Friday, June 6, 2014

Islamic State of Iraq And The Levant Storm Samarra In Salahaddin

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is ramping up its operations. It has established itself in Anbar, northern Babil around Jurf al-Sakhr, Mosul in Ninewa, and parts of Diyala. In Salahaddin the organization has been able to operate in all eight of its districts consistently making that province one of the most violent in the country. On June 5 the insurgents took it a step further when it stormed the city of Samarra. This is part of the Islamic State’s larger plan to move from rural areas to urban centers. 

(US Business Council in Iraq)
Destroyed Humvee in Samarra (ISIS Media
ISIS truck with anti-aircraft gun in Samarra (ISIS Media)

In the early morning of June 5, 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq stormed into the city of Samarra. The National Iraqi News Agency reported that the fighters came from the Hamrin area of Diyala, east of the city, and attacked three districts. They were travelling in a convoy made up of civilian trucks and captured Humvees, some mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Buratha News said that ISIS then used heavy equipment to remove concrete barriers at a checkpoint to gain easier access to the city. The militants quickly seized five of the cities seven districts. Those included Shuhada, Muthanna, Jabiria, Jamea, and Khadra, while the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) fell back around the Askari shrine. During the fighting ISIS was able to blow up a bridge, likely meant to hinder the ISF sending in new forces to free the city, and took over the residence of the Science and Technology Minister, killing three of his bodyguards. Luckily the minister was not home at the time. There were even stories that mosques were heard calling for people to join ISIS’s jihad. By noon the security forces responded by sending in army helicopters, and elements of the elite Golden Division. Even the commander of Iraq’s ground forces General Ali Ghidan arrived at the scene. ISIS was eventually driven from the city, and the Defense Ministry claimed to have destroyed 19 of the 25 vehicles used in the attack, while the Samarra Operations Command said it killed 40 terrorists. On the other hand, Iraqi newspapers reported six police, eight soldiers, and three bodyguards lost their lives, along with 45 ISF and civilians being wounded. This was just the latest example of the Islamic State attempting to assert control over territory in central Iraq. It has launched similar assaults in the province before such as in Sulaiman Bek in February. As Alexandre Massimo pointed out in a recent interview with Musings On Iraq this is a repetition of the Islamic State’s previous strategy followed in 2004-2005 to move from Anbar and rural areas into city centers except at a much faster pace.

Destroyed ISIS vehicles outside of Samarra (Liveleak)

More of these dramatic operations can be expected in the future. Salahaddin is already one of the deadliest provinces in Iraq, and the insurgents have been able to operate there seemingly at will. That’s why the attempt to take Samarra was predictable. It was a base for militants before, and was the site of the infamous bombing of the Askari shrine in 2006, which led to the country’s civil war reaching a new height. Even if ISIS failed in this case it still showed the group’s growing strength and ability to carry out major attacks throughout the middle of the country. More of these incidents can be expected in the future, with seizing sections of Baghdad being the ultimate goal.


Agence France Presse, “Six killed as militants assault Iraq’s Samarra,” 6/5/14

Buratha News, “The assassination of three bodyguards of the Minister of Science and Technology in raid on his house in Samarra,” 6/5/14
- “The bombing of a bridge in Samarra,” 6/5/14
- “Commander of Joint Operations: armed forces are chasing Daash outside Samarra,” 6/5/14
- “Golden Division commander: we will continue our operations until we kill terrorists in Samarra,” 6/5/14
- “Official count: Destroyed 19 of 25 Daash vehicles that entered city and blew up 6 of them in Samarra,” 6/5/14
- “Samarra operations commander tells the details of the attack on the city,” 6/5/14

Al Forat, “Army aviation starts attacks against ISIL in Samarra district,” 6/5/14
- “Ground Forces Commander accompanied by 300 military wheel arrived in Samarra,” 6/5/14

Al Mada, “Samarra clash toll rises to 53 dead and wounded, and vehicles carrying banners of Daash and mosques calling for jihad,” 6/5/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “Fierce armed clashes, ongoing in Samarra,” 6/5/14
- “Urgent..A security source: A large number of /ISIS/ killed in Samarra,” 6/5/14


Alex Atkinson said...

"This is part of the Islamic State’s larger plan to move from rural areas to urban centers."

To take the fight to urban centres, for sure. But I suspect not take and hold urban centres. This is more an ISIS 'Thunder Run' with similar aims.

A definite step change in evolution from terrorist group to military force though.

Joel Wing said...

Alex in ISIS's last campaign plan they said one of their goals was to take and hold ground. They've obviously done that in Anbar and Mosul and looking to expand. Doesn't mean that attempts like Samarra are going to be successful, but that is their ultimate goal.

Anonymous said...

I read yesterday that ISIL in Anbar shoot down an aircraft. That could be a scary new development in the capabilities of ISIL. Since 3 days ago I am trying to call my family in Baghdad but it seems that the lines are very bad maybe because of jamming from ISA to avoid more car bombs
I feel really angry when still I see the security staff using those fakes devices in the check points...

Joel Wing said...

I haven't heard of any planes being shot down, but ISIS has claimed to have downed helicopters before.

Anonymous said...

The source where I read the plane downed is from the blogger Daily Updates from Anbar (June 5th) :
“An important development has been the shooting down of an aircraft ; it crashed in the Al-Sichir, northeast of Fallujah, according to eyewitness reports.” . I don’t know how credible is this source.

Joel Wing said...

That blog is run by Radio Free Iraq and they do some good reporting. I haven't read anything else about a plane being downed but it is possible. The Iraqi army only has propeller driven aircraft and could have been downed by an ISIS truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on it.