kamal Mahmoud paused to explain his family’s criteria for venturing out aboard its battered, mud-caked, three-speed cycle.

“When the airstrikes are heavy, we are not driving it around,” the mechanic said. As he spoke, Iraqi military helicopters fired overhead, and a few streets away gunfire, mortars and rockets boomed.

Many of Mosul’s 1.2 million residents have been trapped between militants and Iraqi forces since the offensive to recapture the city from Islamic State began in October. While traffic has returned to the city’s east side, where the militants have been driven out, Iraqi forces still battling on the west side have barred cars — which Islamic State uses as suicide vehicles — and motorcycles.

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Huge crowds of Shiite faithful throng Baghdad shrine

AFP reports:

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite faithful thronged the mausoleum of Imam Kadhim in Baghdad Sunday for the climax of a week-long pilgrimage that saw millions converge on the Iraqi capital.

Beating their heads and chests, crowds of pilgrims lurched and swerved to try to touch a mock coffin being carried to the shrine in the northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah.

Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered imams in Shiite Islam, died in 799 AD. The commemoration has in recent years turned into a huge event that brings the Iraqi capital to a standstill for days.

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Hundreds more join Mosul exodus as Iraqi forces retake two more western districts

Maher Chmaytelli writes for Reuters:

Pushing carts loaded with bags, babies and the elderly, hundreds of people fled Mosul on Saturday after Iraqi forces retook two more districts in the west of the city from Islamic State.

After walking for miles, families were taken by bus from a government checkpoint in the south of the city to camps housing more than 410,000 people displaced since the offensive to retake Mosul began in October.

"We left with no water, food or electricity," said 63-year-old Abu Qahtan, the elder of a group of 41 people from five families. "We left with the clothes on our backs."

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Islamic State attacks Iraq police base, 1 killed

Salar Salim reports for AP:

Iraqi officials say Islamic State militants have attacked a police base in a town that is being used as a staging ground for the Mosul offensive, killing at least one policeman.

Cpt. Mahmoud Attia, a police spokesman, told The Associated Press that a sleeper cell of three IS fighters attacked the base Sunday in Hamam al-Alil, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Mosul.

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At Mosul waterfalls, Iraqis savor small joys of post-Islamic State life

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Crowds of Iraqis flocked to the waterfalls of eastern Mosul on Friday to savor simple freedoms like dancing or wearing colorful clothes that were strictly banned during almost three years of Islamic State rule.

Music blasted from tall speakers mounted on pickup trucks and mini-vans. Children splashed in the water in the city's Shallalat (Waterfalls) district or rode bikes, horses and donkeys in the surrounding park.

It was like a mass picnic, with about 2,000 people out enjoying the sunshine, while fighting between U.S.-backed forces and Islamist militants raged only 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away in the part of Mosul west of the Tigris River.

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This is life inside Mosul’s Old City

Salma Abdelaziz, Scott McWhinnie and Nick Paton Walsh write for CNN:

At the age of just four, Satabraq finds soldiers and rockets more normal than classrooms and schoolmates.

Satabraq meanders the alleyways in the Old City of Mosul, a place that is both her home and a frontline. Dressed in red floral pajamas, she is led by Iraqi troops who laugh and play with her between firing mortar rounds.

"The first environment she has ever been exposed to is the police. She loves them more than she would students in a school," Abdullah, her father, said. "She plays with them and they bring her sweets."

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Resentment festers in Mosul: just ask Saddam Hussein

Ulf Laessing writes for Reuters:

If you want to hear the resentment people of Mosul feel now that Iraqi forces have driven Islamic State out of most of the city, you should talk to Saddam Hussein... not the dictator, but the Mosul schoolteacher, who proudly shows off an identity card bearing the name which his parents gave him in the ruler's honor 45 years ago, and which he passed on to his sons.

The original Saddam, a Sunni Muslim who was toppled in a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and hanged three years later on an Iraqi army base for crimes against humanity, is a hate figure to the Shi'ites who make up the majority of Iraqis, violently repressed under his rule.

But here in Mosul, where most people are Sunnis who feel disrespected by the authorities in Baghdad, he is still beloved, just one example of the many ways in which the local narrative veers sharply from that of most of the rest of the country.

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