By Tom Walker, Director, Assaye Risk
Violence has intensified in Iraq this week as the ISI stepped up both their domestic and international campaign with a wave of bombings.
The impact of the Syrian conflict continues to be felt both in Iraq and Syria. In line with their domestic campaign in Iraq the ISI have also done much the same in Syria, with repercussions on both side sof the border. ISI rebels in Syria have declared an offensive against two other insurgent factions, underlining growing turmoil and infighting in the conflict, accusing the two other groups of attacking its forces and suggested they may have even collaborated with the government.
Activists and analysts have however reported a surge in clashes between rebels in recent months, saying they were more to do with rivalry over territory and spoils of war than ideology. In addition to the frayed relationships between Islamist and non-Islamist rebel groups, some fighters say there have also been raising tensions among Islamist fighters. Numerous sources said most of the Islamist clashes were down to localized power disputes, but some added there was also a larger conflict over how to impose Islamist rule.
This increase in internecine fighting in Syria poses another question, that of whether the ISI are over-stretching themselves on two international fronts and whether they will remain capable of maintaining their current campaign in Iraq whilst fighting a high intensity campaign in Syria. The escape of up to 500 Al Qaeda combatants last month has undoubtedly served to swell their ranks and increase their capability however they are reputed to be suffering heavy casualties in Syria and one could question how long they can keep a similar tempo of operations with a similar number of trained personnel.
For the first time in some weeks Baquba was targeted resulting in the deaths of up to 30 people in a sophisticated double bombing. Two roadside bombs detonated outside a mosque as Sunni Muslim worshippers were leaving following Friday prayers. A further 25 people were wounded in the Baquba explosions, which occurred about ten minutes apart. The second explosion tore through a crowd of people who had rushed to help those hurt in the first blast. Separately on Friday a car bomb killed three Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims from Iran in the city of Samarra, where the bombing of a shrine in 2006 touched off the worst sectarian carnage to engulf Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam.