Tag Archive | "Political Risk"

Security Statistics from 2011

AKE has compiled statistics covering violence in Iraq over the course of 2011. The average week saw 56 attacks, many of which included bombings targeting civilians on an indiscriminate basis. The Iraqi security forces also suffered numerous attacks and will likely remain a major focus for militant groups now that the US military has withdrawn from the country. A total of 1716 explosive attacks took place, with 78 of them involving suicide bombers. Eighty-three people were also kidnapped, with many remaining in captivity or unaccounted for.

Weekly Fatalities in Iraq - figures fluctuated throughout 2011

AKE also documented at least 2893 fatalities over the year. However, the true figure is almost certain to be much higher. AKE figures are collated on a ‘spot’ basis, i.e. they are taken within 24 hours of a violent incident and do not take into account those who have died later from their injuries. The monitoring agency Iraq Body Count recorded a rise in civilian casualties in 2011, with 4,059 documented fatalities over the course of the year.

Q4 Conditions
Between October and December Baghdad was the most violent part of the country. The capital saw an average of 2-3 attacks per day, accounting for 38 per cent of all the violence in the country over the period. The next most hazardous province was Ninawa where the city of Mosul saw an average of 1-2 attacks per day. Other violent areas included the volatile and socially-mixed province of Ta’mim (Kirkuk) as well as the central provinces of Anbar, Babil, Diyala and Salah ad-Din.

Frequency of Incidents Oct-Dec 2011

Greener Pastures
The Kurdish provinces were very quiet, although they saw a small number of incidents, including cross border military operations by Iran and Turkey and a rise in localised social tensions in certain areas. The south of Iraq also saw very little violence. The quietest provinces in the whole of the country were Muthanna and Najaf which saw no major incidents of violence at all in the last quarter of the year. Even the oil-rich and previously troubled  provinces of Basrah and Maysan were far quieter than their counterparts in the centre and north of the country.

The Energy Sector
Such improvement in the southern region bodes well for the numerous companies looking to do business in the area in 2012. However, with ongoing violence, including a significant bombing in central Basrah the day before an oil and gas conference last year, security will likely remain a major consideration over the coming months for the industry.

Planning for 2012
AKE maintains a real-time security, political and travel risk report on Iraq, which readers can purchase here.  It contains risk assessment material, projections on how the security and political risk environment is likely to evolve over the coming year, travel guidelines and advice, as well as an archived database of analysis on the country stretching back to 2003. You can also obtain a free trial of our emailed intelligence by filling in your details here.

John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, an international risk mitigation firm working in Iraq since 2003. You can follow him on twitter here, and you can view the company website here.







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Weekly Security Update for 22nd September 2011

Levels of violence rose in Iraq over the past week. Conditions are still quieter than July and June but they have been gradually worsening over the course of September. Last week saw a series of brutal attacks, mainly in the central region, affecting Baghdad and the provinces of Anbar and Babil. Mosul in the north of the country also experienced a series of bombings and shootings. Two kidnap incidents have also been reported in the country over the past 24 hours, following a lull in abductions recorded since the middle of August. AKE’s quarterly kidnap brief will be issued at the beginning of October. If you would like to sign up to receive a copy please enter your details here.

Shelling of the border areas by the Turkish and Iranian military continues in Kurdistan, with at least one civilian injured during operations last week. However, much of the region continues to function largely unaffected and Kurdistan should still be regarded as a stable investment climate. The neighbouring province of Ta’mim which holds the frequently hostile city of Kirkuk was relatively quiet. Instead, the more populous city of Mosul in nearby Ninawa province experienced the lion’s share of the region’s hostilities.

Weekly Attacks in Iraq - the last 6 months

A rise in the number of suicide attacks in the centre of the country has stoked concerns that radical Islamists are regrouping and increasing their efforts against civilians and the Iraqi security forces. A warning was issued by al-Qaeda in Iraq during Ramadan that it was ready to initiate many suicide bombings and the latest spree would indicate that it is making good on its promise.  The country has seen an average of one suicide attack per week in 2011, with at least 500 people killed and hundreds more injured by the tactic this year.

