Levels of violence rose in Iraq last week, with a particular increase in the number of attacks targeting civic employees in Baghdad. There were also clusters of violence in the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosuk and Kirkuk, as well as in the north of Babil province. The south was relatively quiet, as was most of Kurdistan, with the exception of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah city centres, which saw rolling protests against the authorities.
The Kurdish security forces arrested several people after clashes in downtown Sulaymaniyah over recent days. Clashes also took place in downtown Arbil, although the extent of the resultant damage and injuries has been contested by protest organisers and the Kurdish authorities. For the vast majority of people working in Kurdistan these protests will have only a limited impact on working conditions. Travel may be difficult in certain areas, such as around Saray Square in Sulaymaniyah but the overall stability of the regional government is not being threatened and any violence associated with the protests remains limited and largely reactive to security force intervention.
Elsewhere in the north, there are ongoing sporadic ethnic clashes taking place in and around Mosul and Kirkuk. Kidnap for ransom also remains a problem, with one Iraqi national released from captivity in southern Ta’mim province last week. He was unharmed but was freed for a reported US$30,000. So long as the 'industry' remains practical and profitable it will continue to pose a challenge to the authorities and a concern for Iraqis and foreigners alike.
There was a rise in levels of violence in the centre of the country last week, particularly in western Baghdad, eastern Anbar province and northern Babil province. Baghdad saw a series of attacks, predominantly in the west of the city, and especially in and around the district of Mansour. A lot of the attacks were targeted, rather than indiscriminate, and ministry employees, senior members of the security forces and other state employees constituted the majority of victims - as has been the case for several months. UVIEDs (sticky bombs) are a particular concern at present. Monday also saw a double suicide attack against a queue outside the western entrance to the International/Green Zone.
While there were several clusters of violence around Iraq last week, none of them were located in the south of the country. Roadside bombings targeting US military convoys continue to occur sporadically, but most do not cause casualties. Well defended facilities such as bases and airports also continue to suffer occasional mortar attacks, but the situation is otherwise a lot more calm than the centre and north of Iraq. Personnel still have to exercise caution when moving around in the region, and even when staying in facilities which could otherwise be considered 'secure' but at present the security environment is more benign in the south than many other parts 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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