Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Rise of Female Suicide Bombers

7/7/08 a female suicide bomber detonated herself in a market in Baquba killing nine. This was the seventeenth such attack in the last six months in Diyala province, and the 23rd of the year.

6/29/08 a female bomber blew herself up near a Sons of Iraq council in Baquba wounding 3.

6/22/08 a women set off her bomb near a government office building in Baquba killing thirteen people and wounding 30. The bomb was aimed at a police patrol.

6/14/08 in the town of Qara Tappah outside of Baghdad, a woman bomber targeted a café where people were watching the Iraqi soccer team play China in the World Cup. 34 were wounded.

6/7/08 four policemen and two civilians were wounded in Khalidiya by a female bomber outside a police station in Anbar province.

5/21/08 two police and four others were wounded when a women set off her bomb outside of a Sons of Iraq headquarters in Anbar City.

5/20/08 a female suicide bomber killed a Sons of Iraq fighter and wounded seven others outside a police station in Rutba.

5/20/08 a woman blew herself up outside of the house of Sheikh Mutlib al-Nidawi, the head of a Sons of Iraq group in Mandili, Diyala province, killing one family member and wounding al-Nidawai and two of his guards.

5/17/08 a women suicide bomber blew herself up attacking a Sons of Iraq unit in Diyala province killing one and wounding sixteen.

5/17/08 a woman in Diyala province detonated a car bomb alongside an Iraqi security forces vehicle wounding seven.

5/14/08 a woman blew herself up killing a Shiite army commander in Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad.

4/29/08 a female suicide bomber set off her bomb at a bus stop near Muqdadiyah, Diyala province killing one and wounding five.

4/29/08 in Abu Saida, Diyala province, a women set off her bomb amongst a group of Sons of Iraq fighters, killing two of them and wounding ten.

4/23/08 a female bomber attacked a police station in Diyala province killing eighteen and wounding two.

4/22/08 a police station in Baquba, Diyala province was attacked by a women bomber who killed eight, including five policemen, and wounded seventeen.

3/19/08 in Balad Ruz, Diyala province a woman suicide bomber killed four, including two policemen, and wounded twelve outside of an office that arranges religious pilgrimages.

3/17/08 a woman detonated her bomb in the middle of a crowd of Shiites in the holy city of Karbala killing 40 and wounding 65.

3/10/08 in Kanaan, Diyala province outside of Baquba, a women bomber killed Sheikh Thaeir Ghadhban al-Karkhi, head of the town’s Sons of Iraq unit.

2/17/08 a woman bomber set herself off after being stopped at a checkpoint in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad killing three and wounding ten.

2/1/08 a female bomber killed forty-five and wounded 82 in a pet market in Baghdad. A few minutes later another women bomber set off her bomb at another market in Baghdad killing 27 and wounding 67. Iraqi security forces speculated that both women might have been mentally handicapped.

1/29/08 a women set off her bomb at a police checkpoint to a market in Baghdad killing two and wounding five.

1/16/08 a women bomber killed eight and wounded seven in a market in the Shiite town of Khan Bani Saad near Baquba, Diyala province.

1/2/08 a women bomber killed chief Abu Sajad, head of a local Sons of Iraq unit in Baquba, Diyala province along with six others. Twenty-two were wounded. This was the second attack in three days using a female bomber against tribal Sons of Iraq forces.

Using women as suicide bombers is one of the latest tactics employed by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Associated Press, Time magazine, the New York Times, and Voices of Iraq, among others recently tried to explain the phenomena. Female suicide attacks show both the desperation of the Islamist insurgents, and their continued ability to adapt to their situation.

In 2008 Al Qaeda in Iraq has been forced to find new means to carry out attacks, one being the use of women. Most of the women are 15-35 years old, and all but one has been an Iraqi. The Voices of Iraq interviewed officials in Diyala province that said 97% of the women were drugged and forced into carrying out their attacks. The New York Times and Associated Press reported that U.S. officials believed the major motivation was that the women had a male relative killed or arrested by the government or Coalition. They also tended to come from rural and conservative areas of Iraq, and were usually uneducated and unemployed. Women were picked because U.S. and Iraqi forces would not search them, allowing them to get through checkpoints, and reach their targets.

