Friday, May 20, 2011

Assassinations In Iraq Go Into Overdrive

One of the growing trends in violence in Iraq is the wave of assassinations that have hit the country. Today, many of the attacks are aimed at specific individuals who work for the government and security forces. They require advanced planning, intelligence gathering, and probably sources within the bureaucracy. Roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), pistols with silencers, and adhesive bombs attached to cars are some of the most popular ways to carry out these hits. They have been going on for several years now, but in increasing numbers in the last few months.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) has documented some of the recent assassination attempts. It recorded 10 attempts in August 2010 resulting in more than six deaths, four in September with two dead, 11 in October with over 19 deaths, 11 in November leading to 11 dead, 17 in December with 6 dead, 17 again in January 2011 and ten dead, seven in February with five dead, and 16 in March leading to ten fatalities. This is only a partial count with some of the victims being the Director General from the Electricity Ministry killed by gunmen in Baghdad on October 25, and an Army commander killed by an improvised explosive device in the capital on October 28.

Selected Assassination Attempts Recorded by the SIGIR

Totals Attempts/Deaths
August 2010 10 attempts, 6+ deaths
September 2010 4 attempts, 2 deaths
October 2010 11 attempts, 19+ deaths
November 2010 11 attempts, 11 deaths
December 2010 17 attempts, 6 deaths
January 2011 17 attempts, 10 deaths
February 2011 7 attempts, 5 deaths
March 2011 16 attempts, 10 deaths

Location Of Attacks
August 2010: 4 Baghdad, 4 Ninewa, 1 Maysan, 1 Salahaddin
September 2010: 4 Baghdad
October 2010: 6 Baghdad, 2 Ninewa, 2 Salahaddin, 1 Anbar
November 2010: 6 Baghdad, 3 Ninewa, 2 Anbar
December 2010: 12 Baghdad, 2 Ninewa 1 Diyala, 1 Tamim, 1 Wasit
January 1-17, 2011: 2 Anbar, 2 Baghdad, 1 Diyala, 1 Ninewa, 1 Tamim

Date
Target
Location
Means
Fatalities
8/8/10
Governor of Ninewa
Ninewa
Bombs
Governor uninjured, others killed and wounded
8/9/10
Criminal court judge
Maysan
Sticky bomb
No injuries
8/10/10
Tal Afar City councilman
Ninewa
Sticky bomb
No injuries
8/17/10
Judges
Baghdad
Bombs
Judges wounded
8/17/10
Financial Supervision Authority official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
8/18/10
Court officials
Salahaddin
Bombs
2 guards killed
8/18/10
Ministry of Housing official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
8/19/10
Election Commission official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
8/20/10
Ninewa criminal court judge
Ninewa
IEDs
Judge uninjured, 4 wounded
8/27/10
Judge
Ninewa
IED
No injuries
9/6/10
Director General at Agriculture Ministry
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Director general wounded
9/13/10
Intelligence officer
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Officer killed
9/15/10
Undersecretary at Labor Ministry
Baghdad
IED
1 wounded
9/26/10
Integrity Commission official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
10/3/10
Agriculture Ministry official
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Official killed
10/5/10
Director of criminal evidence department
Ninewa
Gunmen
Director killed
10/7/10
Ninewa provincial council member
Ninewa
Gunmen
No injuries
10/9/10
Ministry of Higher Education workers
Anbar
Gunmen
3 killed
10/18/10
Baghdad provincial official
Baghdad
Bomb
Official and several guards killed
10/19/10
Police lieutenant colonel
Salahaddin
Bomb
Lieutenant colonel wounded, 11 others killed
10/19/10
Senior police officer
Salahaddin
IED
No casualties
10/25/10
Ministry of Electricity Director General
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Director General was killed
10/25/10
Ministry of Interior Official
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Official killed, 3 injured
10/26/10
Ministry of Planning undersecretary
Baghdad
IED
Undersecretary uninjured, 4 wounded
10/28/10
Police colonel
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Colonel killed
11/1/10
Senior police officer
Ninewa
Sticky Bomb
Officer killed, driver wounded
11/4/10
Local government official
Anbar
IEDs
Official and driver killed
11/16/10
Senior national security official
Ninewa
Bomb
No casualties
11/19/10
Parliamentarian from Iraqi National Movement
Ninewa
IED
Lawmaker unharmed, 1 bodyguard killed
11/22/10
Senior passport official
Anbar
IED
Official killed
11/22/10
Ministry of Public Works Inspector General official
Baghdad
Gunmen
2 Inspector General officials killed, 2 injured
11/23/10
Ministry of Higher Education official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
11/24/10
Army general
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
General killed
11/24/10
Ministry of Interior colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen
Colonel killed
11/28/10
Police general
Baghdad
Gunmen
General killed
11/28/10
Sunni Endowment official
Baghdad
IED
Official wounded
12/1/10
Ministry of Health official
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Official wounded
12/1/10
Ministry of Human Rights official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
12/1/10
Local government official
Wasit
Gunmen
Official unharmed, 2 wounded
12/1/10
Senior police officer
Tamim
Bomb
No casualties
12/3/10
Dhi Qar intelligence officer
Baghdad
Gunmen
Officer injured
12/14/10
Integrity Commission official
Diyala
Sticky bomb
No casualties
12/16/10
Former Ministry of Electricity official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Former official killed
12/20/10
President of Mosul Univ.
Ninewa
Gunmen
President wounded
12/20/10
Intelligence officer
Baghdad
Gunmen
Officer killed
12/21/10
Shiite Endowment official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official wounded
12/22/10
Ministry of Health official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
12/23/10
Army general
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
General killed, 1 wounded
12/23/10
Police colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen
Colonel injured
12/26/10
Ministry of Interior official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official and driver wounded
12/28/10
Ministry of Foreign Affairs official
Baghdad
IED
Official injured
12/29/10
Criminal court judge
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Judge wounded
12/29/10
Mosul police commander
Ninewa
Suicide bombers
Police commander killed
1/1/11
Ministry of Interior lieutenant colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen
Lieutenant colonel killed
1/2/11
Sunni Endowment official
Diyala
IEDs
Official wounded
1/2/11
Ninewa provincial council chairman
Ninewa
IEDs
No casualties
1/3/11
Ministry of Interior general
Baghdad
Gunmen
General wounded
1/5/11
Local security official
Tamim
IED
Official wounded
1/10/11
Chief of Police
Anbar
IED
Chief and others killed
1/17/11
Provincial Governor
Anbar
Suicide bombe
Governor unharmed, several wounded

