During the Iraq War, U.S. and Iraqi forces experienced numerous lethal attacks in the area from Sunni insurgents. As of March 2006, the area of Hawija was considered one of the most dangerous in all of Iraq with US soldiers and the foreign press corps in Baghdad dubbing Hawija "Anbar of the North," a reference to the violence wracked province in Western Iraq.
Following the Iraq War, Hawija came into media focus on 19 April 2013, when an unprecedented amount of violence erupted. In the 2013 Hawija clashes between Sunni protesters and Iraqi Army, some 53 people were killed. Further associated violence brought the total death toll by April 27, to 215.
During Iraq War
The closest US base to Hawija is Forward Operating Base McHenry. FOB McHenry was established in 2003 by Alpha Company 1-12 infantry who had been operating out of an abandoned school in the town of Hawija. From January 2004 through February 2005 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry (1-27 IN) Wolfhounds, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light) out of Hawaii was led under the command of LTC Scott C. Leith and CSM Karl Morgan. On April 7, 2004 The Battle of Hawijah (Documentary: Combat Zone "Ambush in Hawijah") commenced with A (Alpha) company, 1st battalion 27th Infantry regiment led under the command of CPT Scott W. Carpenter from the 25th Infantry Division. During the battalion's 15 months at FOB McHenry, they experienced one of the deadliest periods of the war which has been compared to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
In From February 2005 through October 2005 FOB McHenry was home to around 500 US soldiers from Idaho's 116th Cavalry Brigade, 1 Battalion 163rd Infantry Regiment (1-163rd IN) from Montana better known as Grizzly. In March 2006, Soldiers in 1st Battalion 327th Infantry Regiment at FOB McHenry were finding 3-5 road-side bombs a day. From November 1, 2005 through March 2006 medics treated 120 trauma cases. Nine members of the brigade as of March 2006 have died in combat in Hawija proper, most from a single company, C Co. 1-327th Inf, call sign 'Cold Steel.'
The battalion that replaced 1st Battalion 327th Infantry Regiment in August 2006 was the 27th Infantry (2-27 IN) Wolfhounds, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light). Over the course of their deployment it was estimated that 250 to 300 soldiers that were regularly going outside the wire on missions, 11 of which were KIA. The deadliest day was on 6 December 2006. 5 individuals were killed when a surface to air missile was modified into an IED, destroying the Humvee and killing everyone inside.
Hawija is considered to be just south of the traditional border of 'Kurdistan' and is a hotbed for violence between hard line Ba'athist Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds. In 2014 ISIS/Baathist insurgency, the area quickly sided with those violent jihadists and resurgent Baathists against other local people.
After U.S. withdrawal
According to open sources on 23 April 2013, Hawija became the focus of violent anti-government protest and deadly Government intervention tactics which left at least 27 Sunnis protesters shot dead, exacerbating political division and sectarian polarisation within Iraq. Later death toll of protests was 53, while associated violence resulted in 215 deaths by April 27.
As of June 2014, the Iraqi Army has withdrawn from the area of Hawijah. Leaving Kurdish military forces, known as peshmerga, to man checkpoints around the city. Hawija is now currently controlled by Sunni Muslim extremist fighters affiliated with the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
- "Iraqi Sunni protest clashes in Hawija leave many dead". BBC News. 23 April 2013.
- Iraq violence sparks fears of a Sunni revolt
- "Iraq’s bloody election: Polls and protests". The Economist. 27 April 2013.
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