The Islamic State overran the headquarters of an Iraqi Army brigade stationed in the Thar Thar area northwest of Baghdad two days ago. The suicide assault marks the second time that the jihadist group has taken over an Iraqi military headquarters in the region in two months.
The Islamic State released photos showing its attack on the Iraqi Army’s 4th Regiment headquarters just northeast of Fallujah. The photos bear the title of Wilayat Shamal Baghdad, one of the group’s declared administrative districts which typically includes the area from northern Baghdad up to Samarra in Salahadin province. The release of photos from Wilayat Shamal Baghdad and not Wilayat Anbar more than likely represents operational overlap.
The photographs detail a significant level of destruction at the headquarters complex. Islamic State fighters destroyed several Humvees, SUVs, and a wide assortment of other vehicles. Other photos show Islamic State fighters moving about the base and collecting captured weapons and ammunition.
Two of the photos detail the use of suicide bombers in the attack. One suicide bomber, Abu Hamza al Shami, was Syrian, while the other, Hamza al Tajikistani, was a Tajik. A third suicide bomber, a German, was also showcased in a separate photo that was released on Twitter.
The attack on the Army headquarters was confirmed in the Iraqi media. The reporting appears to match the photos and videos that were released by the Islamic State. Sheikh Muhammad Al Bajari, a tribal elder in Anbar province, said that “Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) was able to control the 4th Regiment’s headquarters,” according to Voice of Iraq.
Other media outlets reported that the attack began when the three suicide bombers hit the headquarters. Jihadists routinely use suicide car bombs to breach the outer perimeter, then move a heavily armed assault team through the gap.
The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by jihadist groups, including the Islamic State, its rival, al Qaeda, and al Qaeda allies such as the Afghan Taliban, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.
Second Army headquarters overrun in Thar Thar in a month
Just last month, the Islamic State was able to overrun another Iraqi Army headquarters in the Thar Thar region. The Iraqi Army’s Brigade 26 headquarters was taken over in a nighttime attack. Several Iraqi soldiers were captured during the assault; their fate is not known. The Islamic State released several photos from this operation showing the destruction of vehicles as well as the looting of weapons and ammunition. [See LWJ report, Islamic State overruns Iraqi Army brigade headquarters north of Fallujah.]
Yesterday, the Islamic State released footage from the March attack in Thar Thar. The video, which is titled “Breaking into a Safavid Camp,” details the nighttime raid. Several scenes show the fighting at the camp. The Islamic State fighters are also filmed themselves destroying vehicles, taking weapons, and looting the base. One scene shows the Iraqi Army soldiers who were taken captive by the jihadist group.
Thar Thar is a strategic area for both the Iraqi military and the Islamic State. Control of the region allows the jihadist group to move forces and supplies between eastern Anbar province and southern Salahaddin province. Additionally, the Islamic State has used the Thar Thar area to launch attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Shiite militias as they travel between Baghdad and Samarra, as well as the towns of Taji, Shabab, Dujail, Ishaqi, and Balad. The road between Baghdad and Samarra has been a battleground in the past, and the Iraqi military and Iranian-back militias currently claim to control it.
While the Islamic State recently lost Tikrit after Shiite militias and Iraqi troops backed by US air support attacked the city, the jihadist group has remained on the offensive in Anbar province.
The attack on the 4th Regiment’s base took place one day after the Islamic State launched an assault on the Baiji oil refinery complex. While the offensive was eventually repelled by the Iraqi Security Forces, the Islamic State was able to breach the perimeter and enter the complex before being pushed back. That attack was also spearheaded by a suicide bombing prior to an assault using foot soldiers. [See LWJ report, Islamic State assaults Baiji oil refinery.]
The Thar Thar suicide operation took place days after the Islamic State also assaulted Albu Faraj in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. The jihadist group attacked numerous parts of the western provincial capital, including Albu Faraj, which is just north of the Euphrates River, according to Al Jazeera. Heavy fighting in the city forced Iraqi commanders in Ramadi to call for reinforcements from Baghdad. Photos released by the Islamic State show several Humvees, BTRs (Russian-made armored personnel carriers), and buildings destroyed in the fighting. [See LWJ report, Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi.]
Photos released by the Islamic State from the Iraqi Army’s 4th Regiment:
Photos showing the suicide bombers:
Hamza al Tajikistani:
Abu Hamza al Shami:
Abu Musab al Almani (German):
Other photos from the headquarters: