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TRAVEL ADVISORY – Recent Terror Attacks in Baghdad, Iraq

Key Points:

  • Baghdad has seen a recent increase in terror attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State group.Jan 2017 Baghbad image
  • Such attacks have generally targeted the Shiite civilian populations.
  • Terrorism is likely to increase as Islamic State loses territory in Northern Iraq.

Situation Summary:
Terrorism: In early 2017 and late 2016 there has been a marked increase in terror attacks throughout Iraq, but specifically in Baghdad. On 31 December 2016, two suicide car bombs were detonated in mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad, primarily in the vicinity of Sadr City district. One bomb exploded at a busy market in the Al-Sinek area of Baghdad, while a second was detonated at the nearby Al-Kindi Teaching Hospital. The death toll for these two car bombs was around 40 people, mostly civilians. On the 05 January, further car bombs exploded in the Al-Obeidi area, killing around nine people. On 08 January, another car bomb killed at least 13 people at a market in the Jamila district of Baghdad. This district is almost exclusively populated by Shiites, and is very close to the Sadr City area. All of these acts of terrorism have since been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

2017-jan-recent-terror-attacks-in-baghdad-iraqIntrinsic Comment:
The Shiite community has for a long time been a primary target for Islamic State militants. Islamic State’s brand of Sunni Islam views Shiites as apostates, which makes them legitimate targets to attack. The political situation in Iraq has exacerbated this. Sunni populations have held little political or governmental power since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and have been reduced to largely ceremonial roles by the Shiite majority. As such, within the Sunni community there has been severe hostility towards Shiite populations. Islamic State terror attacks capitalise upon this division.

The recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad have specifically targeted the civilian population in and around the Shiite-dominated Sadr City in Baghdad. Recent Islamic State terror attacks have been aimed at “soft” targets. These are non-military, civilian populated areas; multiple markets have been attacked, as well as hospitals. The recent means of attack by IS have been suicide car bombs, although individuals wearing suicide vests have also been used. In several recent instances, IS militants have ensured that civilians gathered around the bomb before detonating it; in one case this was done by falsely advertising for labour in a market.

Islamic State has also targeted governmental and military facilities throughout Baghdad. Due to the extremely high militarisation of the city, these attacks can occur at any military checkpoint. This is done both through suicide bombings and strategic armed offensives. Strategic attacks often include the use of a suicide bomb or vest, once militants have been halted by security forces.

Baghdad has enjoyed a period of relative calm since October 2016. While there have been terror attacks during this time period, they have been neither as targeted nor as impactful as the recent attacks. While most of the Islamic State’s forces have been focused on defending Mosul, they have attempted to conduct counter-attacks and random terror attacks in places like Baghdad and Fallujah, in order to divert the resources of Coalition forces. Further attacks of this kind are to be expected.

Intrinsic Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: Iraq: Severe Terrorism: Severe
The Islamic State group are likely to continue this trend of terror attacks through 2017. Baghdad is already on a high security alert, yet IS militants are still able to conduct attacks, showing the difficulties faced by Iraqi security forces. Further attacks are likely as the assault on Mosul continues and in its aftermath. It is therefore important for travellers to, and those residing in, Baghdad to reassess their security and medical evacuation plans; as recent attacks have shown, no target is off limit to the Islamic State. Shiite areas, including Sadr City, are at a higher risk than other locations.Solace Global would advise clients to employ the highest possible security measures and journey management planning when visiting Iraq. Within Baghdad itself, Intrinsic would advise clients to employ a fully-armed and armoured transportation detail for the foreseeable future, including a secondary convoy vehicle. We would also advise travellers to use travel-tracking technology in order to gain rapid access to the latest incidents and to notify others should an incident occur. These enhanced security measures are required throughout Iraq, as the risk of travellers becoming caught up in terrorist attacks are extremely high. Travellers should try to avoid areas likely to be targeted by Islamic State militants; this includes the most populated areas of Sadr City and other areas with a sizeable Shiite population. Movement outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad without the highest level of security, is strongly advised against.


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