Last week saw a rise in the number of attacks taking place in Iraq. Militant activity was concentrated in the centre of the country and in the northern city of Mosul. There were at least three suicide bombings in Anbar and Ninawa provinces while a Kurdish civilian was reportedly kidnapped in Kirkuk. As warned last week, there has been a continuation of targeted shooting attacks in the capital. The Iraqi government subsequently issued a warning on 4 January putting the city authorities on high alert, and further shooting attacks should be anticipated. State employees and members of the Iraqi security forces are most at risk of being singled out.
For several weeks the north of Iraq has appeared uncharacteristically quiet. Police operations appear to have put militants on the back foot, with several being arrested, some being killed and many choosing to lie low temporarily so as to avoid getting caught. However, last week saw signs of a possible retaliation in Mosul, seen as a northern stronghold of radical Islamist groups, with an attack on the police headquarters and several blasts and shootings targeting police patrols and checkpoints. Otherwise in Kirkuk, a Kurdish civilian was reportedly abducted with no word received on any ransom demand made for his release. Approximately four to five Iraqi nationals are currently abducted every month in the country. For further details on ransom settlements and average detention periods please contact the AKE intelligence department for our latest report on worldwide kidnap and ransom trends: [email protected].
Last week saw a rise in violence around Fallujah district (Anbar province), with bomb and shooting attacks targeting the police. A judge's house was also attacked in Salah ad-Din province while a series of shooting attacks on members of the security forces and government employees in Baghdad left several people dead. Shooting attacks, often involving guns fitted with silencers have significantly increased in frequency over the past two weeks in the city. This was warned in last week’s report and on 4 January the government put the city on high alert in an attempt to tackle the issue. In a series of police operations the authorities discovered an illegal factory set up in the city centre to affix silencers to firearms. Unfortunately this discovery is not likely to disrupt the trend in targeted shootings. It is relatively easy to create silencers for firearms and Baghdad is already thought to contain a very large number of such weapons. However, if one positive aspect can be taken it is the fact that militants are no longer free to shoot and kill their victims in plain sight without fear of arrest. The police forces are now much improved from 2006 and earlier years and their increasing capabilities have forced militants to operate much more covertly in the city.
The south of the country remains relatively calm in comparison to the centre and north with few incidents recorded last week. A roadside blast was reported near a US convoy in Najaf, although no casualties or damage were confirmed. The police also defused several bombs on a main route north of Amarah in Maysan province, highlighting both their vigilance as well as the ongoing risk of roadside attacks on key routes in the area. High-profile vehicles and convoys are usually the most commonly targeted, with vehicles associated with the US military most at risk of being singled out.
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
You can also follow John on twitter at www.twitter.com/johnfdrake