Weekly Security Update for 21st December 2011

Levels of violence fell in Iraq over the past week, with attacks concentrated in Mosul, Baghdad and Kirkuk. There was a scattering of incidents throughout the central provinces and a notable bombing attack on oil and gas infrastructure in Basrah province. Bomb attacks left at least 15 people dead and 77 injured, a decline from the previous week, while a consistent number of small arms attacks left 15 people dead and seven injured. There were no suicide attacks recorded over the course of the week, and the country should now be considered statistically overdue.

The political situation appears to have deteriorated considerably over recent days. There are growing concerns that the arrest warrant for vice prime minister Tariq al-Hashimi will bring Iraq’s political communities to the brink of confrontation. Whether or not there is truth in the allegations made against al-Hashimi, the ongoing pursuit of alleged Ba’athists and suspected terrorists from the Sunni community in the central provinces will increase suspicions amongst the public that a witch hunt is underway. This is hardly a situation conducive towards reconciliation, development and advancement in the post-US era of the country and does not bode well for stability and security in 2012.

The Withdrawal
AKE issued a risk advisory for Iraq following the withdrawal of US forces which concluded on 17 December. US counter-insurgency operations will no longer take place on the ground while training of the Iraqi security forces has also been significantly scaled back. The country now faces a security gap, which various threat groups, both domestic and external may attempt to capitalise on. Violence may therefore rise over the course of 2012, not least as the political environment appears to growing more competitive and confrontational.

Medical Concerns
From a practical perspective foreign personnel will no longer be able to rely on advanced medical treatment in the event of illness or injury in the country. Organisations should therefore aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible and ensure that employees have sufficient evacuation, repatriation and insurance cover in advance of travel. Organisations should also strongly consider taking medically trained personnel with them on deployments. For further information on security and medical support in the country please email [email protected].

Three people were kidnapped in separate incidents in the central provinces last week, including a mayor in Babil province who was later found shot dead. Three ministry employees abducted last week were also found shot dead in Salah ad-Din province. AKE will be producing its quarterly update on worldwide kidnap trends in the new year. If you would like to be added to the mailing list please complete your details here.

Basrah Bombings
Up to three improvised explosive devices targeted oil pipelines servicing southern oilfields last week. There were no casualties but open sources indicate that the pipes were damaged and local output was reduced by half for at least a day. While an investigation is ongoing, there is widespread speculation over the threat group behind the incident. With the perpetrators potentially either from local communities along the length of the pipeline, or amongst energy workers themselves, the importance of due diligence, employee consultation and community engagement has once again been highlighted. It is not economically feasible to station guards along the entire length of pipeline infrastructure, but engaging with local communities and staying in close communication with employees will work well towards mitigating the risk of further violence. Needless to say, close relations with local communities will also work towards empowering the Iraqi public and illustrating that the energy sector is there for the good of the country, and not to steal a sovereign resource.

John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British private security firm working in Iraq since 2003. You can access AKE’s intelligence website Global Intake here, and you can obtain a free trial of AKE’s Iraq intelligence reports here.

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