Weekly Security Update 27 Nov - 02 Dec 2013

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By Tom Walker, Assaye Risk


The daily churn of violence notwithstanding it has been a gruesome week in Iraq as insurgents have pressed home a series of devastating attacks combined with a campaign of shock tactics where numerous groups of civilian males have been beheaded across the country.  In addition, the focus of attacks this week has very much been against vulnerable government locations resulting in scores being killed and wounded.

Over the reporting period the ISF has found the bodies of at least 44 Iraqi males, predominantly in Baghdad, Mosul and Anbar, who were either shot execution style or beheaded.  The phenomenon of ‘unknown bodies’ (named so because of the removal of all identification and very often the head) is not a new phenomenon in Iraq.  These killings are now evermore sensitive in the Iraqi eye due to the memories they evoke of the sectarian slaughter that took place during the 2006 – 2007 civil war.  Execution-style killings were one of the hallmarks of sectarian violence that peaked in 2006 and 2007 and it became commonplace for Iraqis to find dozens of bodies each morning, discarded in public squares and garbage dumps, particularly in Baghdad.

The deadliest attack was uncovered on November 29 when police retrieved the bodies of 18 men, including a Sunni tribal sheikh and his son, who had been abducted and shot in the head near Baghdad.  The bodies were found in an orchard in Meshahda, a mainly Sunni area around 30 km north of Baghdad.  Their abductors were disguised in army uniform, security sources reported to Reuters.

The overwhelming majority of ISF officials have recently pointed the finger of blame toward al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent groups however this tactic was one favoured by both Sunni insurgents and Shia militia during the civil war.  This said numerous independent commentators have suggested that Shia militias are actually perpetrating a sizeable proportion of the recent killings as part of a retaliatory campaign, many of which have been suggested to have close links to the ruling elite.  The extremely violent, intrusive and purely emotive nature of these attacks will test the resilience of the Iraqi populace across the sectarian divide and undoubtedly presents a serious challenge to the fabric of Iraqi society.

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