Recent days have seen deadly suicide attacks in Mosul and Ramadi. There has also been a worrying increase in the number of shooting attacks in Baghdad. However, last week otherwise saw a slight reduction in the total number of attacks taking place in Iraq. Incidents were concentrated in the capital, with no incidents recorded in Kurdistan and very little violent activity recorded in the south of the country.
Three weeks of comparative quiet in the north were shattered on 29 December when three suicide bombers attacked the police headquarters in Mosul, killing the most senior police commander in Ninawa province, lieutenant commander al-Jabouri. The attack was likely in retaliation for a series of recent police operations which have led to the killing and detention of several radical Islamist fighters in the area. Mosul remains a battle ground between the authorities and anti-government groups, including those affiliated with al-Qaeda. The latest rise in police activity may have temporarily disrupted militant plans but they are evidently still able to conduct brazen attacks, even against what should be well-defended facilities. The loss of lieutenant commander al-Jabouri will likely set back counter-insurgency efforts. The coming weeks are thus expected to see a shift in police and militant activity as both sides reassess their capabilities in light of the latest killings.
Another suicide bombing, this time targeting a government building in Ramadi underlines the fact that al-Qaeda has not been eradicated from Anbar province. The authorities continue to suffer attacks as terrorist groups try to undermine public confidence in the state. Otherwise, violence remains concentrated in Baghdad. Last week saw a fall in the number of bomb attacks in the city, but there was also a concerning rise in the number of targeted shooting attacks. Government employees and senior members of the security forces are currently the most commonly targeted. In more positive news, however, the past few weeks have seen a reduction in the number of sticky bombs being used by militants. Sticky bombs are also referred to as magnetic bombs or Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Devices (UVIEDs) and 'abwat lasiqah' in Arabic. They are normally attached to the underside of a car and detonated when the target gets in and begins to drive. They have previously been a favoured tactic for targeting state employees and should still be considered a hazard, albeit one that now occurs less frequently than earlier in the year.
There was very little militant activity recorded in the southern provinces last week. A man was shot dead in a tribal clash in Maysan province, but there were no terrorist attacks or major criminal incidents reported. The area should be considered potentially hazardous, particularly for high profile convoys associated with the US military, but conditions are nonetheless relatively stable when compared to the centre and north of the country.
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 at www.akegroup.com/iraq
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