A detailed review of English language sources for April and May 2011 show much higher numbers. Even when excluding common soldiers, police, and low ranking officers there were 47 attempts in April resulting in 21 deaths, and 40 attempts up to May 20, leading to 16 casualties. In April, the Minister of Industry escaped a roadside bomb and gunmen in Anbar, a Director General at the same ministry was killed in Baghdad, a Director General at the National Investment Commission was wounded by a bomb in the capital, the mayor of Sadiyah in Diyala and three of his bodyguards were wounded by a roadside bomb, the Director General at the Finance Ministry and adviser to the Central Bank escaped gunmen who attacked their motorcade in Baghdad, the Director General of the Education Ministry was killed in Baghdad, a Sadrist parliamentarian escaped an IED attack on his convoy in Babil, the Deputy Minister of Housing went unharmed by a roadside bomb on his convoy in Baghdad, the head of the integrity committee in parliament eluded gunmen with silencers, and a judge in Salahaddin was killed. May saw a similar list of victims.

Assassination Attempts Reported In Media On High Officials-Officers-Politicians 4/1/11-5/20/11

Totals Attempts/Deaths
April 2011 47 attempts, 21 deaths
May 1-20, 2011 40 attempts, 16 deaths

Location Of Attacks
April 2011: 31 Baghdad, 4 Diyala, 3 Anbar, 3 Ninewa, 3 Tamim, 2 Salahaddin, 1 Babil
May 1-20, 2011: 20 Baghdad, 7 Tamim, 5 Ninewa, 5 Salahaddin, 2 Diyala, 1 Basra