This comes at a time when Al Qaeda in Iraq and other groups are finding it harder to carry out attacks. According to the Guardian, a website had a study recording a 94% decline in the number of attacks carried out by Al Qaeda in Iraq’s umbrella organization the Islamic State of Iraq. The Islamic State was only able to carry out 25 attacks in November 2007, compared to 334 the previous year. By mid-May 2008, they claimed only 16, compared to 292 in May 2007. Recruiting male suicide bombers has become more difficult. In June 2008 for example, there were only three to four every week or two, compared to twenty a week a couple years ago. According to the Defense Department, roadside bombs are also down almost 90%. In comparison, the use of female bombers has been on the upturn. There have only been 43 female suicide attacks since the war began, but 24 of those have been in 2008, compared to 8 in 2007, and only 4 in 2005 and 2006 put together. Most of these have been against local security forces and Sons of Iraq units, with Diyala province having the largest number.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has shown a great ability to adapt itself to its situation, and right now it is desperation mode. No longer is it able to carry out dramatic attacks, as it did in 2003 when it bombed the U.N. compound in Baghdad, with any kind of regularity. It helped stoke the sectarian war in 2006, but this has now ended. Increased security has also made it harder for them to hit American forces. One major reason for the decline in violence is that the majority of Sunnis have turned against extremism. That is why most of the female suicide bombers have targeted Iraqis. Al Qaeda is now on the run, and has been dealt a strategic defeat. While not down, it is close to out. Unable to recruit like it use to and carry out the kinds of attacks it was once known for, it has turned to women to carry on its fight.


Adas, Basil, “Recruitment of suicide bombers down – official,” Gulf News, 6/6/08

Agence France Presse, “Female suicide bomber kills 16 in Iraq,” 6/22/08

Associated Press, “28 militants, Iraqi official killed,” USA Today, 4/29/08
- “Female suicide bomber strikes checkpoint in Baghdad, killing 2 women,” Jerusalem Post, 1/29/08
- “Police: Female suicide bomber kills 3 in Iraq,”, 2/17/08

BBC, “Twin bombs kill scores in Baghdad,” 2/1/08

Black, Ian and Norton-Taylor, Richard, “Experts fear new front with al-Qaida as terror group switches focus from Iraq,” Guardian, 6/11/08

Brookings Institution, “Iraq: One Year Later,” 6/13/08

CNN, “Female suicide bomber kills 40 in Iraq, official says,” 3/17/08
- “U.S. trains Iraqi women to find female suicide bombers,” 6/24/08

Frederick, Jim, “Keeping the Sunni-Shi’a Peace,” Time, 5/28/08

Gamel, Kim, “Female suicide bomber strikes soccer fans in Iraq,” Associated Press, 6/14/08
- “Women bombers show shifting insurgent tactics in Iraq,” Associated Press, 6/6/08

Ghosh, Bobby, “The Mind of a Female Suicide Bomber,” Time, 6/23/08

London, Ernesto, “At least 15 killed by Female Bomber in Iraq,” Washington Post, 6/23/08

McClatchy Newspapers, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Tuesday 22 April 2008,” 4/22/08

Monsters and Critics, “Calm in Baghdad’s Sadr City, some violence elsewhere,” 5/21/08
- “Female bomber kills 18 in attack on Iraq police station (Extra),” 4/23/08

Moore, Solomon, “A 2nd female bomber hits U.S.-allied Iraqi tribesman,” International Herald Tribune, 1/2/08

Multi-National Corps – Iraq, “2 female suicide bombers in Diyala kill 1, wound 23,” 5/17/08

Reuters, “FACTBOX – Security developments in Iraq, Jan 16,” 1/16/08
- “FACTBOX – Security developments in Iraq, May 20,” 5/20/08
- “Woman suicide bomber kills four in Iraq – police,” 3/19/08

Rubin, Alissa, “Despair Drives Suicide Attacks by Iraqi Women,” New York Times, 7/5/08, “Iraq: Female Suicide Bomber Kills 3,” 3/10/08

Vanden Brook, Tom, “Roadside bombs decline in Iraq,” USA Today, 6/22/08

Voices of Iraq, “Female suicide attacker wound six near Ramadi,” 6/7/08
- “Revenge, illiteracy push up female suicide bombers’ number in Diala,” 7/8/08
- “Suicide bombing wounds 3 Sahwa fighters in Diala,” 6/29/08

Washington Times, “Female bombers spreading more terror,” 5/20/08

Weaver, Matthew, “Female suicide bomber kills nine in Iraq,” Guardian, 7/7/08

Xinhua, “Iraqi soldiers foil suicide bomb attack in Mosul,” 4/29/08

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