Samarra Mosque bombing suspects identified; reports of violence

Samarra provincial police force members detained as unconfirmed reports of attacks on mosques, shrines surface

The Iraqi police have made arrests in this morning’s twin bombings of the al-Askaria mosque’s remaining minarets. While early reports indicated the Iraqi National Police were responsible for securing the mosque complex, a provincial police unit was guarding the area. As the suspects behind the attacks were rounded up, unconfirmed reports of attacks on religious sites in Baghdad and Diyala began to surface.

The suspects in the bombing came from the Salahadin Emergency Response Unit, not the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the 1st Iraqi National Police Division (3-3-1 INP), according to Multinational Division North. “I can confirm … that Brig. Gen. Duraid, deputy commander for the National Police in Samarra, did arrest the Emergency Response Unit Iraqi Police commander and 12 of his Iraqi police who had been guarding the mosque at the time of the explosions,” Major Tage J. Rainsford, the spokesman for Major General Benjamin Mixon, told FOX News this evening.

DJ Elliott, the editor and researcher behind The Fourth Rail’s Iraqi Security Forces Order Of Battle, noted the Salahadin Emergency Response Unit [ERU] is essentially the provincial SWAT unit. The ERU is known as the 3rd ERU battalion of the Salahadin Provincial Iraqi Police. The unit designation explains the earlier confusion between the units (3rd ERU verses the 3-3-1 INP). The 3-3-1 was responsible for security of the mosque, but was slated to move to Baghdad this month as part of a newly formed Military Police brigade.

Earlier in the day, reports indicated that there was a conflict between two units, and in one case a skirmish, although the units were not identified. A likely scenario is the Salahadin Emergency Response Unit was assigned to secure the al-Askaria mosque, and al Qaeda infiltrators took advantage of the change in command to destroy the minarets.

In Baghdad, Coalition and Iraqi forces are attempting to mitigate the much anticipated backlash from today’s attack. A curfew of indefinite length has been imposed. Iraqi and Coalition forces have cordoned “all of [the] Sadr city exits that connect the suburb to central Baghdad,” according to the Kuwaiti News Agency. A “Correspondent of Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said he saw US military tanks and bulldozers being stationed, blocking bridges over the waterway that separates Sadr city and central Baghdad.” This is an attempt to keep the Mahdi Army from attacking from its bases in Sadr City.

The Associated Press indicated “sketchy reports of sectarian strife” were starting to surface. Four Sunni mosques and a Shia shrine north of Baghdad. Later, the AP Khudair al-Janabi mosque in Baghdad’s Bayaa district was reported to have been hit with an arson attack, while the Shia Imam Ali Kamal shrine in Khalis in Diyala province, was reported to have been destroyed in a bombing. IraqSlogger said 3 mosques in Baghdad, the Grand Iskandariyah Mosque, Hiteen Mosque and Abdullah Mosque were reported to have been destroyed, and fighting was reported in the mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood of Ghazaliyah in northern Baghdad.

The early reports of violence and the destruction of mosques should be treated with caution. Reports of mosque bombings in Baghdad last summer were inflated or in some cases fabricated. Al Qaeda, Muqtada al Sadr and other elements looking to incite further violence will manufacture incidents as part of their sophisticated Information Operations. But fallout from the bombing of the al-Askaria mosque should be expected.

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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  • Thanos says:

    My sincere hope is that our MSM does not fan these flames. We all remember the ‘burned down” mosque that was a figment of imagination, let’s hope they triple check any stories of sectarian violence over the next few weeks, and that they are prepared for false reports of violence.
    This was such a successful tactic for AQ last time that it’s no surprise that they would repeat it. Thanks for the full report Bill, I found more actual facts here than anywhere else.

  • jordan says:

    Look for primary sources, photos, etc… on any of these rpts of sectarian strife and burnings. It would be interesting to take the list of all those reported, scrub them, and figure out the number that actually happened.
    Now, all could be true, who knows, but even some of the U.S. public knows to expect the media to fabricate things to discredit U.S. policies, then later quietly correct themselves — after the damage is done. I appreciate your caution in reporting this.

