Al Qaeda launches suicide assault on security forces in western Iraq

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The Islamic State of Iraqi and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda branch that operates in Iraq and Syria, launched a suicide assault against police and the military in Haditha today, killing nine policemen. The attack is just the latest in a wave of assaults, bombings, and shooting by al Qaeda as the violence in Iraq continues to spiral towards pre-surge levels.

The ISIL opened the attack by launching rockets at the military headquarters, Reuters reported. As the rocket attack was underway, a convoy of seven vehicles loaded with fighters attacked a police checkpoint in the town and killed six policemen.

The al Qaeda convoy then proceeded to the police station and suicide bombers detonated two vehicles packed with explosives outside the main gate, killing three more policemen.

The ISIL launched a similar attack in Haditha in March 2012. In that attack, a large convoy of al Qaeda fighters, some disguised as policemen, killed 27 Iraqi policemen, including two commanders, in a coordinated assault on the western Iraqi town. The ISIL videotaped the attack and later released it.

Today’s attack follows another similar operation by the ISIL in Bayji on Sept 21. In that attack, a four-man suicide assault team attacked a police special forces base in the city, killing seven policemen and wounding 20 more. The suicide bombers were able to enter the compound before either being shot or detonating their vests.

Al Qaeda has conducted numerous coordinated assaults on Iraq security forces over the past year. The most prominent raid took place on July 21, when assault teams attacked prisons in Abu Ghraib and Taji. At least 26 policemen and prison guards were killed, while hundreds of prisoners, including many senior al Qaeda leaders, escaped. Many are still on the loose.

The ISIL continues to display its capacity to plan and execute coordinated operations against security facilities. These attacks are part of multiple ‘waves’ of al Qaeda’s “Destroying the Walls” campaign, which was announced by emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who is also known as Abu Du’a, on July 21, 2012.

While the ISIL has stepped up attacks in Iraq, it has also expanded its operations inside Syria. The ISIL controls areas of northern and western Syria, and, along with the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s other affiliate in Syria, and international jihadist groups such as the Muhajireen Army, attacks Syrian security forces and militias.

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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