Date
Target
Location
Means
Fatalities
4/3/11
Minister of Industry
Anbar
Roadside bomb and gunmen
Minister unharmed, 1 dead, 4 wounded
4/3/11
Cabinet official
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Official wounded
4/4/11
Director General at Ministry of Industry
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
Director General killed, guard wounded
4/4/11
Director General at National Investment Commission
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
Director General and bodyguard wounded
4/6/11
General in charge of Ninewa Nationality Department
Ninewa
Bomb
No casualties
4/6/11
National Director of the Interior Ministry official
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Official killed
4/8/11
Chairman of the Political Prisoners Authority and director of al-Massar TV station
Baghdad
Gunmen
Chairman and director killed
4/9/11
Police colonel
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Colonel injured
4/11/11
Head of Editing Secretariat at the Media Directorate of the Iraqi parliament
Baghdad
Bomb
Head killed, two wounded
4/11/11
Police captain at Interior Ministry
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Captain killed
4/11/11
Colonel at Interior Ministry
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Colonel and driver wounded
4/12/11
Police colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Colonel killed
4/13/11
Assistant Police Director in Kirkuk
Tamim
Sticky bomb
Police director wounded
4/13/11
Director, Sadiyah
Diyala
Roadside bomb
Director and 3 others wounded
4/13/11
Mayor of Sadiyah
Diyala
Roadside bomb
Mayor and 3 bodyguards injured
4/14/11
Police colonel
Diyala
Bomb
3 wounded
4/16/11
Higher Education Ministry official
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
2 wounded
4/16/11
Police lieutenant colonel
Anbar
Sticky bomb
Lieutenant colonel wounded
4/17/11
Traffic police director
Anbar
Roadside bomb
No injuries
4/17/11
National Security Ministry official
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Official and 4 others wounded
4/18/11
Director General at Finance Ministry and adviser to Central Bank of Iraq
Baghdad
Gunmen
No injuries
4/18/11
Adviser to speaker of parliament
Baghdad
Car bomb
1 killed, 3 wounded
4/18/11
Politician
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
Politician, 2 bodyguards, 3 civilians wounded
4/19/11
Director General in Education Ministry
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Director general killed, 2 wounded
4/19/11
Sadr lawmaker
Babil
IED
No injuries
4/20/11
Chairman of Salahaddin court
Salahaddin
Car bomb
4 bodyguards, 4 civilians wounded
4/20/11
Election Commission official
Ninewa
Sticky bomb
No injuries
4/20/11
Deputy Minister of Housing
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
4 injured
4/20/11
Head of Oil Ministry’s oil products
Ninewa
Gunmen
Head wounded
4/21/11
Police major
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Major wounded
4/21/11
Head of parliament’s integrity committee
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
No injuries
4/23/11
Foreign Ministry high official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed, 1 wounded
4/23/11
Housing Ministry official
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Official killed
4/23/11
Colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Colonel killed
4/23/11
Intelligent agent
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Agent killed
4/24/11
Defense Ministry lieutenant colonel
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
No injuries
4/24/11
Defense Ministry general
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
General wounded
4/24/11
Defense Ministry official
Baghdad
Gunmen
Official killed
4/24/11
Director of Taxes Commission
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Director killed
4/25/11
Army major
Diyala
Sticky bomb
Major killed
4/26/11
Secretary to Baghdad’s governor
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Secretary killed
4/26/11
Municipal official
Tamim
Bomb
No injuries
4/27/11
Director General at state directorate of cinema and theater
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
2 guards wounded
4/27/11
Interior Ministry general
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
General killed
4/28/11
General
Baghdad
Gunmen
General wounded
4/28/11
Police chief
Tamim
Bomb
Chief killed, 3 guards, 12 others wounded
4/30/11
Judge
Salahaddin
Bomb
Judge killed, 1 guard, 2 others wounded
Colonel
Tamim
Gunmen with silencers
Colonel killed
Jamia municipal council member
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Member and 1 other wounded
Tribal chief
Salahaddin
Gunmen
Chief wounded
Director of Passport and Nationality Department
Diyala
Bomb
3 wounded
Nimrud Police chief
Ninewa
Roadside bomb
Chief killed, 4 bodyguards and driver wounded
Integrity Commission official
Basra
Bomb
Official wounded
Director of Grain Board
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Driver killed, director and one other wounded
Police major
Tamim
Sticky bomb
Major and 2 others wounded
Tuz Kharmato Asayesh chief
Tamim
Bomb
Chief wounded, 2 Asayesh killed, 4 others wounded
Defense Ministry general
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
General killed
Adviser to President
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Driver wounded
Director Mandean Nationality Certificates Office
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Director killed
Interior Minister officer
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Officer killed, 1 wounded
Police Director General
Baghdad
Bomb
3 bodyguards, 3 others injured
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council leader
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Leader killed
Baghdad provincial council member
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
Bodyguard and 1 other wounded
Director Baghdad’s Zafaraniya Cement Factory
Baghdad
Sticky bomb
Director killed
Baghdad provincial council member
Baghdad
Bomb
3 wounded
Director of police
Salahaddin
Bomb
Director wounded
Police colonel
Ninewa
Sticky bomb
Colonel wounded
Politician from Iraqi National Movement
Ninewa
Gunmen
Politician killed
Iraqi Turkmen Front deputy chairman
Tamim
Rocket
No injuries
Kirkuk’s Police chief
Tamim
Bomb
2 wounded
Director of certificates offices Tuz Kharmato
Salahaddin
Sticky bomb
Director wounded
Interior Ministry major
Baghdad
Bomb
Several wounded
Kirkuk Police chief
Tamim
Bomb
No injuries
General
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
General wounded
Candidate Iraqi National Movement
Ninewa
Gunmen
Candidate killed, 1 wounded
Intelligence officer
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Officer wounded
Interior Ministry lieutenant colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Lieutenant colonel wounded
Tax officials
Salahaddin
Sticky bomb
4 officials wounded
Provincial council chairman
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
2 guards, 2 others wounded
Judge in charge of Ninewa criminal court
Ninewa
Sticky bomb
No injuries
Provincial council member
Baghdad
Roadside bomb
3 police, 5 others wounded
General, Anti-Terrorism Unit
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
General killed
Police general
Tamim
Sticky bomb
No injuries
Police lieutenant colonel
Diyala
Car bomb
2 killed, 10 wounded
Tikrit Police District Chief
Salahaddin
Sticky Bomb
Director and driver wounded
Interior Ministry colonel
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
Colonel killed
5/20/11
Intelligence officers
Baghdad
Gunmen with silencers
2 officers wounded

