The Islamic State claimed credit for today’s suicide attack in Baghdad that killed Ahmed al Khafaji, who was a senior commander in the Shiite Badr militia and a member of parliament, along with at least 20 other Iraqis. Khafaji’s death was confirmed by another member of Iraq’s parliament as well as by a hospital official.
“Khafaji was a member of the main Shiite bloc in parliament, the State of Law coalition, of which Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s Dawa party is also part,” AFP reported.
The Islamic State said that Khafaji was the target of the suicide attack, which was executed by “members of the [Islamic State’s] security and intelligence department of Baghdad province,” according to statements released by the group on Twitter that were obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The suicide bomber was identified as “Abu ‘Aisha al Badri al Husseini al Qurashi al Samara’ee.”
The jihadist group described Khafaji as “the Member of Parliament for Badr Brigade, this Rafidhi [Shiite] faction that has long fought the Muslims and waded deep in their blood.”
The assassination of Khafaji took place just two days after the Islamic State killed the top police general for Anbar province in an IED attack just outside of Ramadi in Anbar province.
The Islamic State has upped the attack tempo in Baghdad over the past several weeks, with suicide bombings and IED attacks becoming more prevalent inside the city.
Many analysts are claiming that the Islamic State is preparing to mount an offensive on Baghdad and march into the city, as it has done in Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah, and elsewhere. The presence of the Islamic State in Abu Ghraib and reports of fighting near Baghdad International Airport (which the Ministry of the Interior has denied) have been cited as evidence of a looming assault.
But the presence of the Islamic State in Abu Ghraib and much of eastern Anbar province is not a recent development. In fact, the Islamic State held a parade, which included a large amount of captured Iraqi Army hardware, in Abu Ghraib in March [see LWJ report, ISIS parades on outskirts of Baghdad, from April 4].
I believe that the Islamic State is simply consolidating its recent gains in Anbar while continuing its “Baghdad Belts” strategy to control the so-called belt regions outside the city as a precursor to making the capital ungovernable. [See LWJ report, Analysis: ISIS, allies reviving ‘Baghdad belts’ battle plan.] The increased violence inside and outside of Baghdad is a reflection of the group’s success in implementing its strategy to put the squeeze on the Iraqi government.
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