Fallujah government center struck by chlorine suicide attack

Iraq. Click map to view.

Iraq Police, Army stop bomber short of target; dozens wounded, poisoned

Al Qaeda in Iraq is conducting a full fledged chemical war in Anbar province. Today, Al Qaeda conducted yet another chlorine gas suicide bombing, this time directed at the Fallujah government center, in the very heart of the city of Fallujah. The attack was coordinated; Multinational Forces West described it as "complex." The two suicide truck bombs, suicide attcks on foot and small arms fire was preceded by mortar fire, which likely was designed to distract the guards at the gates.

"The attack began at 6:33 a.m. with mortar fire, followed by two truck bombs and small arms fire. Iraqi Police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound," according to the Multinational Forces West press release. "Iraqi Army soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small arms fire, causing it to also detonate near the entrance of the compound."

1st Lt. Shawn Mercer, the Deputy Public Affairs Officer for Multi National Force - West provided an update on the attack:

Fallujah Police and Coalition Forces spotted the first truck bomb as it approached the Government Center compound and engaged it, causing it to prematurely detonate. There were no indications that chlorine was used in the first attack and the explosion resulted in no Iraqi Security or Coalition Forces killed or wounded. The second suicide truck bomb, which did contain chlorine, was also engaged. However, the second truck made it through the outer perimeter of the compound, detonating near a large barrier wall adjacent to the Iraqi Army barracks.

As Iraqi and Coalition Forces responded to the suicide attacks, the post was further attacked with small arms fire and two suicide attackers on foot. Fallujah Police and Coalition Forces spotted three enemy fighters approaching and fired, causing the two suicide bombers to detonate outside the compound and killing the third gunmen.

Fifteen Iraqi soldiers, police and U.S. advisers stationed at the government center were injured in the blast, while "numerous Iraqi Soldiers and Policemen are being treated for symptoms such as labored breathing, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting that are synonymous with chlorine inhalation."

This is the sixth successful chlorine gas suicide attack in Anbar province this year. Two other trucks laden with explosives and chlorine gas were seized in Ramadi, one just last evening. It is possible last evening's captured chlorine bomb was to be used in a coordinated attack, as al Qaeda conducted a near simultaneous chlorine attack in Ramadi, Fallujah and Amiriya on March 17.

Al Qaeda is conducting a major offensive in Anbar province in an attempt to destroy the increasingly powerful and popular Anbar Salvation Council. Recently, the Anbar Salvation Council established itself in Fallujah. "Today's attack coincided with yesterday's appointment by the
Fallujah City Council of a new mayor, Saad Awad Rahid Al-Dulaimi," Major Jeffery Pool, the Public Affairs Director for Multinational Forces West informed us via email. "A Fallujah social studies teacher was elected in a democratic vote of 11 to 15."

Al Qaeda is also seeking to break the will of the security forces. The Fallujah government center houses the Fallujah Police, which have been the target of a concerted terror campaign. The Army, police and the Anbar Salvation Council are coordinating activities against al Qaeda, and this cooperation is something the terror group seeks to stop.


READER COMMENTS: "Fallujah government center struck by chlorine suicide attack"

Posted by Shannon Love at March 28, 2007 10:52 AM ET:

This represents an escalation but not a serious one at least not yet, Chlorine is ridiculously easy to make. Indeed, it can be made with common household cleaning products. Its use doesn't mean that Al-Quada has grown more technically sophisticated or that they have technically capable external support.

If we start to see phosgene or mustard gas deployed it will indicate that they do have a fairly advanced facility somewhere making it for them. (Making phosgene requires high pressure and catalyst, not something people can whip up in the basement in any quantity.)

Given the history of chemical weapons in Iraq it does seem like Al-Qeuda is shooting itself in the foot here.

Posted by Cruffler at March 28, 2007 11:10 AM ET:

This is easier than your commentator describes. Chlorine is made in the Middle East (at least in Saudi) by electrically disassociating salt from the sea water, or brine from wells, to get Cl2 and NAOH3. The electrolysis is powered by generators using natural gas, which is a normally wasted bi-product of refining. The chlorine is then used as a feed stock to produce vinyl chloride, a plastics precursor. It is also used as water treatment chemical. The byproduct Sodium hydroxide is stored in big piles until the price rises to a point where it is worth shipping to the west.
What is the point of all this? There is tons of usable chlorine around the area. They don't need to do anything but steal or buy a truck load to get more than enough for a bomb.
Your municipal water treatment plant probably has this gaseous form of Chlorine in tanks where ever your water is treated.