  • Iraq News Roundup:

    The al-Qaeda military emir of Mosul was killed by Coalition Forces, while MNF-Baghdad uncovered a large bomb-making factory in Baghdad. Bill Roggio reports that suspects in the Samarra mosque bombing have been arrested. They are reported to be members …

  • ECH says:

    Major holy sites need to protected by only the most non-sectarian of forces like Kurdish forces. The Pentagon and Iraqi government need to learn from this. I am happy they are finally listening to me when it comes to Diyala. I have been asking since the beginning of the year for Kurdish troops for Diyala and finally they are going to be sending 2000 there. Non-sectarian troops like Kurds in mixed parts of Iraq like Baghdad, Samarra, and Diyala is what Iraq needs.

  • Sabotage in Samarra

    Bill Roggio rounds up news and analysis of the twin bombings of the al-Askaria mosque’s remaining minarets this morning in Samarra. John Burns at the NYTimes reports on efforts to avert sectarian reprisals: [A]fter Wednesday’s renewed attack on the shr…

  • anand says:

    ECH, this looks like 4th or 2nd IAD (probably 4th). [Maybe 3-4 from As-Sulaymaniyah( ﺔﻴﻧﺎﻤﻴﻠﺴﻟا)since it is now PIC.]
    Long term solution is ethnically mixed and diverse units, even if Kurds are over-represented in them.

  • Jack says:

    Bill, your article is wrong in several assumptions that are made.
    The Provincial Police were not the perpetrators as you so quickly claim. AQI was responsible. Let me explain:
    1. The Provincial Police were responsible for exterior security of the mosque.
    2. The FPS were responsible for interior security of that mosque. One of the members of the FPS is a cousin of the number one AQI guy for that region. It was proved after the last bombing at that mosque that the FPS were the ones responsible for letting the AQI guys into the mosque and allowing them to work for 8+ hours to plant the devices. When the CF and MOI went looking for the FPS guys on duty at that time, they were shielded by the local Sheiks. The local Sheiks would not let a thorough interview be conducted with any of the FPS.
    Soooo…you had the same FPS guarding the mosque yesterday. It is not hard to imagine what happened. The AQI guys in Samarra are local…there are not many FF in that area due to the small, tight-knit society that Samarra is.
    If it is publically acknowledged that the FPS are responsible, that means that some of the Sheiks had a hand in it as well. Remember, most Americans over here don’t get it. They don’t understand the role of the FPS or their political/tribal ties. The Provincial Police were arrested partially out of ignorance because they don’t understand the security situation at that mosque…they believe that the Provincial Police are solely responsible. The Provincial Police are protecting against the VBIEDs and large overt assaults. The FPS are responsible for interior security. If you’re going to blow the mosque, you are going to sneak in explosives over time. Provincial Police won’t catch it but the FPS should as they are in the interior of the mosque.
    The FPS have long been tied to the insurgency in Samarra. None of the Iraqi security forces were allowed into the mosque. The FPS would not permit the ISF to enter for any reason. It is safe to say that there was a confrontational relationship between the FPS and the ISF.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    – Also poss 3rd IAD. They have an over representation of Kurds as well.
    – My bet is a Bn each from 3 Bdes and a BSTB (Bde HQ). Spread the impact and not uncover any single area.
    As to Samarra security.
    – FPS was relieved of the Samarra Mosque after the first bombing.
    – They are also under MoI authority now and that is why they have dropped to ~98,000 from a payroll of over 150,000 in the last four months. MOI housecleaning.
    – The 3-3-1 INP has been parked out there since two weeks after the first bombing.
    – The 3rd ERU was only stood up in March and recently took over prepatory to 3-3-1’s transfer to Rusafa as part of Joint IA/INP MP Bde.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I’ve said al Qaeda blew up the mosque. Also, one of the main suspects in the first bombing was a Tunisian (Yousri Fakher Mohammed Ali). We know because we caught him.

