Sticky Bombs on the Rise


Iraq has seen a rise in the number of sticky bomb attacks over the last week. This is a worrying trend, particularly for the state employees and security force personnel who are being singled out for these attacks.

The Tactic
Sticky bombs are also known as Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Devices (UVIEDs). They are usually magnetic in nature and are affixed to a target vehicle before being detonated – usually by remote control. UVIEDs are normally used to kill a specifically targeted individual, such as a ministry employee or senior member of the Iraqi security forces. Foreigners are not normally targeted, but foreign journalists have been singled out in attempted attacks in the past. All personnel should therefore exercise caution.

The last six weeks have seen UVIED attacks across the country, but predominantly in eastern Anbar province and western Baghdad. The capital has witnessed at least 26 separate UVIED attacks alone. The weekend also saw an unusual spike in attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk. It is likely that several of the groups responsible are affiliated. Given the location of most of the attacks, many of the militants responsible may be associated with Sunni groups. The Shi’ah south of Iraq and east of Baghdad have seen far fewer UVIED attacks over recent months.

The following locations have suffered at least one UVIED attack over the past six weeks:

Recent UVIED attacks in Iraq

Iraq-wide: Ba’qubah, Baghdad, Fallujah, Iskandariyah, Karmah, Khanaqin, Kirkuk, Mahmudiyah, Mosul, Mussayab, Ramadi, Taji

Recent UVIED attacks in Baghdad

Baghdad-specific: Adhimiyah, Allawi, Amiriyah, Bayaa, Dourah, Ghazaliyah, Hurriyah, Khadraa, Mansour, Nidhal, Palestine Street, Qaddisiyah, Qahirah, Saydiyah, Yarmouk, Za’faraniyah

Recent Police Operations
On 13 April the police in Fallujah uncovered a factory being used to manufacture UVIEDs. The find may interrupt bomb-making activities in Anbar province, but there are likely to be several more such factories scattered throughout the central provinces, including in the capital. It is also likely that the bombs are being produced in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk as well.

For a start, vehicles should contain fire extinguishers, medical equipment and even window-breaking tools, which may be necessary in the event of an attack, particularly one which leaves vehicle occupants trapped.

The bombs are normally affixed to a vehicle that has been parked and left unattended. However, they have occasionally been attached to cars stuck in heavy traffic in central Baghdad. Personnel are therefore advised to exercise caution when travelling at times of congestion. Try to avoid allowing people to approach your vehicle, including street vendors and pedestrians passing through traffic.

Personnel must also inspect their vehicles before and after every journey, even minor ones. Look out for any suspicious devices around the underside of the vehicle as you approach it, and be aware of your surroundings. Most of the devices are detonated by remote control by an operator who is situated within eyesight.

When you park a vehicle, it should not be left unattended. The driver should always stay with it unless it is secured in a known and trusted location. Where this is not possible, try and find a parking attendant. They are commonly found in the city centre locations where UVIEDs are a risk, particularly in downtown Baghdad. Do not leave the vehicle for too long, and when you return, try to have the parking attendant approach the vehicle with you. If there has been any suspicious activity affecting your car they will not want to go near it.

Ultimately, UVIEDs are predominantly used against targets who have been selected and likely monitored for a period of time. As such, a key mitigating factor is to implement counter-surveillance techniques. Make it as difficult as possible for a would-be attacker to spot you, follow your behaviour and predict your movements. Avoid following routines in public places. Vary your routes and your appearance.

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

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2 Responses to Sticky Bombs on the Rise

  1. JohnDrake 19th April 2011 at 05:58 #

    Another point I might add is that sticky bombs are referred to in Iraqi Arabic as 'abwat lasiqah' (عــبــوة-لاصـــقـــة).

  2. [...] in the region. On 31 May in Kurdistan the authorities are reported to have made safe a sticky bomb (Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device – UVIED) attached to a car driving from Kirkuk towards Arbil.  Terrorism remains a very rare occurrence in [...]


  1. Weekly Security Update for 2nd June 2011 | Iraq Business News - 2nd June 2011

    [...] in the region. On 31 May in Kurdistan the authorities are reported to have made safe a sticky bomb (Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device – UVIED) attached to a car driving from Kirkuk towards Arbil.  Terrorism remains a very rare occurrence in [...]