Iraqi politician Ayad Jamal ad-Din was injured in a rocket attack on his home earlier in the week. The weapon, believed to have been fired from southern Baghdad, slammed into his house in the normally quiet district of Jadriyah. He may be the latest victim of a string of attacks targeting politicians, mid-level ministry employees and high profile members of the security forces. Speculation has risen over who was to blame for the attack, with several militant organisations potentially involved.
Blame and Motives
Rockets and mortars – referred to in military terms as ‘indirect fire’ are still a fairly regular occurrence in the capital. Most are attributed to Shi’ah militant groups, particularly those with an animosity towards the western presence in the country. Such groups have been targeting US military interests with increased ferocity over recent weeks, keen to send a signal to Washington that its forces are not welcome in the country. These groups have also been linked to Iranian elements, who are similarly opposed to American influence in Iraq.
However, it would be premature to blame these groups. An investigation is ongoing into the attack and no groups have yet claimed responsibility. Furthermore, the nature of indirect fire in general makes it difficult to assign blame. The politician may not even have been the chosen target. Indirect fire is notoriously inaccurate, and while militants in Baghdad have been perfecting their targeting for years they nonetheless continue to miss their intended targets on a regular basis. Rocket and mortar attacks aimed at the Green Zone regularly land elsewhere – including in the Tigris and Jadriyah district itself.
The best advice is for everyone to be prepared for the risk, regardless of whether or not they are a visiting delegate staying in the fortified Green Zone, or a Baghdad resident living in one of the surrounding districts. Personnel are advised to familiarise themselves with fire-safety and evacuation procedures in their places of residence and to be aware of their nearest shelters, fire-exits and medical personnel. Be prepared to seek cover at short notice. Even facilities which would normally be considered secure are specifically at risk of this type of attack, so there are no grounds for complacency.
Jadriyah district is located on the Karradah peninsula, south of the fortified International/Green Zone. Many of the checkpoints are manned by well trained Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who remain vigilant and are largely responsible for keeping violence to a minimum. The district houses a number of high profile politicians, including Iraqi president Jamal Talabani. It is also becoming more popular with foreign nationals seeking to live beyond the confines of the Green Zone. Even here though, where conditions are quiet, 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.