Both Salah al-Din and Diyala saw little change in the levels of violence and types of activity seen over the previous weeks. The random spread of IEDs along main transit routes along the Tigris River Valley and surrounding urban centers continues unabated creating a somewhat ‘Russian Roulette’ scenario to travel. What is clear is that the increased IA operations in Diyala eased last week, which has resulted in a more pro-active operational tempo from insurgent groups. Samarra witnessed some sophisticated attacks, especially a further attack against the governor’s compound and motorcade, both of which were the focus of insurgent operations in the past few weeks.
This week Al-Anbar became a national focus for security issues in the country. In recent weeks the western border with Syria has captivated the attention of ISI and other Sunni militant groups. This area has also provided a secure and plentiful replenishing point for continued operations against government and sectarian targets in Iraq. Emboldened by recent successes against Syrian government forces, coupled with Syrian rebel advances, Sunni insurgent groups would appear to have migrated back into this flashpoint province and Baghdad, with resulting consequences.
In an attempt to quell the rising Sunni protest movement Baghdad postponed the provincial elections until the situation calms, however this will arguably create even more tensions and help drive the protest movement toward further radicalization, a move many Sunni insurgent groups, amongst them ISI, would welcome. Whilst the general levels of violence in the province remained low, with few fatalities, it is the very incendiary nature of Al-Anbar and its Sunni minority that presents such a potent threat to Baghdad.
The week ended on a wretched note for Baghdad with multiple bombings and fatalities. Around 11 am on 14 March ISI insurgents detonated two car bombs at the entry gates to the Ministry of Justice, which was then followed up by a sophisticated ground assault. A government press office indicated that the gunmen killed all of the building’s guards and then took over the first and second floors after one of the attackers detonated a suicide vest thus clearing a way forward. ISF eventually regained control in a confusing situation with sources reporting more than 26 people killed in the attack, including three of the suicide bombers, in addition to 56 wounded.