The media has reported even higher numbers, but without any details. First, the New York Times reported on May 4, that there were 12 assassinations in February, 31 in March, and 44 in April in Baghdad alone. On May 16, a Reuters' story quoted the Baghdad Operations Command as saying that there had been 38 officials killed since January. A source in the Interior Ministry gave a higher total of 51 since the beginning of the year. The differences in numbers are probably due to who is included in the counts, leading officers or all victims.

The government has bandied about with who is responsible for the assassination campaign. At first, officials blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq. In early May for example, the Baghdad Operations Command showed a video of three suspects who said they were part of an Al Qaeda cell confessing to some of the attacks. The three said they received commands from a different group about a target, and then a woman would deliver guns with silencers to them. They did not know whom their targets were, just where they would be at a specific time. After the hit, the woman would return to collect the weapons. The Baghdad Operations Command claimed that there were leaks in the government who were informing the militants about the whereabouts of potential targets. Later, security officials told the media that Shiite militias backed by Iran, rather than Islamists were behind the wave of assassinations going on in Baghdad. Security sources said that the Shiite militants were targeting people they thought were Baathists, claiming that they feared a return to power of former regime members. Allegedly Shiite groups had put together hit lists and posted them on the internet. A Defense Ministry official for example was quoted as saying that eight of its senior officers had been killed in April, and most of them were Sunnis. A Shiite officer claimed that the security forces were deeply penetrated by the militias with another stating that many of the assassins carried official badges and permits to carry weapons to conceal their operations. Based upon the location of the hits, it’s likely that both Sunni and Shiite groups are behind the assassinations. In Baghdad for example where the vast majority of the incidents take place, it’s nearly impossible to tell who could be behind them unless an organization claims responsibility. Salahaddin, Tamim, and Ninewa on the other hand, are still insurgent hot spots, pointing towards their involvement. No matter who is responsible, they aim to undermine the functioning of the government and the competency of the security forces, and they appear to be working.

Many Sunni and Shiite groups are concentrating more upon targeted killings these days. Mass casualty attacks still occur in Iraq like the recent assault upon a police station in Kirkuk on May 19, but those are happening less frequently as militants lack the capabilities and resources they once had. Instead many seem to be using their limited manpower on assassinations. These political hits mean that the average Iraqi is safer than before. Officials however, are being shaken. Common workers to generals to governors to ministers have all been targeted causing a general sense of unease that any of them could be next. They have been warned not to stay at their homes, drive their cars, or follow their normal routines. That still hasn’t stopped the hits, pointing to collusion within the government itself, and the intelligence capabilities of the insurgents and militias. These incidents are also much harder to prevent, meaning that they are likely to continue into the near future, and become a larger part of the changing security situation within Iraq.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “5 killed in Iraq attacks,” 5/4/11

