While many have been concerned at the impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on the security situation in Iraq, conditions have not changed significantly in recent days. Levels of violence actually fell last week, although conditions are still worse than normal. The majority of attacks continue to take place in Baghdad, although last week saw a decline in activity in the capital. The northern provinces of Ninawa and Ta’mim saw a slight worsening in conditions, while the south and Kurdistan remain relatively quiet.
There was a rise in the number of attacks taking place in the northern provinces of Ninawa and Ta’mim over the past week, with activity concentrated in the towns of Mosul, Kirkuk and Hawijah. On 30 April a suicide bomber targeted an Iraqi army checkpoint in Mosul, killing and injuring several people. The Iraqi security forces remain a regular target for radical Islamist attacks in the north, with a suicide attack taking place in the provinces of Ninawa and Ta’mim approximately once every three-four weeks at present. Protests appear to have become somewhat dampened in Kurdish cities (mainly Sulaymaniyah) over recent days, although there remains a more visible than normal security force presence in many city centres. Overall, however, conditions remain stable in the region.
There was a slight increase in levels of violence throughout the central provinces last week, with the exception of Baghdad, which saw a slight and welcome fall in the number of attacks taking place. The capital was still nonetheless the most hazardous part of the country. Assassination attempts continue to take place, with shootings and small targeted bombs (including sticky bombs) posing an ongoing concern for mid-level civic employees and senior members of the security forces. Security has been tightened in light of the killing of Osama bin Laden, but in reality, the previous killing of senior al-Qaeda figures in Iraq has prompted little in the way of a retaliatory effort by terrorists. Furthermore, many of the attacks conducted in the capital are carried out by Shi’ah groups, not Sunni ones affiliated with the global al-Qaeda network. As such, security trends are not likely to be significantly altered by the killing, although occasional high-profile and mass-casualty attacks by radical jihadist groups should still be considered a risk in the country nonetheless. Beyond the capital, a suicide bomber targeted a Shi’ah mosque in the Balad Ruz area of Diyala province on 28 April. At least eight people were killed and 17 injured during the attack, which was likely aimed at harming sectarian relations in the area.
Conditions remain quiet in the south of Iraq, with a more relaxed atmosphere than the centre and non-Kurdish north of the country. The main target of attacks remains the US military, with at least one soldier reportedly killed last week. Indirect fire (rockets and mortars) continue to target US military facilities, including the one adjacent to Basrah International Airport (an issue analysed previously on Iraq Business News). However, while these pose a concern, and personnel need to remain vigilant, they often cause little in the way of damage and casualties.
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 while AKE’s intelligence and political risk website Global IntAKE can be accessed here.
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