As previously outlined in Iraq Business News, gunmen attacked a minibus travelling from the predominantly Shi’ah city of Karbala to a Shi’ah shrine in Syria on 12 September. It was carrying a group of Shi’ah pilgrims when it was stopped, close to the junction town of Nukhayb in the sparsely populated but predominantly Sunni district of Rutbah. At least 22 of the male passengers were led away and then shot dead. Security measures have been heightened in the central provinces in the aftermath of the attack but the implemented procedures are not exhaustive and further attacks should be expected.

Shi’ah religious worshippers may be targeted over the coming days as many will be commemorating the anniversary of the death of Imam Sadiq, a revered holy figure. As previously reported, religious pilgrimages remain an attractive target for terrorists. The date falls on 25 Shawwal (23 September) and could see a rise in attacks on civilians gathered around mosques or travelling to shrines such as Karbala or Najaf. As well as the Nukhayb killings there has been at least one attack believed to have been targeting Shi’ah pilgrims over the past week. Caution is therefore recommended.

The southern provinces remained very quiet last week with no major incidents reported. Personnel still need to remain on guard, but conditions remain far more stable than the central provinces. Sporadic terrorist attacks may still occur, but the currently stable security environment bodes well for the numerous businesses looking to work in the region.

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.

You can obtain a free trial of AKE’s intelligence reports here.
You can also follow John Drake on twitter here.

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Oil and Security

Iraq’s oil wealth is massive, with significant economic potential for years to come. Unfortunately, development is being hampered by endemic violence and ongoing instability. However, the main reserves are not evenly distributed around the country and neither is the violence. By avoiding the violent hotspots companies can still make significant profits with minimal exposure to the risks posed by militancy and political upheaval. Instead of being deterred by regular headlines of death and destruction, companies should take a closer look at the country to assess exactly where the risk lies, and where the opportunities abound.


Some parts of the country have oil paucity and extensive violence. Anbar province, for example, has comparatively few hydrocarbon reserves, yet it sees attacks on an almost daily basis. On the other hand, some areas such as provinces in the south or those administered by the Kurdish Regional Government in the north, have extensive reserves and see virtually no violence.


Frequency of Attacks by Province - Q2 2011

The South

By comparing the oil wealth of each province with the number of attacks it sees on a regular basis, it would appear that Maysan province in the south of the country could be a particularly attractive investment location. Accounting for over 7% of the country’s oil wealth the province suffered less than 1% of all countrywide attacks recorded in the second quarter of 2011 (April – June). Neighbouring Basrah province saw between 2-3 attacks every week over the period, but with more than half of the country’s oil reserves it is no surprise that energy firms and numerous service companies are still flocking to the province and its significant potential.



The North

Kurdistan in the north of the country is more of an established investment hotspot. As previously documented, conditions are very stable in the autonomous region, which accounts for at least 3% of the country’s oil, and more of its gas reserves. Conversely, the adjacent northern provinces of Ninawa and Ta’mim have over 15% of the country’s oil reserves between them, yet they experienced a quarter of the country’s violence in the second quarter. Ta’mim province currently sees an average of around eight attacks per week, while Ninawa province sees up to 12 and more so upstream oil and gas activity could be seen as more of a gamble in these areas. Companies operating here will have to take extensive measures to protect their assets and personnel – although business is certainly still possible in the two provinces.



Conditions seem even more punishing in the capital, which suffered more than 40% of all attacks recorded between April and June. The wider province accounts for just under 6% of the country’s oil reserves, and the violence must seem a daunting challenge to those looking to do business in the city. Nonetheless, Baghdad still houses the embassies and main political decision making bodies of the government, all of whom are involved in the oil and gas industry. Occasional trips at least will be required by companies looking to work in the country’s most important economic sector.

Baghdad at Sunset


To reassure those that must, it is still perfectly possible to do business in the capital, and indeed all of the parts of the country which still see regular violence. With proper security procedures companies are able to overcome the many security obstacles presented in the country. Indeed industry considerations aside Baghdad remains a favourite destination of this author, who even without a military background, is still able to travel around the city in relative security.


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, and you can obtain a free trial of AKE’s intelligence reports here.