Alsumaria, “Bombing targeting Babel Rescue Police thwarted,” 5/7/11
- “Iraq bomb kills Police Major,” 5/3/11
- “Kirkuk Police Chief escapes assassination attempt,” 5/13/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “1 killed, 3 injured in Tikrit,” 5/15/11
- “2 civilians wounded by sticky bomb in Kirkuk,” 5/6/11
- “2 Kurdish security elements killed, 4 injured in assassination attempt,” 5/5/11
- “8 killed, including 4 officers, 4 injured, in Baghdad blasts,” 5/8/11
- “Assistant Chairman of Iraqi Turkomen Front escapes assassination attempt,” 5/12/11
- “Civilian killed, 9 others injured in Baghdad blasts,” 5/9/11
- “Colonel Assassinated, 2 Intelligence Officers Wounded, Security Sources Say,” 5/20/11
- “Director General in Iraqi Police escapes assassination attempt,” 5/9/11
- “Director of Tuz Nationality Certificates Office Director injured,” 5/12/11
- “High-ranking Iraqi Defense Ministry officer assassinated,” 5/5/11
- “High-ranking officer, 2 policeman, injured in Salahal-Din,” 5/10/11
- “Interior ministry cameraman killed in Baghdad,” 5/6/11
- “Iraqi anti-terror officer killed in Baghdad,” 5/17/11
- “Iraqi Integrity Comission employee injured in central Basra blast,” 5/3/11
- “Al-Iraqiya Parliamentary candidate assassinated in Mosul,” 5/14/11
- “Kirkuk Hawija township’s Police director escapes assassination attempt,” 5/17/11
- “Kurdish Security Officer killed in Kirkuk,” 5/1/11
-  “Local official, officer wounded in attempt near Baghdad,” 5/1/11
- “Nimrud’s Police Director killed,” 5/3/11
- “Northeast Iraq Diala Provinces Passport & Nationality Director escapes assassination attempt,” 5/2/11
- “Police officer injured in Mosul blast,” 5/11/11
- “Police officer’s legs amputated in blast,” 5/20/11
- “Policeman killed in northeast Iraq’s Baaquba city,” 5/2/11
- “Policeman killed in sticking charge blast in Mosul,” 5/5/11
- “Three persons wounded in assassination attempt against Baghdad Council’s Member,” 5/10/11
- “Three Traffic policemen injured in Kirkuk blast,” 5/4/11
- “Tribal Chieftain seriously injured in armed attack,” 5/2/11
- “Two persons injured in Kirkuk blast,” 5/12/11
- “Two persons seriously injured in Baghdad blast,” 5/19/11
- “URGENT / Baghdad Provincial Council’s Chairman escapes assassination attempt,” 5/16/11

Faraj, Salam, “Iraq violence kills six, wounds two Norwegians,” Agence France Presse, 5/16/11

Jakes, Lara, “Militants claim slipping guns to prison inmates for weeks before attempted Baghdad escape,” Associated Press, 5/12/11

Mahmoud, Mustafa, “Blasts in North Iraq oil city kill up to 25: sources,” Reuters, 5/19/11

Reuters, “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, May 3,” 5/3/11
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, May 9,” 5/9/11
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, May 16,” 5/16/11
-  “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, May 19,” 5/19/11

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Exclusive: Shi’ite groups behind Iraq killings, officials say,” Reuters, 5/16/11

Schmidt, Michael and Ghazi, Yasir, “As Baghdad Violence Evolves, Officials Grapple With New Scourge: Assassinations,” New York Times, 5/4/11

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 1/30/11
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/10
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/11

Xinhua, “Gunman killed, 3 policemen wounded in Baghdad silenced weapons attacks,” 5/15/11
- “One killed, 11 injured in bomb attacks in Iraq,” 5/10/11
- “Two killed, 3 al-Qaida members captured in Iraq,” 5/3/11

Al-Zaman, “Baghdad Military Command Attributes Assassinations to Iran-Financed Shi’a Militia, Not Al-Qaeda,” MEMRI Blog, 5/17/11

2 comments:

amagi said...

To what extent are these functionaries being assassinated actually competent and/or crucial to the function of the Iraqi government (such as it is)? The Iraqi government is by far the biggest employer, as I understand it, so I would assume there is a great deal of redundancy in their ranks... what has been consistently missing from these stories about assassinations is any insight into who the targets are, how effective they may have been in their roles, and the specific criteria for being assassinated (beyond the fact that they were employed in an official capacity by the government).

I ask, because I wonder to the extent that these assassinations might be motivated by Iranian score-settling, dating all the way back to the Iran-Iraq War. I also wonder what the practical effects these killings have had (aside from creating an atmosphere of anxiety, the likes of which I'm sure I can't even imagine).

Thoughts?

Joel Wing said...

Amagi excellent points. The Iraqi government is large and bloated. On top of that there is little transparency so it's nearly impossible to say whether any of the victims were competent or important. As for the perpetrators there has been next to nothing on their motivations other than sources in Baghdad saying Iran and special groups don't want a Baathist return. There's just not enough information out there other than names and places to do a thorough analysis right now. Finally Iran was knocking off people who were involved in the Iran Iraq war right after the invasion in 2003. Reports seemed to point to Badr Brigade members carrying out the hits. I don't know if they're still doing that.

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