Al Qaeda suicide team kills Iraqi general, 17 officers


For a larger image, click the map. Left and center maps: these two maps were produced by MNF-I in 2008 to show how al Qaeda was driven from its sanctuaries during the surge. Dark red indicates control; light red indicates presence. Right map: this map was produced by Reuters in December 2013.

Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham killed 18 Iraqi Army officers, including a senior general and members of his staff, in a complex suicide attack today in the western province of Anbar.

The commander of the Iraqi Army’s 7th Division and the commander of the 28th Brigade were among the 18 officers who were killed after three suicide bombers attacked them in a home in the remote western town of Rutbah, Reuters reported. Several “high-ranking officers” who were members of the division and the brigade staffs were also killed.

The officers were reportedly visiting an area in Rutbah that was subject to a recent military operation targeting al Qaeda.

Rutbah is a smuggler’s town and a transit point to Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in the desert in the southwestern corner of Iraq. Al Qaeda attempted to control the town from 2005 to 2007 in order to facilitate the transit of weapons, cash, and foreign terrorists into Iraq’s central regions. With the civil war in Syria and the renewed terrorist insurgency in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham is attempting to regain control of Rutbah and other border areas in western Iraq, as well as areas it lost late last decade.

Al Qaeda regaining control of areas it lost during the surge

The ISIS has had success in regaining control of areas of Iraq that it lost during combined US and Iraqi counterinsurgency operations from 2007 to 2009. A map recently produced by Reuters shows that the ISIS controls villages and towns along the Euphrates River and the border with Syria as well as in the desert in Anbar, in areas south of Baghdad, in the Hamrin Mountains in Diyala and Salahaddin, and in numerous areas in Ninewa [map is above].

When the Reuters map is compared with maps produced in 2008 by Multinational Forces – Iraq that show al Qaeda control in Iraq in 2006 [leftmost map] at the height of the organization’s strength in the country, and 2008 [center map] after the group was driven from many of its sanctuaries, al Qaeda’s resurgence becomes clear.

The ISIS began retaking control of areas in Iraq after the US withdrew military, intelligence, and logistical support from the Iraqi military and intelligence services in December 2011. The Syrian civil war has also fueled the resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq.

ISIS suicide operations continue unabated

The ISIS has not had difficulty in recruiting and deploying suicide bombers in either Iraq or in Syria, where it is a dominant force in the insurgency against President’s Bashir al Assad’s embattled regime. In Iraq, ISIS has conducted 13 suicide attacks and assaults so far this month and 12 last month, according to a count by LWJ. The US government reported that the ISIS carried out 38 suicide attacks in October. In Syria, the ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s other branch, have executed six suicide attacks and assaults so far this month, 11 in November, and nine more in October, according to a count by LWJ.

Of the 13 suicide attacks in Iraq this month, eight have been suicide assaults, or attacks that include more than one bomber and are often accompanied by an armed team of fighters.

The ISIS has conducted numerous coordinated assaults on Iraqi 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 ISIS continues to display its capacity to plan and execute coordinated operations against Iraq’s 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.

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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  • This is crazy that they have retaken large parts of Iraq. Where is the funding coming from? I suspect the Gulf dictatorships and their endless oil money. The problem from the beginning has been the oil dictatorships spending their trillions support this garbage all over the world and they continue to do it. Maybe the King of Saudi Arabia isn’t involved personally and may even be against it but the hardlines who are ridiculously rich continue to dump buckets of money at al Qaeda across the globe. The problem isnt just the Saudis but UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and anyone else in that category of dictatorship. Gaddafi was a small isolated fly compared to these guys.

  • Tm says:

    Ok, again and again suicide bombers strike, we need a paramoint shift in awareness. In WWII we saw them and they feared us, the suicide weapon can be defeated.
    Assume you are the target all the time and be aware to expect it. No different than sitting on an air craft carrier for months on end with 2000 others on the pacific in 1942.
    Expect to be attacked. Be surprised if you are not.

  • Chris says:

    hard to stop somebody wnting to blow themselves up, but you’d think they would start running out of guys( girls ) raising their hands

  • Ed says:

    You would think that you would run out of people, but how big is their manpower pool?
    Also battle field success will get some people more likely to volunteer as their sacrifice will count for something they hold dear. It may be warped, but they still hold it dear.

  • Tom says:

    The U.S. built an earth berm around Rutbah to control access. While it would not be 100% effective, if it significantly adds to risk of detection of entering and exiting Rutbah, then it has its’ intended effect.
    It had an effect because one of the local Jihadis gave up the struggle and decamped for Syria. but he did not like Syria and made entreaties to the local Rutbah authorities to take him back. So the berm did have an effect. But all walls must be manned and maintained.

  • Larry says:

    ” Maybe the King of Saudi Arabia isn’t involved personally and may even be against it but the hardlines who are ridiculously rich continue to dump buckets of money at al Qaeda across the globe.” -Adrian
    That is pretty much it. Even if the King is not involved himself, it is almost a difference without distinction. He does not have the desire, will or resources to stop other rich sheikhs from funding terrorists, so WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE, if we befriend Saudi Arabia?
    Is it in our interest to protect them, work with them of trade with them?


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