AKE will be exhibiting at Offshore Europe in Aberdeen between the 6th and 8th September. Feel free to visit stand 5C110 where you can meet the author. If you would like to register to attend as an AKE guest for free please complete your details here.






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Weekly Security Update for 16th February 2011


Levels of violence have been rising in Iraq over the past four weeks. The increase has been gradual, but consistent and last week saw more than 40 attacks reported countrywide for the first time since mid-December. Recent days have seen a particularly concerning rise in militant activity and social tensions in the northern city of Kirkuk. There have also been a number of attacks on Shi’ah worshippers in Salah ad-Din province. Demonstrations calling for an improvement in public services are also ongoing in many urban areas of the country, with violence reported today at a protest in Wassit province.

Weekly Violence in Iraq


While Mosul has suffered the majority of northern violence over recent months, the past few days have seen a worrying rise in the number of attacks taking place in Kirkuk. On 15 February three Turkish nationals were abducted in the city by unknown gunmen. These are the first foreign nationals to have been abducted in the country since a US national of Iraqi origin was snatched by Asa’ib Ahl ul-Haq in Baghdad in January 2010. Further analysis on the latest kidnap trends in Iraq can be found here. A further three Iraqi nationals were abducted in Kirkuk over the past week. One of them, a Christian, is still being held, while of the other two, one was found dead and the other alive but injured. The ethnically mixed and contested oil-rich city has been a smouldering crisis waiting to happen for years. Conditions have been quieter than normal over the past few months, but inter-communal animosity between the city’s Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen residents lingers on. 2011 may see a deterioration in community relations and a subsequent rise in violence, while concerns have been raised over a possible security gap once the US military withdraws on 31 December.


Last week saw a number of attacks on Shi’ah worshippers in the province of Salah ad-Din, including in the holy city of Samarra. A bomb blast against the revered Askari mosque in the city in 2006 helped catalyse a major escalation in sectarian violence in the country and it is likely that the Sunni terrorists responsible for the latest attacks are intent on emulating a similar worsening in conditions. In Diyala province the police have recovered a large number of bodies in recent days. They are believed to belong to the victims of radical Islamist violence which was rife in the province prior to 2008. Organisations such as al-Qaeda in Iraq have been significantly weakened since then, although such groups still have a presence in the region. Members and sympathisers continue to be arrested in police operations in Baghdad, Ba’qubah and other cities in the centre of the country. Meanwhile, demonstrations inspired by events elsewhere in the Middle East are also taking place in Iraq. Unlike Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain however, the Iraqi protesters are demanding an improvement in employment conditions and the supply of public services (particularly electricity). The authorities have heightened their security measures around urban areas in Anbar province in anticipation of possible protest violence but the majority of events have so far passed peacefully. The main exception to this so far has been an incident in Wassit province. Here protestors stormed the provincial government headquarters in Kut, setting fire to buildings. Private security guards are reported to have responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing at least one person. Further analysis on the latest unrest in Iraq can be found here.


The south has also seen its share of demonstrations over the past week, with residents of cities including Basrah, Nassiriyah and Samawah turning out to demand improvements in employment rates, electricity supplies and water services. The majority of these gatherings have remained peaceful but they should be avoided nonetheless as they could turn violent at short notice. Note that an explosive device was defused west of Basrah city on 7 February. On 13 February a bomb on the main road between Zubayr and the border crossing at Safwan also killed one person and injured two. The police are conducting an investigation but it is being speculated that the victims may have been militants who accidentally detonated the device when trying to lay it. On 10 February in Dhi-Qar province four rockets landed on Imam Ali airbase near the southern city of Nassiriyah. No casualties were reported but personnel staying on fortified facilities in the south of the country should review their safety measures nonetheless. Rockets and mortars pose the greatest risk to facilities which might otherwise be deemed well protected and ‘secure’. There are no grounds for complacency in Iraq and personnel staying at such facilities are advised to familiarise themselves with their emergency procedures. Know where your nearest shelters and medical kits are and be prepared to take cover at very short notice.

John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE Group, a British private security firm working in Iraq from before 2003. Further details on the company can be found here.

You can obtain a free trial of AKE’s intelligence reports

You can also follow John Drake on twitter at

AKE ltd

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