Weekly Security Update

As with many of these attacks the true number of casualties is difficult to come by due to confused local reporting. ISI said it had ordered the suicide bombers to attack the building floor by floor and "liquidate" its enemies inside as part of its widening campaign against what it sees as Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim-led government oppression of Sunnis. "In a blessed raid among a series of operations for revenge ... Baghdad's knights undermined another vicious bastion which was always a tool against Sunnis, torturing, terrifying, imprisoning and executing them," al-Qaeda said in a statement published online.

As a result of these attacks the security presence across the city, and especially across sectarian fault lines, has further increased tensions, which undoubtedly contributed to another spate of spectacular attacks designed to also coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Iraqi invasion. 20 March once again the ISI has claimed responsibility for a wave of bombings and suicide attacks that killed around 60 people with 160 others wounded in a coordinated wave of suicide, car and roadside bombings in and around Baghdad during the morning rush hour of 18 March.

The assailants targeted markets, restaurants, bus stops and day labourers mainly in Shia districts of the capital, although two of the deadliest blasts occurred near the heavily fortified Green Zone and the offices of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. On Wednesday morning, a statement posted on jihadist websites by the Islamic State of Iraq claimed the attacks had been a "quick response" to the justice minister. "What has reached you on Tuesday is just the first drop of rain, and a first phase, for by God's will, after this we will have our revenge," the statement added.

SOUTHERN

In line with the emboldened stance by Sunni insurgent groups the South saw for the first time in recent months an increase in Sunni insurgent activity and threat, which is totally in keeping with the insurgent intent to continue to destabilize and delegitimize Baghdad’s influence across the country. On 17 March a rare double car bombing hit Iraq’s southern city of Basra, with at least 10 people killed and 16 wounded. The most serious element of the attack happened at a bus terminal in Garmat Ali, a town on the outskirts of Basra, which was preceded minutes earlier by another car bomb exploding in a parking lot in central Basra, wounding several people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in and around the normally-peaceful port city, however it is likely that Sunni groups will continue to punch south in order to further inflame sectarian tensions, but also to highlight Baghdad’s inability to protect its main support base in the south. Whilst these are deadly attacks it should be noted that Sunni groups have little penetration and influence this far south and as such will likely have limited effect over the short to medium term. Regardless, the possibility of a sectarian motivated high impact attack remains omnipresent, especially in the sensitive and religiously important areas of Babil, Karbala, Najaf, Wasit and Basra.

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