August 15, 2011, was the most violent day of the year for Iraq. There were at least 38 attacks reported in the press in 23 cities across ten of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. Over one hundred people were killed and 250 wounded. As usual, Al Qaeda in Iraq was immediately blamed for the assaults. That ignored the fact that there were other insurgent groups in the country, and that Al Qaeda and its front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, usually prefer high-profile operations that gain as much media coverage as possible. Only a few of the incidents fit that profile. In September, the truth of the matter was revealed when the Islamic State said that it was responsible for only six of that day’s attacks.
|Al Qaeda in Iraq said that it was behind the dual bombing of a market in Kut, Wasit (AP)|
On September 20, the Islamic State of Iraq issued a statement saying that it was behind some of the attacks perpetrated on August 15. It said it carried out the bombings in Kut, Wasit province, a car bomb upon a police checkpoint in Karbala, a suicide car bombing upon another checkpoint in Najaf, the assassination of seven members of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) in Yusifiya, Anbar, and two separate assaults upon Iraqi security forces. In total, that would mean the Islamist group was behind only six of the day’s 38 attacks. They did perpetrate the deadliest event, which was the dual bombing of a goldsmith’s market in Kut that left 40 dead and 66 wounded. That fit the organization’s modus operandi of planning mass casualty bombings that gain the most notoriety. The execution of seven SOI members in Yusifiya was similar. In that event, gunmen stormed a mosque in Anbar, took out seven men and shot them outside. Finally, Al Qaeda was likely behind the death of a high ranking officer from Tikrit’s counterterrorism office in Salahaddin, who was killed along with two of his bodyguards by a suicide bomber in his office, followed by another bomber who was caught at the gates and killed, but not before he wounded 13 other officers. Otherwise, other militant groups carried out the remaining 32 incidents that occurred that day. It’s a bad habit of the Iraqi and American governments, and the media to blame almost every major violent event on Al Qaeda. That usually happens with little to no evidence, just assumptions. That leads to sloppy reporting, and completely ignores the various other insurgents that are still active in Iraq, and are behind the majority of violence in the country.
|Duri is the head of the Naqshibandi (BBC)|
The group likely behind most of August 15’s attacks was the Naqshibandi. It is a Baathist organization led by Saddam Hussein’s former vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri. The group emerged in 2005 based upon a Salafist organization that Duri was spreading in the former regime. Salafism is an Islamic movement that claims to be returning to the original followers of the Prophet Mohammed. The Naqshibandi not only carries out attacks, but also acts as an organizer and coordinator with other organizations such as Al Qaeda in Iraq. Unlike them, Naqshibandi usually focuses upon small-scale attacks, which was what characterized most of August 15’s incidents. At the same time, it wants to draw attention to itself to establish its credentials as one of the leaders of the insurgency. Again, all of that was accomplished by the publicity generated on the 15th.
Those other attacks were spread out over eight provinces. They included two bombs going off near a police patrol in Ramadi that killed three officers and one civilian, and wounded two others, and two killed by a roadside bomb in Rawa, both in Anbar province. Two were killed and two wounded by a car bomb in Iskandiriya, Babil. There were six attacks across Baghdad that involved a bombing in the Dora district that killed one and wounded seven, another explosion in the Mansour district against a motorcade from the Ministry of Higher Education that left one dead, and four wounded, a bomb going off in Taji aimed at an army patrol that resulted in one soldier killed, four wounded, and five civilians injured, an explosive detonating in the Zafaraniya district that killed one and wounded 5 other civilians, a bomb in Ghazaliya that wounded five, and an assassination attempt upon the head of the Technical Education Commission. A roadside bomb went off in a market in Bahrz, Diyala that killed three women. In Diyala’s provincial council of Baquba there were seven bombs that left 27 wounded, an armed attack upon an army checkpoint that killed four soldiers, another policeman shot down at a different checkpoint, and an attempt upon the life of the city’s mayor. Also in Diyala, a policeman was shot down in Edheim, a suicide car bomb killed eight in Kahn Bani Saad, a Sons of Iraq commander died in a roadside bomb in Khalis, fourteen civilians were blown up in a car bomb in Muqtadiya, and another explosive laden car went off at the Department of Citizenship and Residency in Wajehiya that left a policemen dead. Down south, a car bomb killed eight and wounded 37 in Hindiya, Karbala, and another left three dead in Karbala city. In the northern metropolis of Mosul, a sticky bomb attached to a power pole and a bomb hidden in a box left one killed and four wounded. In Salahaddin province, a car bomb wounded six in Balad, and another in Taji targeted an army patrol killing one soldier. Finally, Salahaddin governorate witnessed a bomb attached to a motorcycle in Doumiz that killed one civilian, a car bomb outside of a Christian church in Kirkuk that left no casualties, and one civilian shot in Wasiti. While not attracting the kind of attention as some of the attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda, the other militant groups were able to carve a bloody path through the rest of the country on the 15th. The sheer number of assaults carried out harkened back to the bad old days of the sectarian civil war. Fortunately for Iraq, the insurgents were not able to continue on with these types of operations but for one day.
It seems that anytime there is a large-scale attack in Iraq that it is automatically blamed upon Al Qaeda. August 15 was a perfect example, when the group was pegged for all of the day’s assaults. The thing is, Al Qaeda and the other insurgents usually take days, weeks, and even months to take credit for any specific incident, so Baghdad, the United States, and the media are usually going off pure assumptions rather than any evidence in their claims. August 15 showed the limitations of this type of reporting, when Al Qaeda proved to be behind only six of 38 attacks. What these official and media sources appear to be doing is simply playing into the hands of the Islamists by giving them more press than they actually deserve. Al Qaeda relies upon this to assert their importance amongst the insurgency, and to raise funds from abroad. They appear to be the leading militant group because of all the coverage they get, but others like the Naqshibandi are actually responsible for far more of the violence in Iraq, but are hardly mentioned.
Agence France Presse, “Qaeda claims coordinated Iraq attacks,” 9/21/11
Ahmed, Hamid, “Bombs tear through 17 Iraqi cities, 63 killed,” Associated Press, 8/15/11
Belfast Telegraph, “Seven dead in mosque execution,” 8/16/11
Iraq Body Count, “5-8 by suicide car bomb in Khan Bani Saad,” 8/15/11
- “Awakening Council commander by roadside bomb in Al Khalis” 8/15/11
- “Eight by car bomb at police station in Hindiya, near Karbala,” 8/15/11
- “Forty by bomb in freezer and car bomb in al-Abbasiyah, Kut,” 8/15/11
- “Man by motorcycle bomb in Doumiz, Kirkuk,” 8/15/11
- “One by car bomb in Al Mansur, west Baghdad,” 8/15/11
- “Policeman shot dead in Baquba,” 8/15/11
- “Policeman shot dead in Edheim, north of Baquba,” 8/15/11
- “Three women by roadside bomb in market in Bahrz,” 8/15/11
- “Two by roadside bomb in Rawa, west Anbar,” 8/15/11
- “Woman fortune-teller shot dead in Kirkuki,” 8/15/11
Knights, Michael, “Iraq’s Relentless Insurgency: The Fight for Power ahead of U.S. Withdrawal,” Foreign Affairs, 8/22/11
- “The JRTN Movement and Iraq’s Next Insurgency,” CTC Sentinel, July 2011
Rasheed, Ahmed and Al-Ansary, Khalid, “Bombs, attacks hit Iraqi cities, at least 60 dead,” Reuters, 8/15/11