Posted by James at March 28, 2007 11:15 AM ET:

Why was this attack considered successful? The bomb went off outside the target.

Posted by David M at March 28, 2007 11:29 AM ET:

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/28/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by ECH at March 28, 2007 11:42 AM ET:

The Iraqi Shia police show they are uncontrollable sectarian killers once again in Tal Afar. They did just what al-Qaeda wanted them to do.

The only one stopping them from creating a total bloodbath is the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi Shia police are not the solution. I believe they are a major part of the problem in mixed areas. The Iraqi Army is the solution, but it needs to be alot bigger.

Posted by ECH at March 28, 2007 11:45 AM ET:

I like Allawi's idea of disbanding the Iraqi police in mixed Shia/Sunni areas of Iraq and letting the Iraqi Army control those areas.

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 28, 2007 11:56 AM ET:

Usually, around this time of year the insurgents have a spring offensive of some sort. Look at the last three years. First the primary Fallujah uprising, the next year a bombing campaign against the Iraqi Police, than the Shrine bombing and Baghdad offensive of last year.

This could be their offensive for this year. This is struggle for control of the Sunni heartland and the Syrian boarder area. If Al Quada can't mount an significant offensive in Baghdad and can't defend their position in Diyala province than they get pushed out into Anbar and other Sunni provinces.

I'm sure that the continuous bombings will be enough to keep the gloom and doom going in the press but Al Quada is now bombing their own support base. That's a major loss of position any way you read it. Capitalizing on the new state of things will be difficult since having enough troop to cover Baghdad, the area surrounding Baghdad, an offensive in Diyala province, and defending and developing the forces of Sunni tribal leaders, and don't forget backfilling for troops taken out of the provinces.

They'll need everything they've got and can develop over the next year to smother Al Quada.

Posted by Mark Buehner at March 28, 2007 12:02 PM ET:

"This is the sixth successful chlorine gas suicide attack in Anbar province this year."

I also have to question whether this was a successful attack. Have any of these chlorine bombs actually killed anyone via chlorine inhalation? Had the terrorists simply packed more explosives into their vehicles they probably would have increased their destruction far more. We should be encouraging cholorine bombs, they are less dangerous than high explosives.

Posted by Bill Roggio at March 28, 2007 12:06 PM ET:

I understand the question of the use of the word. My view on this is they were 'successful' in the sense they reached or got close to the targets, detonated, and poisoned people. The terror affect is also being factored in here. The two 'unsuccessful' incidents were where we seized the trucks before detonation.

Posted by dadmanly at March 28, 2007 12:08 PM ET:

That, and they must have some kind of sanitizing effect, hygiene wise. (Sorry, couldn't resist, my apologies to anyone who is offended.)

Posted by RJ at March 28, 2007 12:11 PM ET:

What will be the American Rules of Engagement a year from now? Anybody care to guess? After clorine comes what? The kitchen sink, I suppose. Boots 'n Troops on the ground...how many will be needed? How many are available? ROI for this policy? Disgruntled I am.

Posted by Mark H at March 28, 2007 12:17 PM ET:

Just to follow up on James's point, I think it matters how we characterize these attacks, and calling a bomb that explodes outside a compound a "successful" attack is a bit unfair to the security forces who did their job inspite of the mortar fire.

Bill has been exceptionally fair-minded in his coverage, providing much needed context to AIF attacks, which most media organizations fail to do. I only point this issue out because so much reporting leads people to see even blatantly unsuccessful attacks as signs of security failures-a point of view I don't share.

Posted by Bill Roggio at March 28, 2007 12:28 PM ET:

I'm not sure I could have been more clear that the Iraqis repelled the attacks at the gates. It is in the second paragraph. But the fact is 15 were injured, and scores more were poisoned. They didn't need to drive the truck inside the compound and blow it up to be successful.

The fact that MTT/PTT personnel were injured/poisoned is a success in itself. There are every few advisers at the CMOC these days. I was there in December when Charlie, 1/24 Marines were prepping to leave. It left the CMOC with 1 PTT team and one MTT team (I won't do exact numbers for obvious reasons).

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 28, 2007 12:30 PM ET:

If it intimidates the local population and makes a impression on the evening news than its successful. That takes nothing away from the Iraqi soldiers who successfully saved their own lives.

