Terror attacks near embassies rock Baghdad, kill 41

Three suicide bombers targeted foreign diplomatic buildings in Baghdad, just one day after a deadly nighttime raid by terrorists disguised as Iraqi and US troops butchered civilians and security personnel south of the capital.

In today’s attacks, the suicide bombers detonated their explosive-laden vehicles outside the Egyptian, Iranian, Spanish, and German embassies, killing 41 people and wounding 256 more, according to Reuters.

The suicide bomber who targeted the Egyptian embassy hit the outer blast wall and left a 10-foot-wide crater in the street.

“The car crashed into the blast wall and the guards of the embassy shot the terrorist but he went and blew himself up,” General Qassim al Moussawi, the Baghdad Operations Command spokesman, told Reuters. “The same thing happened with the Iranian embassy.” Iranian officials said no Iranian personnel were killed or wounded in the attack, Voices of Iraq reported.

At the German embassy, one Iraqi security guard was killed while attempting to repel the attack. Police shot and killed another suicide bomber outside the German embassy before he could detonate his explosives.

Today’s bombings in Baghdad took place only one day after a terrorist assault team entered a village in the Arab Jabour region just south of the capital in Baghdad province. The al Qaeda team dressed as Iraqi soldiers, brought along a fake interpreter, and included members who pretended to be Americans. They entered the village and rounded up soldiers, the anti-al Qaeda Awakening security forces, and civilians, including women, tied them up, and executed them. Twenty-five people were reported killed in a shooting spree; 17 people were later found tied up.

Both the Iraqi Army and Awakening leaders blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for the Arab Jabour massacre, according to a report in The Guardian. Moussawi, the Baghdad Operations Command spokesman, said the murders bore “an obvious al Qaeda hallmark.” General Mustafa Kamel, the leader of the Awakening movement who is also known as the “Lion of Arab Jabour,” also put the blame on al Qaeda. In the summer of 2007, Mustafa led the local revolt against al Qaeda in Iraq in the Arab Jabour region and called the group “godless criminals” for attempting to impose a Taliban-like state there. [See LWJ report, “An interview with the ‘Lion of Arab Jabour,’” for more on Mustafa and the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq in the Arab Jabour region.]

This weekend’s attacks do bear the hallmark of al Qaeda in Iraq. Today’s suicide attacks in Baghdad were carried out minutes apart and targeted key foreign installations in the capital. Yesterday’s attack in Arab Jabour also mimicked previous attacks carried out by al Qaeda to stir up sectarian violence in and around the capital during 2006 and 2007.

While no group has claimed credit for the attacks, al Qaeda has done so for prior attacks. Al Qaeda and Ansar al Islam (formerly Ansar al Sunnah), are the two groups that use suicide bombings in Iraq.

Today’s suicide attacks in Baghdad are the first since March 4, which was just three days before Iraq’s parliamentary election. Fourteen Iraqis were killed at two polling sites; Iraqi soldiers and police were conducting early voting at one of the sites.

Prior to the March 4 attack, al Qaeda in Iraq targeted Shia pilgrims in Baghdad, Karbala, Hillah, and Najaf as they marched in religious processions in late January and early February.

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



  • ECH says:

    Iraq is in the most dangerous time period its been since after the December 2005 elections. Iraq could slip back sectarian conflict as it did during that period after the December 2005 elections unless the politicians get their act together and work together to form a national unity government instead of having a reprise of what happened in the first half of 2006 of them fighting for months over power.
    Personally, I think these events show two problems. One I think Maliki made a major mistake in basically forcing the U.S. military to leave the cities and minimize its operations inside Iraq so Maliki could say he ended the ‘occupation’ before the election. I think that act alone took a huge amount of heat off al-Qaeda and let them regroup to the extent they are stronger now that at any time since late 2007 and the violence they caused late last year cost Maliki enough Shia votes on election day to make Allawi’s bloc the largest on election day. Maliki overestimated the ability of the ISF to deal with the terrorists after the military victories that occured in 2007 and 2008 with alot of U.S. military help.
    That doesn’t mean U.S. troops shouldn’t have been eventually consigned to their bases and slowly leave Iraq, but it should have been a conditions on the ground based decision which it clearly wasn’t. It was Maliki thinking he could win big by becoming the one people give credit for ending the occuption before election day. In the end of the day I think it hurt him politically far more then it helped, because Iraqi forces weren’t ready to go it alone with just help from U.S. advisors by 2009.
    The second issue is a real problem is I believe is that the PM should be directly elected by a First Pass the Post voting system to avoid these kind of 6+ month time periods of major political fighting after elections over the position of PM. The other major positions like the Vice Presidents’, the President, etc can be selected by the parliament, but I think it would help Iraq alot to have a mixed First Pass the Post/Parliamentary system as some European countries do.
    One can’t change that now, but what the U.S. government should be doing is trying to help arbitrate the post election conflict to get a government up and running ASAP and one that doesn’t shut out the Sunnis. Iran has wasted no time in trying to be the ones to shape the new government and they are intent on shutting out the Sunni Arabs from the government.
    I have to give credit for al-Hakim for saying he wouldn’t support doing that last week. But, actions speak louder then words.

