A suicide bomber killed at least five police officers when he rammed a car laden with explosives` into a compound in Basrah. The attack on 13 June also left several more people injured. Suicide bombings are a favoured tactic of violent jihadi and predominantly Sunni terrorist organisations. This bracket includes groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and other movements affiliated with al-Qaeda. A statement claiming responsibility may soon be publicised by one such group, potentially demonising the Iraqi police as apostates or subservient to either a politically corrupt government or morally corrupt west.
These jihadi groups have a much more faint presence in the predominantly Shi’ah south of the country than they do in places like Anbar province or Mosul further north. Suicide attacks remain a very infrequent occurrence in the region as a result. In February 2010 the authorities managed to stop a mentally ill and possibly coerced man who was carrying an explosive suicide belt. He was believed to have been trying to attack Shi’ah pilgrims in Basrah city, but following the intervention there had been no further successful suicide bombings south of Karbala until the latest incident.
Other parts of the country continue to see suicide bombings on a far more regular basis. The Basrah attack constitutes the 400th suicide bombing in Iraq recorded by AKE since the beginning of 2008. This record signifies an average of around two such attacks every week in the country, although incidents were more common three years ago when al-Qaeda had a greater stranglehold over the central provinces.
Security and Safety
Security measures in the southern region have been described as more relaxed, mainly because violence is much less frequent an occurrence in Basrah than it is in Baghdad. Nonetheless, terrorist organisations still pose a risk. The Basrah attack highlights the fact that jihadis still have the ability to launch spectacular attacks, even in the south. This is despite the loss of key leaders of the organisation over the past two years, not least Osama bin Laden. Companies working in the south of the country are advised to ensure that their facilities are properly protected against the possibility of vehicle-borne explosive suicide attack. While there are numerous business opportunities available in the region and the situation remains far more stable than the rest of the country, there are no grounds for complacency.
John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British private security firm working in Iraq from before 2003. Further details on the company can be found here while AKE’s intelligence and political risk website Global IntAKE can be accessed here.