  • Richard1 says:

    Jack do you have any sources or links for anything you just posted?

  • Jack says:

    Bill, the headline was just a bit misleading…saying the Provincial Police were identified as suspects….they were incompetant but not necessarily suspects. (thanks for the good website Bill).
    – FPS are still responsible for security in the mosque. They are paid thru local funds from Sheik Baha….Not the MOI. Same as the FPS in the Hospital yet they are paid through the Ministry of Health. They were relieved for a very short period after the first bombing then quickly put back in there. This info is current as of yesterday.

  • Richard1 says:

    So far, cash payments and other pieces of intelligence have suggested varying degrees of complicity for some senior officers within Iraq’s national police, according to an American military officer who requested anonymity. The officer said the Tikriti police colonel who was in charge of one of the units guarding the mosque is in custody and being questioned.
    Major General Benjamin Mixon told CNN that he believed yesterday’s bombing was an inside job. General Petraeus and Prime Minister al-Maliki are now scrambling to contain an expected spike in sectarian violence in the aftermath of the second bombing in 16 months of the Askariya Mosque.

  • Jack says:

    Nice post Richard, but look at that one snippet and you can see how the reporters keep confusing facts. The Tikriti Colonel was with the Provincial Police, not the Iraqi National Police. Huge difference….as the current commander of the Provincial Police is the same commander as the last time the mosque was blown up…yet the Iraqi National Police commander is under a completely different command.
    It is funny how they specifically identify cash payments as a form of incentive for their intelligence sources…I can give any Iraqi five bucks and he’ll tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear.

  • Jack says:

    This confirms what I said earlier about the FPS and their role in security.
    The Post’s A20 story(!) of the attack on the shrine by John Ward Anderson and Joshua Partlow has much of the same stuff as the Times, including the historical context, but adds a scooplet in its detailing of the security arrangements around the shrine. The inner ring of security came from the Facilities Protection Service, but the outer ring was was manned by police from the 3rd Battalion of the Salahuddin Provincial Police in Tikrit, near Saddam Hussein’s hometowm. Perhaps guarding a Shi’ite shrine with men who blame Shi’ites for the death of the man who brought money and power to their home villages wasn’t the best idea? The Post also found a witness who claimed commandos from Baghdad came up Tuesday night and pushed the police force out of the way to get to the shrine, although it’s not clear what police force the witness was referring to.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    – Usually when the press says Commandos they are claiming INP but, they get that wrong so often you can’t go with them as a reliable source. Yesterday AP put a caption on a photo saying Iraqi Police Commando and the soldier was in IA uniform with an 8th IAD/IGFC patch.
    Pg 36 (PDF41) – FPS
    – They started consolidating them into MoI control Dec06 thru Feb07. All of them. They no longer belong to 27 seperate ministries.
    – Of the 150,000+ reported on the payroll in Dec, only ~98,000 exist now. MoI is re-screening and purging them. “ghost employees” have dropped from the roles for most part but, screening still in-progress.
    – The id10t that trusts the FPS with anything is worse than a fool.
    – This is the first I have seen of FPS back into Samarra mosque. Seen references to INP and IA all over the place but, not FPS.
    – 10th INP Bde is planned to take over security for reconstruction and the new joint IA/INP MP Bde was standing up there to cover the interim.
    – Problem is the arrested were Salahadin Provincial Police from 3rd ERU (SWAT). Not FPS as you were saying.
    – This was the first I had heard that the Samarra ERU (stood up in March) had assumed security. 3-3-1 INP had it before and is still listed there in OOB.
    Still looks like an opportunity caused by recent security turnover…
    P.S. Jack. Your e-mail listed in post does not work and is associated with a site listed in Eckental GE. JPI is the server in Wash St and they provide satcom service including a Baghdad office. Hense the deleated previous entries…