  • DANNY says:

    Bah! Barbarians! It’s going to be a long war for sure, but eventually evil will be defeated.

  • Joel says:

    This mindless chatter in the media about how terrorists are going to use the period of political uncertainty to stoke sectarian conflict is old and tiring. al qaeda and their allies will use any excuse to kill innocent people. the average iraqi wants nothing to do with it. this is just a continuation of their war against modern society, and it will not succeed.

  • ECH says:

    Joel, that is correct, but these attacks are clearly designed to reignite sectarian violence in Iraq. The last time it worked was in a similar situation as now when the political parties were completely busy fighting for who would lead the government and there was a complete absence of Iraqi leadership at the top.
    I really do think this period of political instability and right after the new government forms will be al-Qaeda and Iran’s last chance to have any hope of restarting sectarian violence in Iraq.

  • Joel says:

    Al Qaeda tries to stoke sectarian conflict irrespective of the political situation. They target shia pilgrims every day, every month, every year. I don’t think Iraqi’s are any more likely to fall prey to sectarian violence now, then they are during any other time of the year. The sectarian violence erupted in 2006 and 2007 because the state apparatus was dysfunctional. Today the state apparatus is much stronger and more functional. It is the military, police forces, and other state institutions that are important. The political process is simply a function of those institutions. Al Qaeda will continue their campaign irrespective of the political situation. Futhermore, I dont think Iraqi’s take their cues from their political leadership anymore than Americans do. Rather, the political leadership takes their cues from Iraqi’s. And The success of Allawi is a good sign in that regard.

  • kp says:

    Both of these attacks are “spectaculars” from a small group. Unlike stoking the previous sectarian violence 5 years ago they have a much smaller cadre (they can’t terrorize everyone) and a much smaller leadership that can operation in the country. I doubt they have much chance of stirring up trouble and perhaps do more for reinforcing the sort of trouble people don’t want to see (more people liable to rat on a rat).

    I don’t see the full details of the attack either but were these supposed to be “breach and enter” attacks? Big blast on the perimeter wall then drive or run through the gap with a second bomber and cause mayhem? It didn’t seem to happen (e.g. second bomber killed at the German embassy).

    And as I always point out the CTC average for all VBEDs is 11 per attack. This is four attacks with 41 killed. About average. Not a big one.

    The target list is interesting too. They can’t get to higher value targets?

    Finally the fake Iraqi/US “attack” was on Sunni’s not Shia and is revealed as AQI not Iraqi/US. THough the conspiracy theoriest will stick to it it seems this one is blown and AQI is quite happy to kill Sunni. That won’t help them defeat the Awakening movement.

  • ECH says:

    Joel, I understand what you are saying, but the post election political enviorment is poisionous if Iraqis online are any indication. On Iraqi web forums the Shia are blaming Allawi for these attacks and the massive one today that destoryed 7 buildings. The Sunni are divided between seeing the hand of al-Qaeda and the hand of Iran in these attacks.
    One of the big issues is this window where the blocs are trying to form a government is far far more politiically and emotionally charged.
    If the terrorists can keep up this level of attacks for alot longer I am worried at another reprise of early 2006. If they can it probably means its not just al-Qaeda its the Iranian groups doing this along with them.
    Its an extremely dangerous situation that needs to be overcome. Personally if I was in Ray Odierno’s shoes (which I am not) I would behind the scenes ask the Iraqi government if the U.S. could put more troops on the streets while political fighting continues over the new government.
    al-Qaeda is conducting its most sustained large scale attacks in years right now as they seek to reprise their success in 2006 using the heated post election political battles and hoping they can get others into it. I wouldn’t be suprised if the special groups aren’t involved as well.


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