Baghdad area rocked by second large suicide attack in 3 days

The Baghdad region has been hit with two major suicide attacks in the past three days. The attacks come as the US is transferring military control of regions in Iraq and its forces are beginning to move from the major cities.

Today’s suicide attack took place at a checkpoint outside of a Shia shrine in the northern Baghdad district of Kadhimiyah. A suicide bomber detonated his vest in the midst of a crowd waiting to enter the Imam Musa al Kadhim shrine during the Shia religious festival of Ashuraa. The bomber was initially reported as being a female but the Iraqi military changed the assessment.

The suicide attack killed 35 civilians and wounded 79 more, according to a spokesman at the Baghdad Operation Command. “Most of the casualties are Iranians,” Voices of Iraq reported.

Yesterday Iraqi police foiled an attempted attack on Ashuraa celebrations in the city of Karbala. Operating on local intelligence, police detained two al Qaeda operatives at a checkpoint before they could pull off the attack, an Iraqi general told the media.

Two days ago, an al Qaeda suicide bomber attacked a reconciliation conference in the city of Yusafiyah in southern Baghdad province. “The bomber blew himself up inside Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al Karghouli’s house, where a reconciliation meeting was being held in the Yusufiyah area, southern Baghdad,” a spokesman at the Baghdad Operation Command told Voices of Iraq.

The suicide attack, which was carried out by a wanted member of the Karghouli tribe, killed 23 Iraqis and wounded 42 others.

The Karghouli tribe is prominent in the area south of Baghdad formerly know as the Triangle of Death. The Sunni tribe is active in an area where many intelligence agents, Baathists, and Republican Guards officers loyal to Saddam Hussein live. The tribe was active in the insurgency and allied with al Qaeda in Iraq. The Karghoulis were behind the kidnapping and murder of three US soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division in the spring of 2007.

The Karghoulis turned on al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007 and have begun to pursue reconciliation. The areas south of Baghdad have been pacified after al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army were defeated in the region late in 2007.

The recent attacks are taking place as the US transferred sovereignty to Iraq and are turning over military outposts in the Baghdad region and beyond to the Iraqi security forces. The increase in attacks are unwelcomed but to be expected, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

“As we turn over more security to the Iraqis, this will happen,” the intelligence official said. “Al Qaeda and others will probe, and will find gaps in security. The key will be how the Iraqis respond, and we’ve seen no evidence they cannot handle these attacks.”

Al Qaeda and other Sunni and Shia terror groups still maintain a capacity to conduct terror attacks, the intelligence official stated. “Elements of the terror infrastructure exist, but these groups no are no longer holding ground,” the official said.

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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3 Comments

  • Ali says:

    Disgusting.
    I was so hoping this year it would pass peacefully.
    Where are the protests for these massacres – or is all the blame just for Israel who are trying to protect their own populace??

  • ECH says:

    My main worry about these suicide attacks is if al-Qaeda can sustain enough attacks on Shia while U.S. troops are transitioning away from providing day to day security to sour relations between the two sects again in Iraq and cause the Iraqi government to do something stupid like end the Sons of Iraq and go after Awakening leaders again, which could give al-Qaeda an opening to hold ground in parts of the country again.
    Keeping the level of violence low enough to keep the Shia population in Iraq from getting riled up is important not just for the Iraqis, but for our own national security. Zarqawi knew sectarian hated was the only way al-Qaeda had a chance to turn Iraq into a failed state or at least create chaos in parts of the country so that terrorists could have a base in.
    The war isn’t over in al-Qaeda’s mind. They know this period of transition is their last chance to turn things around for them. I hope the U.S. government knows that the war isn’t over yet. The transition to Iraqi day to day security in 2009 I believe will be Iraq War’s last read hurdle to cross.

  • Andrew R. says:

    Bill,

    I was wondering if you (or DJ) have any unclassified word from the folks at MNF-I as to how competent the IP’s and IA’s are for gathering intel on AQI in comparison to the various American S-2’s. Because I’ve got an awful feeling that the whole being Iraqi and speaking Arabic thing is going to be offset by the problem of infiltration and lack of professionalism. It’s my (highly uninformed) opinion that as the U.S. forces pull back, AQI’s going to be trying more attacks like this in response to gaps that start appearing.

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