Levels of violence rose in Iraq last week. At least 79 people were killed and 207 injured in nationwide incidents, more than double the figure recorded the previous week. A total of 21 non-suicide bomb attacks left 24 people dead and 36 injured. This is a relatively standard figure for the country. However, a suicide bombing, documented in last week’s update, killed a further 24 people and injured 125 in central Baghdad on 4 June. A notable rise in the number of small arms fire attacks left 21 people dead and 11 injured. Most took place in the central region (Anbar and Diyala provinces) as well as the northern city of Mosul. Conditions have continued to worsen this week with a series of attacks around the country taking place earlier today.
The Latest Bombings
At the time of writing bombs have killed dozens of people across Iraq, with casualty figures likely to rise over the coming hours. The attacks appear to have targeted Shi’ah worshippers, the security forces, mosques, political offices, marketplaces and gatherings of labourers. The incident comes a day before Shi’ah worshippers commemorate the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, and follows several attacks on Shi’ah interests over the past month. Given the targeting, co-ordination and distribution of the attacks the latest bombings may well be the handiwork of an al-Qaeda affiliated organisation. It is likely that whoever is responsible is seeking to provoke a backlash from the Shi’ah community, thus stirring up sectarian tensions in the country.
The Turkish military is reported to have bombed suspected PKK sites in mountainous parts of the border in Amedi district (Dahuk province). This is an ongoing occurrence although the majority of such incidents tend to have a very minimal impact on the majority of personnel and organisations operating in the region. Militants also blew up a pipeline in Ta’mim province at the weekend, although overall exports were not affected. The bombing was not in an area frequented by Kurdish terrorist groups, such as the PKK, who have attacked oil-related infrastructure in Turkey in the past but there is a notable radical Islamist presence in the province. Groups including those affiliated with al-Qaeda have expressed their intention to target oil-related assets in the country in the past and pipelines have been highlighted as a particular target. While it remains difficult for militants to conduct major attacks against well-defended facilities such as refineries, unguarded overland pipelines remain more vulnerable.
The central region saw several attacks last week, mainly in Anbar and Diyala provinces. Countrywide, indirect fire attacks (rockets and mortars) left seven people dead and 35 injured around Iraq last week – an unusually high number. The most notable incident took place in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad where Shi’ah worshippers were gathering to commemorate the low-level but still important death of revered figure Imam al-Kadhim. The spate of bombings which took place earlier today highlights the ongoing intent of terrorists to attack the Shi’ah community, including around sensitive religious sites, most of which are located in the central provinces.
The south of the country remains far quieter than the centre and north. Nonetheless low level incidents continue to take place, with occasional bombings and shootings, usually aimed at political figures, their homes and offices. Even the usually quiet province of Muthanna saw police defusing an explosive device on 12 June. Most of the latest incidents appear to have been aimed at intimidating political rivals. They have not led to significant casualties. Nonetheless their occurrence alone indicates that hostile threat groups still have a noticeable presence in the region, and conditions could yet worsen again if intra-organisational enmity increases.
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.