Levels of violence fell slightly in Iraq over the past week but conditions are still higher than most weeks in November. Incidents were concentrated in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as southern Salah ad-Din province, western Diyala province and central Babil province. At least 35 separate bomb attacks left over 60 people dead and over 150 injured while small arms fire left 14 people dead and four injured.
Open sources reported that two North Oil Company employees were killed in separate bombing attacks in Kirkuk last week, marking the first direct attack on the energy sector in over a month. An Iraqi private security firm also came under attack in Salah ad-Din province, with one guard killed and another injured in a shooting on 11 December. Five people were also abducted in separate incidents in the northern half of the country last week, including a child in Kirkuk and four ministry employees in Salah ad-Din province. An academic was also released from captivity in exchange for a six-figure ransom sum (in US dollars).
As warned, terrorists targeted Shi’ah pilgrims gathering to mark Ashura, with bombs targeting religious worshippers in Baghdad and Babil province. However, heightened security by the authorities over the last two weeks meant that there were no attacks in Karbala province, the main focus of the event. There were no suicide bombings reported countrywide reported either. Two separate mortar attacks in Baghdad also occurred, one near Muthanna airbase and one close to a military facility near Baghdad International Airport. However, neither caused damage or casualties.
There were no major incidents recorded in the south of the country last week, although indirect fire has been reported by at least one source near a military facility in Basrah province. The US military withdrawal continues, with only a few thousand soldiers left in the country. Most will have left by the time the next weekly security article is uploaded and Iraq will have entered a new era in its history. For companies on the ground the main considerations are that the quick reaction force and medical response capabilities of the US forces will no longer be available. The departure may also embolden the militant groups still present in the country. The coming months will be apprehensive for many as a result, but firms with proper security and crisis response procedures in place will be well placed to face the potential risks.
John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British private security firm working in Iraq since 2003. You can access AKE’s intelligence website Global Intake here, and you can obtain a free trial of AKE’s Iraq intelligence reports here.