A suicide bomber killed 42 Iraqis in an attack inside a Shia mosque in northern Iraq earlier today. The suicide bombing, which was likely carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq, is the fourth such attack in Iraq over the past nine days.
The suicide bomber detonated his vest after entering a Shia mosque in the city of Tuz Khurmatu. The bomber attacked “the funeral of a relative of a politician who was shot dead a day earlier,” according to AFP. At least 42 people were killed and 75 more were wounded in the deadly blast.
Tuz Khurmatu is located in Salahadin province, which, like Kirkuk province, occupies an area where ethnic tensions persist between Sunnis, Kurds, and Turkmen. The Kurdish Regional Government wants to annex Tuz Khurmatu into its semiautonomous state, but the central Iraqi government has resisted such moves. Al Qaeda in Iraq has exploited these fault lines by conducting attacks such as the one today.
While no group has claimed credit for today’s attack, it was very likely executed by al Qaeda in Iraq, which continues to conduct suicide bombings throughout Iraq. Through its spokesman, Abu Muhammad al ‘Adnani, the terror group has advocated the targeting of Iraqi Shias, in propaganda tapes that have been released over the past several years. [See Threat Matrix report, Al Qaeda in Iraq rails at Shias, claims deadly attacks.]
Al Qaeda in Iraq has conducted three other suicide attacks in the past nine days. In the most high-profile attack, a suicide bomber killed Sheikh Aifan Sadoun Aifan al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqi parliamentarian and anti-al Qaeda leader, three of his bodyguards, and two civilians, in an attack near Fallujah on Jan. 15. Aifan was a member of the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc and one of the leaders of Iraq’s Sunni tribal Awakening. Al Qaeda in Iraq later claimed credit for Aifan’s assassination.
On Jan. 18, Iraqi Police and Awakening fighters killed a suicide bomber as he approached their checkpoint on a motorcycle; one policeman was wounded in the attack. And yesterday, a suicide bomber killed seven people in an attack outside an Iraqi military base in Taji, a city just north of Baghdad.
Security in Iraq has slowly deteriorated after the withdrawal of the US military at the end of 2011. While al Qaeda in Iraq does not openly control territory as it did in 2007, before US and Iraqi forces drove it from strongholds throughout the country, the terror group can still organize and execute large-scale attacks, such as a March 2012 raid in Haditha that killed 27 Iraqi policemen, including two commanders. The group has also launched a number of coordinated attacks, including large-scale bombings, in multiple cities throughout Iraq. Furthermore, al Qaeda has been empowered by recent unrest in Syria, regenerating under a new banner, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, one of the most prominent rebel groups fighting the regime of Bashar al Assad.