Posted by ECH at March 28, 2007 12:35 PM ET:


What would you do to stop the sectarian problem with the Iraqi police as shown today in Tal Afar?

I would just give up on them as an institution in mixed areas of Iraq and rely on the Army for the time being.

Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 28, 2007 12:41 PM ET:


"The Iraqi Shia police show they are uncontrollable sectarian killers once again in Tal Afar. They did just what al-Qaeda wanted them to do."

Yes, "Insurgency for Dummys manual" is pretty clear on the concept of goading Government Forces to overreact.

Armies, which have the biggest guns, also emphasize must stricter discipline and command and control compared to civil police. This is true everywhere in the world and isn't paricularly religion dependent.

The civil police in TalAfar did just what AlQueda intended. Overreact and engage in vigilante justice. It is a function of the level of discpline that is trained into the forces.

Posted by ECH at March 28, 2007 12:48 PM ET:

Armies, which have the biggest guns, also emphasize must stricter discipline and command and control compared to civil police. This is true everywhere in the world and isn't paricularly religion dependent.

Which is why I believe in mixed areas of Iraq the Iraqi police are a negative not a positive.

Posted by rc at March 28, 2007 1:03 PM ET:

If news of an attack makes it into American papers, that attack is successful.

Posted by RJ at March 28, 2007 1:20 PM ET:

The Tal Afar incident has been played out prior and will occur again. It will stop when there is a victory: By what group, I just don't know, but a victory is what it will take, unless you intend to place a dividing line barrier such as American troops, then a multi-national set of troops, then perhaps the valiant United Nations soldiers (of fortune), and finally you have the wish: "Let's just breed them out of this mess/hatred for each other...after a few decades." Oh yea, didn't we Americans fight in Fallujah some months ago...and that was all about freeing this city, right?

Posted by ECH at March 28, 2007 1:26 PM ET:

The Iraqi Army does not go on such unauthorized killing sprees RJ.

The Iraqi police has done so on several occasions.

The Iraqi Army should be in control of security in mixed areas not the Iraqi police.

Posted by Bill Roggio at March 28, 2007 1:33 PM ET:

I am not going to warn about this again. DO NOT HIJACK THE COMMENTS.

ECH, you posted on Tal Afar on three separate threads. You've hijacked the threats in all three cases.

Is it too much to ask you not do this? I understand Tal Afar is in Iraq, but the issue here is the chlorine attacks and AQI's intimidation campaign in Anbar.

Obviously this is a big enough story that I will write about it. It will be published shortly. Keep your powder dry.

If this behavior continues, I will shut down the comments section. I spend a lot of time each day policing the comment - too much time - and am growing tired of repeatedly warning and emailing people asking them to adhere to a comments policy which is clearly posted.

Posted by ECH at March 28, 2007 1:42 PM ET:

Sorry Bill,

I didn't know you wanted the discussion to be solely about the topic in question. I thought if the topic was Pakistan we could talk about all the different military issues in Pakistan and if the topic was Iraq we could talk about the different military issues in Iraq.

That said I see the problem with the Iraqi police I fear will soon be directly related to al-Qaeda's chemical attacks. They are attacking Sunnis with the chemcial weapons now. But, I am 100% certain one of these chemical attacks will soon go off in a mixed area to try to get Shia police to lose it and spark major sectarian violence.

That is al-Qaeda's only way to get a real civil war going and unify the insurgency again at this point. If the Shia militias and police start attacking the Sunnis on mass that will do more to heal the Baathists/tribal rift with al-Qaeda then anything.

Posted by Al at March 29, 2007 8:17 AM ET:

AQ's use of chemicals has been known for some time now. The MSM has made little or no commentary on it despite its endless blathering about WMD's, or the lack of them, in Iraq. I guess somethings just don't change.

Posted by AW at March 29, 2007 11:20 AM ET:

A friend of mine was hit in the head during this attack. I think we should not trivialize the injuries sustained by our soldiers. His family and friends are all very worried about his condition as he was evacuated to a military hospital.

Personally, I think we should pull out of this senseless war.

Posted by kaliph at March 30, 2007 3:05 PM ET:

Bill Ardolino has a first person account on this attack.


The bar's been set pretty low if this was a successful attack; the heroism displayed in the defense of the govt center seems to indicate otherwise.

Not trying to nitpick too much Bill, but there's gotta be a better descriptor for this situation. Otherwise, keep up the good work.