  • Jack says:

    Hey DJ,
    No worries.
    Yea, that was the plan…to consolidate all the FPS. BUT, FPS are essentially privatized security guards. On the local level, each entity is still hiring and paying for FPS (private security guards). FPS are still all around Samarra “guarding” different government type buildings (Mosque, SDI Plant, Museum, Hospital, etc…).
    They did not arrest the FPS because like you have indicated, it is not a well known fact that they are still working and responsible for interior security. After the explosion, they took off, like last time. Keep in mind, the FPS at the Mosque do not wear uniforms or any other kind of attire that would identify them as security. They wear dishdashas and sandals.
    Here is some good background on the FPS

  • Thanos says:

    Major holy sites need to protected by only the most non-sectarian of forces like Kurdish forces. The Pentagon and Iraqi government need to learn from this. I am happy they are finally listening to me when it comes to Diyala. I have been asking since the beginning of the year for Kurdish troops for Diyala and finally they are going to be sending 2000 there. — Jordan
    That’s not a bad idea, however I would take it a step futher and hire Ghurkas from Nepal. They do a great job at policing mixed-sect and mixed religion areas, and Nepal could use the cash flow. They are unfailingly polite and respectful to all parties until they pull their Kukri

  • Jack says:

    Hey DJ,
    Just learned, there were 12 FPS on duty the night prior to the blast. The explosives were planted the night prior. One, or more, of the FPS let AQI into the mosque. The reason none of the FPS were arrested yesterday morning after the blast is because they were all gone when the detonation happened (very similar situation to what happened last time).
    Bill pointed out in an earlier post that Haithem Sabbath Shakur Al Badri was the AQI front man responsible for the last blast. The Al Badris (or Al Bedrowis) have long supported AQI’s actions in Samarra. Not to say that all Al Badris support AQI BUT the power structure of that tribe has long provided them support (along with several of the other Samarran tribes). Several FPS working in the mosque are cousins of Haithem. I think the implications are clear.

  • Mike E says:

    A recent poll of Iraqis found that only about 20% of them felt that their country was in a state of civil war. The “all out civil war” theory is more a creation of the US media than a reality.

  • RD says:

    I love this site because it has in depth analysis you just cannot get anywhere else. I read it every day. As a former MI officer with field experience in Central America, my sense is this site gets it right more than the MSM, and the contributors generally appear experienced, factual and non-political.
    I’d ask Thanos not to post his political comments here. While one may or may not agree with his sentiment that we should leave Iraq, the assertion that Iraq has descended into a civil war between two warring factions, is an inaccurate dramatic oversimplication.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 06/14/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • Neo says:

    Until you can get better information from first hand sources, you had better state that there is some uncertainty at this point as to whether it was the “provincial SWAT unit”

  • mxpwr03 says:

    One thing to keep an eye on is to see how the general population responds. Initial reports do not seem that surprising, quick reprisal attacks, but I will be paying attention to a month to 2 months. If the situation looks like what happened after the initial bombing of the Golden Dome, than perhaps the security/political situation has not improved. However, if the future actions are not as bad as before, than perhaps the security situation is improving, and their is some form of general solidarity among the mainstream populace.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I’ve only discussed what is publicly available, and that members of the 3rd ERU were detained, per Major General Mixon. I’ve never mentioned the FPS, this was discussed in the comments, however I did see a report of this in the Washington Post. I’ve never discussed internal vs external security. this came up in the comments.
    The point I made was the 3rd ERU, and not the 3-3-1 INP was handling external security, and their officers were detained. Again, per Maj Gen Mixon. So I’m not really sure what the issue is.

  • cjr says:

    I think we are trying to draw a pound’s worth of conclusions from an ounce of data.
    I would give it a few days for the dust to settle (no pun intended) and for some official investigations to be reported.

