An Iraqi National Policeman walks past one of the cars damaged in the triple bombing attack in Amarah. Reuters photo.
The city of Amarah in Iraq’s Shia South was rocked by a string of coordinated car bomb attacks designed to kill civilians. At least 41 civilians were killed and over 140 wound after three car bombs were detonated in a market in Amarah. It is unclear if the attack was carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq or the Iranian-backed Special Groups terror cells.
The three bombs were detonated in a manner to inflict maximum casualties. A small blast drew a crowd, and two subsequent car bombs were detonated as rescue efforts were underway. It is unclear if suicide bombers were used in the attack, and police arrested several bystanders using cell phones immediately after the strike.
“The explosions in Amarah were about five minutes apart, beginning with a small blast at the entrance to the market, said Mohammed Saleh, the provincial council spokesman, elaborating on earlier accounts by police and an intelligence official,” The Associated Press reported. “Saleh said bystanders gathered to look at the aftermath of that blast, which wounded just a few people, when a second car bomb exploded. The third car blew up nearby as the crowd began to flee, he said.”
The chief of police in Amarah was fired immediately as he ignored requests to secure the markets. “There was not a single police car in the street at the time of the explosion,” Saleh told the AP . “The provincial council complained many times to the police chief about the lack of security measures in the city, but he would not listen.”
The attack certainly fits the profile of an al Qaeda bombing: multiple, coordinated bombings against a Shia target designed to incite sectarian violence. Al Qaeda has conducted numerous attacks of this nature in Baghdad and Shia cities and towns in central Iraq. While al Qaeda is seeking new safe havens since it lost control of the central regions of Iraq, Amarah would be a difficult place for al Qaeda to reestablish a base and conduct a sophisticate attack.
Amarah is a Shia stronghold, with a strong presence of the Badr Corps, which supports the Iraqi government and fills the security posts in the city. The Mahdi Army also has a strong presence in the city and has clashed with the security forces in the past.
Iran’s Qods Force also uses Amarah as a command and control hub for its forward operations in southern Iraq. The Ramazan Corps, the Qods Force command assigned to direct operations inside Iraq, supports the Special Groups terror cells, which conduct attacks against Coalition and Iraqi security forces, as well as civilian and governmental targets.
The Special Groups recently attacked Shia civilians, using the same tactics as al Qaeda in Iraq. On November 24, the Special Groups bombed a busy pet market in Baghdad. The Special Groups used a “ball-bearing laden bomb” to simulate an al Qaeda in Iraq attack in order to increase Shia dependency on militias, Iraqi and US forces learned after capturing members of the network behind the attack.
“Based on subsequent confessions, forensics and other intelligence, the bombing was the work of an Iranian-backed special group cell operating here in Baghdad,” Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the Deputy Spokesman for Multinational Corps Iraq said in a press briefing on November 25. “The group’s purpose was to make it appear al-Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for the attack. Despite killing innocent Shia and Sunni, the special groups aim was to demonstrate to Baghdadis the need for militia groups to continue providing for their security.”
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