Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baghdad - Rapid Analysis Report – Incidents 22 December 2011

At least fourteen incidents, consisting of IED and VBIED detonations, were reported across Baghdad, commencing from approximately 06:40 on 22 December; the Ministry of Health currently places the casualty toll at 49 killed, 167 wounded.  The situation remains confused, with circular reports blurring the picture and more accurate details set to emerge as the day progresses.  The wave of attacks is in keeping with assessed terrorist activity; a series of spectacular attacks was fully anticipated and has been timed not only to co-incide with the US withdrawal, but also the on-going political crisis.  Movement for PSCs and their clients is likely to be restricted over the coming days as checkpoints increase manning and searches

A number of attacks were reported across Baghdad from approximately 0700 on 22 December; given the recent paucity of attacks in the capital, the concentration not only in time but the geographic spread of the incidents indicates that they were almost certainly co-ordinated. These attacks have been assessed to have been imminent with an increase in attempted high impact attacks occurring since the beginning of Ashura. The last set of similar attacks was on 15 August, with several smaller clusters since; details of today's attacks remain sketchy, and it is likely that some attacks, initially assessed as VBIEDs will be re-categorized as IEDs. Irrespective of that, well-planned IED attacks can achieve the same result as a VBIED in terms of casualties and their impact on the collective perception of the security situation.

Due to heightened fears over the US military withdrawal, exacerbated by the present political deadlock instigated by PM al-Maliki's conflict with Vice-President al-Hashemi and Deputy PM al-Mutlaq, the timing of the attacks will have a disproportionate effect on both domestic and international judgments of Iraq's security situation. AQIZAM is particularly adept at identifying and exploiting such critical junctures in order to achieve a strategic impact. As above, the relative volume of attacks alone will feed a perception of a series of mass-attacks, certainly when off-set against the low-level, both in terms of quality and quantity, of recent terrorist activity in Baghdad.

Today's events will also have political ramifications, in that apparent security failures will be blamed on a number of players, ranging from the GoI to individual political blocs. Initial details indicate that the majority of those targeted appear to have been Iraqi civilians, rather than higher-profile targets such as ministries, ISF headquarters or members of the establishment. There are several advantages from a terrorist perspective to this approach; easier to conduct and more likely to cause casualties, it also brings home to the ordinary Iraqi the direct consequences of terrorist attacks.

A suicide bomber reportedly detonated a VBIED at the Integrity Commission office in Karadah, killing 13 civilians and wounding 36 others. Two consecutive IED detonations targeted construction workers, killing two and wounding nine, near the Baghdad Cinema in al-Alawi in Karkh. In Adhamiyah in the north of the city, a UVIED detonation killed two civilians and wounded eight others in al-Maghrib Street, and a controlled detonation of two VBIEDs parked near an IA checkpoint killed three civilians and wounded nine others in Hay Adan in al-Sha'ab. An IED detonation also reportedly struck a PSC convoy in the area, killing three and wounding six others. It remains unclear whether this was in fact a PSC, or a GoI or ISF PSD.

In East Rashid, a VBIED detonation killed one civilian and wounded six others near the Tabaqaib Bridge and an IED detonation wounded three civilians on 60 Street in al-Doura. Also in East Rashid, three consecutive IED detonations killed one civilian and wounded four others near a school in Abu Dishir; in West Rashid, a VBIED detonation killed five civilians in the Industrial District in al-Bayaa. In Mansour, two IED explosions wounded a total of seven civilians in al-Harthiyah and on Arba' Shawari' Street, whilst in Rusafa an IED detonation wounded three civilians in Bab al-Mu'adham. In the east of Baghdad, three civilians were wounded in an IED detonation near a grocery store in Hayy al-Amin, and in al-Shu'ulah, northwest Baghdad, a VBIED detonated in a garage.

Major General Qasim Ata, The Baghdad Operations Command spokesman, said that ISF had found six VBIEDs, five in eastern Baghdad, and one in the city's west – some detonated as ISF attempted to defuse them, although others were successfully reduced.
Two explosions heard from in the IZ at 0730, are likely to have been one of the attacks previously outlined; some initial reports indicated that two rockets had struck within the IZ's perimeter, near the Presidential Palace and 400 m west of checkpoint one. The IDF report remains unconfirmed, but perimeter checkpoints were temporarily closed and IA foot patrols commenced near the US Embassy. Freedom of movement in the IZ, except in the proximity of external checkpoints, remains largely unhindered excluding self-imposed movement restrictions. Tactical Analysis Unit – Iraq 4 4

Concentrations of attacks such as this are not new, and are fully expected on a periodic basis. What differentiates this is the febrile political and sectarian mood that pervades the country, with many fearing an outbreak of ethno-religious violence. Whilst this is unlikely to occur, fingers will no doubt be pointed after this series – thus achieving one of AQIZAM's primary objectives. The perpetual bogeyman in the form of Ba'athists will receive some blame in some quarters, and there is potential, as with preceding spectacular attacks, that senior figures within the ISF may be deemed culpable for breaches of security.

The impact to commercial operations will not be dissimilar to previous high-profile attacks. ISF posture in certain areas, but particularly around ministries or ISF sites may heighten, accompanied by augmented checkpoints and movement restrictions. The possibility of several further spectacular attacks cannot be ruled out, as AQIZAM seeks to capitalize on the publicity that it has generated from these attacks. The IZ, especially the US Embassy, is a primary candidate, as are any other locations with an enduring US presence. Prominent Iraqi establishment targets would also fall into this category. What remains to be seen, and warrants close monitoring, is how today's attacks are felt on the national political stage.

MohammedRidha Alaskry MAX, 22-Dec.2011. Evening

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