Levels of violence rose in Iraq last week, making it the worst recorded by AKE since the national elections were held in March 2010. There were over 90 separate attacks documented, mainly in Baghdad and the districts surrounding it, although the southern city of Basrah also saw a rare suicide attack, potentially conducted by an al-Qaeda affiliated group such as the Islamic State of Iraq. The same group may be responsible for a similar style of suicide attack on a provincial council building in Diyala province on 14 June, although investigations are ongoing and at the time of writing an official claim of responsibility has not yet been made. The majority of victims and targets of the latest spate of attacks have been the Iraqi police, the Iraqi government and its various devolved entities (such as the provincial councils) and the US military. US forces have experienced a notable rise in attacks over recent weeks with a number of troops having been killed in targeted attacks. This rise in targeting may be aimed at pressuring Washington into adhering to its 31 December withdrawal deadline.
The north was relatively quiet last week, with no incidents reported in Kurdistan, and a decline in militant activity around Kirkuk. Mosul on the other hand saw a rise in attacks, with a number of bombings and targeted shootings. A series of bodies were also recovered scattered around the city, usually from unrelated, opportunistic attacks, potentially related to failed kidnap for ransom attempts, although civilians continue to be murdered for reasons of community intimidation and even in order to take revenge on the family members of suspected al-Qaeda militants.
Protests are likely to become a more common occurrence in urbanised parts of the central region over the course of the summer. Many residents are going to be frustrated by the slow progress of the government’s reconstruction plans and the lack of tangible progress in electricity provision. Although work is certainly being done to improve the output of the sector it is going to take many months for output to increase sufficiently.
Many are also upset at possible plans to extend the mandate of the US military beyond the current 31 December mandate of the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA). As discussion on the withdrawal continues there has been a rise in the number of attacks against US troops in recent weeks, with a number of American soldiers killed in recent bombings and indirect fire (rocket and mortar) attacks, primarily in Baghdad and provinces to the south of the capital. Baghdad saw a large number of attacks last week, although most of the bombs were relatively small devices, usually incurring injuries rather than large numbers of fatalities. At present it is targeted shootings which are causing the majority of the deaths in the city, particularly amongst the police and mid-level civic employees.
On 14 June terrorists attacked a provincial government building in Ba’qubah, Diyala province. Five suicide bombers gained access to the facility, killing at least eight people and injuring over 20 more. The incident will likely be claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq, which has conducted similar attacks in recent months. It remains a highly relevant threat group, despite the killing of key leadership figures over recent months.
While the south of Iraq remains far quieter than the central provinces, a notable suicide attack in the city of Basrah serves as a reminder that conditions are not entirely safe in the region. Further information on this specific attack is available in the Iraq Business News article here. Otherwise, there have been a scattering of roadside bombs and indirect fire attacks over recent weeks in the southern provinces, primarily targeting US military interests such as bases and convoys.
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.