  • Tony says:

    Additionally, Kurdish people do not speak Arabic, they speak Kurdish.
    Given that a key concept in any counterinsurgency is intelligence gathering from the locals, this is not a trivial point.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Sorry Bill, It wasn’t my intention to attribute the FPS part of the story to you. It also wasn’t my intention to be critical or sound confrontational. I know there were two different accounts available from public sources. The FPS account does indeed come from the Washington Post article. It was in the comments section via Jack, who quotes IraqiSlogger. The IraqiSlogger piece quotes the Washington Post. You are right that the WaPo article is origin of the other account and can be found here:
    Shiite Shrine in Samarra Is Hit Again
    I believe this is the relevant quote from WaPo:
    “Maliki, in a visit to the shrine complex late Wednesday, said security forces responsible for guarding the site may have been involved in the attack. The mosque has been heavily guarded by Iraqi troops since the destruction of its dome.
    Iraqi law enforcement officials said the 15-man unit responsible for defending the mosque, from the 3rd Battalion of the Salahuddin Provincial Police, had been detained.
    The complex had two security forces on Wednesday — one from Tikrit responsible for an outer ring of defenses, and the other, from the government’s Facilities Protection Services, which was responsible for the site itself, according to a U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.
    But witnesses interviewed by The Washington Post said a special unit of commandos, apparently from Baghdad, arrived at the mosque Tuesday night.
    The shrine was guarded by a police force mostly from Tikrit, but yesterday around 6 p.m. a police commando force came from Baghdad and pushed the police force that was guarding the shrine away and took their place,” Mahmood al-Samaraie, 42, who lives near the mosque, said in a telephone interview. “In fact, some disagreement and fighting between the two forces took place, because the previous force did not want to leave their position, but later they had to.”
    Garver said U.S. forces were helping the Iraqi government investigate the attack. Although there were U.S. troops in the region, he said, “the security for the shrine itself is an Iraqi responsibility.”
    Once again, I should have delineated between the source you were using and this source that came from WaPo. The inside outside argument seems to an inference Jack made. (Which may or may not be correct: Not being critical)
    I think my comment about trying to get this from a first hand source stands. The WaPo account contains at least two different accounts itself. Add your account taken from Major General Mixon.
    Also, I’d like to know how this gets investigated this time around. The investigation the last time seems to have been a dead end. Looks like the first question is what where the security arrangements, who actually was present, and what exactly happened.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    First reports are always confusing, exagerated and played by the propagandists to get maximum impact effect. Hense my suspision of all reporting and claims ATT.
    Much of what is being currently reported is contractory and unconfirmed.
    The WaPo article is a classic case of the press reporting rumint as fact.
    What I know from previous to bombing reporting is:
    – 3-3-1 INP Bn was security for shrine
    – 3-3-1 INP Bn was to become a part of a Joint MP Bde for Rusafa Area Command.
    – 4-4 IA Bde (forming) is to take over the area from North Baghdad to Samarra (including).
    – 10th INP Bde (forming) is to take the security of the Mosque reconstruction project.
    – Reconstruction of Mosque was on hold until new security was on-line.
    The report of 3rd ERU having security was new. Those arrests were the first report of them there in open source.
    It makes sense if 3-3-1 was transfering to Baghdad and MP Bde was going operational.
    The local hire of FPS is supposed to be terminated and MoI is supposed to be in charge but, that is in-progress house-cleaning…

  • the nailgun says:

    On a different tangent over here in Australia I have been stunned by how little MSM coverage there has been of this bombing of the minarets. Almost none at all. Gaza and West Bank are the big foriegn news stories.
    Interesting that still no uplift in death squad activity. I am drawing a long bow very early but it makes you wonder with this level of provocation and no uplift if maybe a lot of the deaths being currently attributed to sectarian violence are not.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    the nailgun
    “…maybe a lot of the deaths being currently attributed to sectarian violence are not.”
    Entirely possible. The exageration of every attack in the propaganda makes the violence look larger than it is. The limited area of violence also sudgests a smaller network than claimed.


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