The northern city of Mosul has been racked with violence the past two days as al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq has stepped up terror activities in the city. Two major bombings in Mosul have claimed dozens killed, including Ninewa province’s police chief, and more than 100 wounded.
The major activity began on Jan. 23, when Iraqi troops raided a suspected weapons factory and storage site in a residential neighborhood. Al Qaeda in Iraq detonated the building with pre-positioned explosives, killing 34 Iraqis and wounding another 135. Most of those killed and wounded were in adjacent buildings that collapsed in the explosion.
The following day, a suicide bomber targeted the site of the blast as the rescue and recovery team was pulling survivors from the rubble. Brigadier Salih Hassan, the Ninewa province chief of police, was killed in the attack. The provincial governor declared a curfew shortly after the suicide bombing.
The suicide bomber was dressed like an Iraqi policeman, a senior US military officer serving in Mosul told The Long War Journal. The officer requested his name not be used due to the sensitivity of his position. The site was targeted because it is a “magnet for VIPs.”
The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s front organization created by Abu Ayyub al Masri, is behind the attacks, the officer said. The person who told police there was a weapons cache in the building “is definitely [with] Islamic State of Iraq.” It is not clear whether the person, who is in police custody, knew the building was rigged to explode. After the weapons factory was destroyed, the Islamic State of Iraq spread a rumor that US forces were responsible for blowing up the buildings. The suicide attack on Salih, the police chief, is a signature al Qaeda strike.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is attempting to re-establish its networks in Mosul after being ejected from Baghdad and the belts last fall. US forces are currently pressuring al Qaeda’s havens in Diyala and the Arab Jabour region.
The US officer serving in Mosul attributes the recent upsurge in violence in Mosul on two factors: the recent deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and stepped up operations, and pressure on al Qaeda’s network throughout the country. “All of the leakers from Baghdad and Diyala had to go somewhere,” the officer said.
At the end of December 2007, Major General Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated in Ninewa province when its financial network took a hit. “Al Qaeda suffered a fund shortage and posed no big danger in Ninewa after the killing and arresting of a number of its financiers [by US and Iraqi forces],” Hertling said in an interview with Voices of Iraq. “The armed groups activating in the provinces worked without funds, after their field financiers escaped with money, causing a splinter in the organization.”
Al Qaeda still is able to operate in Mosul, and al Qaeda maintains its only established supply line to Syria in the Mosul region, according to a December 2007 Multinational Forces Iraq assessment of the terror group’s area of operations.