Levels of violence fell in Iraq over the past week. This is the first time this has occurred so far this year. Protests were less violent than the preceding week while there was a drop in the number of terrorist attacks in all parts of the country except the capital. The contested city of Kirkuk also saw a decline in violence, although tensions are being raised in and around the city. Unless there is a concerted effort to mediate the situation, the city could see a significant escalation in violence this year.
Tensions continue to rise around Kirkuk with rising Arab and Turkmen concerns that the Kurdish government is intent on annexing the city. Kurdish residents are advised to be wary of possible ethno-national attacks over the coming weeks, while similar reprisal attacks will also pose a concern for the non-Kurdish communities inhabiting the city. Regardless of who has rightful claim the situation will descend into violence if it is not addressed with mediation, community inclusion and the promise of development and economic investment in the oil-rich province. In Kurdistan protests are continuing, particularly in central Sulaymaniyah. Related violence declined last week, although thugs attacked a camp of demonstrators and a radio station office over the weekend. Most private businesses are not being targeted in the unrest and while security is a concern around large demonstrations, the majority of economic activities are continuing unaffected in the area.
The central provinces saw an overall decline in violence over the past week. There was a fall in the number of suicide attacks taking place which had a positive effect on casualty figures. The capital saw a slight rise in violence, with a particular increase in bomb attacks, but the majority of devices used were small, causing numerous injuries, but few fatalities. One issue of concern has been the repeated targeting of oil tankers in the city, with four such attacks over the past two weeks. Companies responsible for the transport of oil products should review their security procedures, particularly in Baghdad. The energy sector in general is advised to monitor the trend as the country may be witnessing a rise in the number of attacks on the oil and gas sector, as outlined here.
While the south remains quieter than the centre and north of the country it continues to suffer attacks. The majority of incidents target the US military, although bystanders are also implicated in the risk as well. Basrah was hit with its most substantial terrorist attack in four months when a roadside bomb killed six people and injured 12 on 6 March. It is believed that the bomb was targeting a US military vehicle as it passed through Maaqal district in the north of the city, but a delay in the detonation meant that a civilian vehicle bore the brunt of the impact. While local Shi’ah militia groups were likely responsible public criticism may nonetheless be directed at the US military and increase demands for a withdrawal of foreign troops sooner rather than later.
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
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