As security measures are heightened ahead of the Arab League Summit in Baghdad levels of violence fell in Iraq last week with 26 people killed and 22 injured in nationwide incidents. This was a drop by half from the previous week and a very low figure in general for the country.
However, a spate of attacks swept the country on 20 March, killing at least 50 people and injuring over 250. The bombings have been claimed by al-Qaeda in Iraq and as analysed on Iraq Business News were likely an attempt to discredit the government. Many are now questioning the security measures put in place ahead of the summit although at the time of writing the event is still set to go ahead. To cancel it at this stage would constitute a major loss of face.
The government has announced that a public holiday will begin on 25 March, lasting beyond the course of the event. Official buildings will be closed and traffic congestion in Baghdad will be reduced as a result. This will make it easier for the security forces to manage the traffic and search more vehicles moving around the city. This is turn will hopefully make it more difficult for terrorists to infiltrate, but travel conditions will still be difficult for the personnel who continue to work in the capital.
Violence Last Week
In the run-up to the latest assault conditions were relatively quiet countrywide. Only six bomb attacks were recorded last week, which is less than a third of the usual weekly figure. For a change, more people were killed in shooting attacks than in bomb blasts, with 18 people shot dead and 14 injured against only seven killed and eight injured by explosive devices over the course of the week.
Attacks were concentrated in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, with a scattering of attacks in districts surrounding the capital. Basrah also saw a demonstration on Monday as local residents and attendees from elsewhere in the southern provinces gathered to complain of a lack of development and high unemployment in the oil-rich region.
A number of blasts have also been reported in the city although they appear to have slipped under the radar of in-country news coverage. No casualties have been reported but security has been increased around central Basrah in response and personnel are reminded that conditions are neither ‘safe’ nor ‘stable’ in what should otherwise be considered a city with strong economic opportunities. Companies are still encouraged to look to the city as a good investment, but proper risk mitigation measures need to be put in place prior to any serious investment.
John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British risk mitigation company 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.