Coordinated car bombings in Amarah kill 41


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.”

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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  • LT Nixon says:

    Maysan Province is Shiite central. I can’t picture an Al-Qaeda Sunni or foreign fighter that came in from Syria sneaking past all the Badr Corps running security. This is very suspicious and very tragic.

  • Drew White says:

    I agree. This has the stench of a Quds force op all over it…

  • Teflon Don says:

    Maj. Gen Abdul Karim Khalaf is the interim provincial police chief.
    I’m a little surprised and a little happy to see the old chief sacked so quickly for incompetence. If I had to wager, I’d guess he was depending on the militias that LT Nixon mentions for security and didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes too much.

  • anand says:

    Maysan is the only Province that Muqtada did well in during the 1.30.05 local elections. Maysan is the only provincial government ruled by Muqtada’s allies. This attack may have been intended to discredit Muqtada (provincial gov’t), the UIA, and the national GoI.
    Why would the special groups risk a full blown confrontation with Muqtada by engaging in an operation of this size? If the Ramazan Corps is found to be responsible, Muqtada will be forced (by his supporters) to unleash the JAM against the special groups.
    On the other hand, how did AQI organize an operation in Maysan? This is a very confusing puzzle.
    I wonder if the provincial government of Maysan will request INP or 10th IAD backup to help with security. Because the province is PIC, the IA cannot deploy unless the provincial government requests them too.

  • Hamidreza says:

    A joint Qaeda-Special Groups operation is yet another possible theory. This so that if the AQI perpetrator is captured, then it would not implicate Iran.
    Note that during the Iranian invasion of Iraq 1982 – 1989, up to 1 million Iraqis including soldiers were killed by Iran – most of them being Shias.
    The theory that Shias will only fight Sunnis and vice versa has been proven wrong in Iraq and many other places time and again. But of course the post-colonials will hang on to this sectarian theory because they want to absolve Iran and al-Sadr at any cost, and imply that their lovable insurgents are not fighting for power and wealth – but simply for preserving their religious identities.

  • Neo says:

    Let wait to see if any information comes in before jumping to conclusions. This could be a lot of different groups. I could easily see Al Qaeda getting an occasional attack this far south. Odds are that this may be a local though. Don’t rule out the possibility that this is part of a local turf battle and has nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the Iranian. This isn’t Quds usual MO but they have done a few mass casualty attacks.
    Some of the wilder theories are unlikely. I’d be a little reluctant to go there without compelling evidence.
    I do wish the news outlets would stop calling Amarah a relatively peaceful place. It distorts what a dangerous place Amarah has been and remains. There has been plenty of insurgent activity in the area.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 12/13/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Teflon Don says:

    Hmm… here’s a revised link. Hopefully this stays working. If not, it’s also available with a little searching on under politics&security.

  • Marlin says:

    I know Bill isn’t the biggest fan of StrategyPage since it doesn’t source its information, but here’s a quote from their Iraq article today.
    Shortly thereafter several police commanders were arrested and it was revealed that the three bombs, which killed over twenty people, were part of the ongoing war between the Shia Sadr and Badr militias.
    StrategyPage: The World Wonders


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