Security Incidents in Iraq

al Qaeda in Iraq has issued a statement claiming to “have set up an umbrella body to coordinate their fight against U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi government.” Notably excluded from this body of insurgent groups are Ansar al-Sunnah and the Iraq Islamic Army. A look at the reported security incidents in Iraq from the past week may give some insight as to why al Qaeda sees the need for further consolidation and coordination of the jihadi groups in Iraq.

Reuters compiles the list of major security incidents in Iraq on a near-daily basis. The following list contains the incidents reported over the past week:

Jan 9:

BAGHDAD – At least 28 people were killed and 25 wounded when two suicide bombers dressed as senior police officers got inside the Interior Ministry compound and blew themselves up, police said. KIRKUK – Gunmen shot dead a judge in the northern city of Kirkuk, police said.

Jan 10:

SAMARRA – Two insurgents were killed on Monday in Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, when a bomb they were trying to plant at the side of a road exploded prematurely, the U.S. military said.

NEAR SAMARRA – U.S. soldiers shot dead one gunman and arrested another on Monday after they had opened fire on a U.S. patrol, the American military said.

NEAR BALAD – U.S. soldiers killed a gunman on Monday after he shot at them from a building near Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. They said they found bomb-making equipment in the building.

Jan 11: (no report available)

Jan 12:

BAGHDAD – U.S. soldiers killed six insurgents and wounded one in clashes in Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. They said two of the dead were wearing suicide vests packed with explosives. They also found bomb-making equipment, assault rifles and ammunition in a nearby shack.

NEAR TIKRIT – Iraqi soldiers freed two kidnapped Iraqis on Wednesday near Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The captives were found bound and gagged in the boot of a car during an Iraqi army patrol.

Jan 13:

MOSUL – Insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing its two pilots, witnesses and U.S. officials said. Witnesses reported seeing gunmen armed with heavy machine guns open fire on the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, a two-seat, single-engine helicopter, in al-Sukar district north of Mosul, about 240 miles (390 km) north of Baghdad.

Baqubah Two policemen were killed and five wounded when a car bomb struck their patrol in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

ISKANDARIYA – A police patrol found the body of a policeman blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his back near the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad. He had been shot in the head, police said.

TAL AFAR – An insurgent was blown up on Thursday evening near the town of Tal Afar, north of Baghdad, when the explosive he was planting detonated prematurely, the U.S. military said.

Jan 14:

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed two policemen and injured four other people when it blew up next to a police patrol in eastern Baghdad, police said… Gunmen assassinated Hadi al-Wa’ili, a Shi’ite cleric who led prayers at the Mehdi mosque in the mixed Baghdad neighbourhood of Hurriya, police said.

Jan 15 :

Baqubah Gunmen shot dead a police lieutenant in Baquba, 60 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

TUZ KHURMATU – A police brigadier was seriously wounded along with his four bodyguards when gunmen opened fire on his motorcade near Tuz Khurmatu, north of Baghdad, police said. Earlier, four policemen were seriously wounded when a makeshift bomb went off near their patrol in the town.

TAZA – Four policemen were wounded when a makeshift bomb exploded near their patrol near Taza to the south of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said.

ULWIYA – Gunmen shot dead a police brigadier and major after abducting them on Saturday in the village of Ulwiya near Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said. A note found in the brigadier’s pocket said the killings had been carried out by “The Sunni Supporters”.

KIRKUK – An Iraqi engineer was found shot dead in the city, police said. A second engineer was abducted by gunmen between the town of Taza and Kirkuk, police said.

MAHAWIL – A body, gagged and bound and shot dead, was found in Mahawil, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

BALAD – An Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded on Saturday when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the city of Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAIJI – Gunmen shot dead a police colonel on Saturday in the oil refinery city of Baiji, the local authorities said.

Jan 16:

BAGHDAD – Vehicles carrying U.S. police trainers were struck by a roadside bomb. One of the passengers was killed, the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

MIQDADIA – Local police officials said gunmen killed five policemen and one child and also wounded 18 people and, in a common rebel tactic, a car bomb exploded when reinforcements arrived in the town of Miqdadia, north of Baghdad. Police had earlier said five policemen were killed when a suicide bomber rammed his car into their patrol.

RAMADI – Sheikh Nasr Abdul Kareem, a physics professor and a tribal leader, was shot dead by gunmen while he was heading to work in eastern Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, police and his brother said.

MUSAYIB – Three civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol exploded in Musayib, south of Baghdad, police said.

ISKANDARIYA – Iraqi police arrested three insurgents while they were planting bombs on a road near Iraqi police on Sunday in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

The following chart breaks down the incidents by target type.

Target Number of incidents
Iraqi Army/Police 12
Insurgents Killed/Captured 7
Civilian Assassination 5
Suicide Attacks 2
U.S. Forces Attacked 2
Civilian Freed 1

All but three of the attacks, or 90%, occurred in Baghdad or regions to the north. Seven of these cities; Baghdad, Baquba, Kirkuk, Mosul, Ramadi, Samarra, and Tal Afar; have been slated as focal points for rebuilding the local police forces.

Within the span of a week, al Qaeda was able to conduct two suicide offensives. One of the attacks occurred in the past week, the highly successful strike in the Interior Ministry compound on January 9. al Qaeda alsoclaimed responsibility for the shooting down of a U.S. army helicopter in Mosul. About 40% of the attacks were conducted against Iraqi Security Forces. Almost 25% of the incidents involved the death or capture of insurgents. About another 25% were assassinations against Iraqi civilian or government employees.

If the incidents reported by Reuters over the span of the past week are accurate, al Qaeda in Iraq may be having a problem in sustaining a mass-casualty campaign over time. Since the beginning of the year, al Qaeda has had only two successful bombing offensives: the series of attacks on January 4 and 5, and the single attack on January 9. The New Years Day offensive, which consisted of 14 bombs throughout the country, failed, as great resources went in to achieving only twenty wounded. Either al Qaeda is in an operational pause, or its ability to sustain large scale attacks has been hindered.

Reuters leads off each security incident update with the following statement: “U.S. and Iraqi forces are battling a Sunni Arab insurgency against the Shi’ite- and Kurdish-led government in Baghdad.” Strategy Page reports there is now a civil war in Iraq, but the real battles are being fought between Sunnis. And the trend in a downturn in al Qaeda’s effectiveness in conducting a terror campaign is quite real.

The increasing number of gun battles going on in Sunni Arab neighborhoods indicates that the civil war among the Sunni Arabs is already underway. It’s a low key and scattered affair, but keeps getting louder and more violent. Terror attacks have been declining, as the terrorists have had to spend more time defending themselves. This is not news, because it is not a single dramatic event, but it is a trend, and it has been a trend for some time now. It’s a trend that dooms the terrorist cause, and that will eventually be big news.

As long as the Iraqi Security Forces continue to develop and the political process moves forward, with Sunni parties joining the government, al Qaeda’s problems will only increase, and further rifts will be seen within the Sunni insurgency.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


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