Weekly Security Update 24 - 30 October 2013

Domestically, the latter part of the week was particularly violent for many Iraqis  Friday saw a series of bombs kill at least 16 people across Iraq as Shi'ite Muslims celebrated the holy festival of ِAl-Gadeer, which is one of the biggest festivals for Shi'ites who renew their pledge of allegiance to Imam Ali, the second-most important Islamic figure for Shi'ites after the Prophet Mohammed.

In total nine bombs were detonated by remote control with the deadliest being two roadside devices that exploded in quick succession in a market in the Shi'ite town of Yousufiya, 20 km south of Baghdad, killing at least seven people.

At approximately the same time a series of coordinated attacks (six in total) in Baquba killed at least four people as six roadside bombs detonated near the homes of Shi'ite families who had recently returned after fleeing for their having received death threats from Sunni insurgents.

In the final attack of the day a roadside bomb exploded in a Shi'ite neighborhood of western Baghdad, killing at least four people.

Over the weekend Baghdad and Mosul bore the brunt of a series of coordinated high impact attacks that killed 55 people across the country.   The ISF reported 11 vehicles blowing up in mainly Shi'ite Muslim areas in and around Baghdad, killing 41 people in a coordinated series of explosions typical of ISI operators and a further 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber drove up to a line of soldiers waiting to collect their pay from a bank in the northern city of Mosul and detonated his car.

Just how much more brutality the Iraq population can absorb is not known.  The country has swept past the relatively low (by comparison) average monthly death toll of 300-400 seen between 2009 – 2012 to the current highs of 1000 + per month as without an end in sight.  The regional influence of the Syrian conflict cannot be overestimated. According to one Iraqi security minister, AQ and its affiliates are working harder and harder to now undermine Maliki's government because they think this is in part one way to accelerate the fall of the Syrian regime.

In light of this the security situation will be high on the agenda of PM Nouri al Maliki’s trip to Washington where reports suggest he will look to press President Obama for additional support in the sale of drones and F-16 aircraft.  Whilst these equipments will have an affect they are not what is needed most in Iraq’s fight against extremist elements.  There remains a significant requirement to build the ISF capacity and capability, especially in the coordinated command & control / response functions as well as the specialised counter insurgency and intelligence gathering units, who are the best people suited to combat the threat posed by AQ. If this can be achieved, especially in the intelligence-gathering sphere then the value-add offered by capabilities such as drones will be all the more effective.

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