By Tom Walker, Director, Assaye Risk.
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The reporting week ended on a somewhat wretched note with the news that Baghdad had witnessed heightened levels of violence with the reported deaths of at least 52 people and approx. 108 wounded, however it is difficult to gauge the true number of casualties due to confused reporting from Iraqi security sources and local press. These incidents however confirm the anticipated spike in attacks as militant groups seek to continue to exploit sectarian tensions arising from the unsettled political situation.
The remainder of the country experienced no significant changes in activity, other than a slight drop in tempo in the northern regions, with a reported total of approx. 131 fatalities country wide bringing the February total up to 230. The overwhelming majority of violence has been concentrated in Baghdad and surrounding provinces, and the north around Mosul and Kirkuk, but it is clear that the increased Iraqi Army activity in the north and west has had a dampening effect on insurgent activity.
In the political spectrum the stalemate has continued however Baghdad has this week repeatedly attempted to flex its muscle across the country in order to try and wrest back some influence and control in dissenting provinces. News sources reported that the Ministry of Finance had once again been raided resulting in the arrest of ministry guards (an interesting occurrence given that the recent countrywide demonstrations happened in major part due to actions taken against the Minster of Finance and his delegation in December 2012) and that the Iraqi Army had increased the tempo of its operations in Nineveh and Anbar provinces against armed groups supposedly fomenting trouble. In addition, on 12 February the Iraqi Army closed the main route between Anbar and Baghdad in a clear attempt to disrupt the Anbari protest movement heading for the Capital.