Levels of violence rose in Iraq last week to the highest level seen this year. The graph below indicates that there were over 70 major attacks recorded countrywide, the majority of which took place in Baghdad. There were several incidents also recorded in eastern Anbar province, a slight fall in the number of attacks in Mosul, a slight rise in the number of attacks in Kirkuk and a generally low number of incidents in the south of the country. Kurdistan saw ongoing protests in downtown Sulaymaniyah, but conditions were still relatively stable and quiet.
Kidnap in Iraq is an ongoing concern, especially in the north of the country. Four people were abducted in the provinces of Ninawa and Ta’mim over the past week, including two men who were later found dead. One of the other abductees was a child seized near Kirkuk who is likely to be held for a ransom. Children have been regularly targeted by opportunist criminals in Iraq over recent years. They are often easier to hold in captivity, while extended family members and even wider communities are often much more willing to provide the financial assistance to the child’s immediate family in order to pay the ransom. Given the comparative ease involved in kidnapping a child over an adult, the cruel tactic is likely to continue.
However, the Iraqi security forces are gradually improving their capability in the field of tackling the problem. The Iraqi army reportedly released three Turkish nationals in an operation near Kirkuk on 26 April. They had been held since 15 February and were reportedly beaten, threatened and given food only on alternate days during their captivity. At the time of their abduction a foreign national had not been seized in Iraq for over a year. Evidently companies still need to take the risk into consideration. Personnel of Arab, Kurdish or Turkish origin are no less at risk than nationals from more distant countries and there are no grounds for complacency when assessing security needs in Iraq.
Eastern Anbar province and Baghdad were particularly violent last week whereas the once hazardous provinces of Babil, Diyala and Salah ad-Din were quiet with very few incidents reported. The capital saw a considerable rise in assassination attempts, particularly in the down town area on the eastern bank of the River Tigris. Otherwise, however, incidents were scattered throughout the city, from the predominantly Shi’ah district of Sadr City in the east to the predominantly Sunni district of Amiriyah in the west. Most of the attacks were relatively small, but targeted, leaving several senior security force officers and mid-level civic employees dead and injured. As has been the case for a number of weeks, there was a higher than normal number of sticky bombs (UVIEDs) used in attacks.
For another week there were very few incidents reported in the south of the country. However, the US military was targeted once again by militants in the area, with two US soldiers reportedly killed in one incident, although details have not yet been fully revealed. The most frequent tactic affecting the US military in the region remains roadside explosive attacks. Personnel travelling high profile are most at risk of this kind of tactic. Otherwise, mortars continue to pose a concern, although they are gradually becoming less frequent.
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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