Sunday, June 20, 2010

Al Qaeda In Iraq Takes Responsibility For Central Bank Attack In Baghdad

On June 13, 2010 gunmen driving three vehicles with military markings and wearing police or army uniforms stormed the Central Bank of Iraq in central Baghdad. The number of attackers varied in press reports from 16 to 30. Five days later Al Qaeda in Iraq officially claimed responsibility for the attack on several Islamist websites. The assailants did not try to rob the bank, but rather destroyed files in an attempt to undermine the institution and the Iraqi government.

The attack began around 2:30 pm, and led to an extended siege of the Central Bank building lasting around five hours. The attackers went to the front entrance first where a suicide bomber set off his charge. Another group of assailants hit another entryway with another suicide bomber. The insurgents were then able to enter the Central Bank complex and began setting files and records on fire, while snipers took position on the roofs to keep security forces at bay. They were not able to get into the main building however. In the end, around 21 were killed and 72 wounded, while downtown Baghdad was paralyzed as the security forces shut down the central part of the city. Amongst the dead were seven of the attackers, but most of them apparently escaped

While officials originally thought the aim of the operation was to rob the Central Bank, it now appears to have been much more ambitious. First, the attack happened a day before the new parliament was to be seated, so it was a symbolic message to the new politicians. Second, it happened in one of the most fortified sections of the capital. There were around 1,000 police, soldiers, and security guards in the immediate area, telling the public that nowhere was safe from the insurgents. Third, the Central Bank is one of the most important financial institutions in the country, and Al Qaeda wanted to destroy its files in an attempt to wreck the economy. Luckily, they did not accomplish that last goal, but the others they did. If anything, the Islamists have proven resilient. Just a few days before the Central Bank raid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq claimed that 34 of Al Qaeda’s 42 leaders had been killed or captured, including their top two commanders, Abu Ayab al-Masri and Omar Baghdadi. On May 27, Iraq’s Foreign Minister announced that the group was running out of suicide bombers as foreigners, who were mostly used for the task, where heading to Afghanistan and Pakistan instead. Since then however, the organization has increased its bombings, and was able to launch this dramatic attack that obviously took in-depth planning and preparation. Such headline grabbing operations are exactly what they want, so that they can prove that they are still a force to be reckoned with despite their setbacks. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is likely to remain a plague on Iraq for at least the short-term. Hopefully when the Americans’ withdraw in 2011 they will lose much of their rationale, and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries will take up most of the passion of the global jihadist movement so that Iraq will eventually be left alone.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Fifteen killed in Baghdad central bank attack,” 6/13/10

AK News, “Iraqi forces put an end to storming into Central Bank of Iraq, release hostages, kill one attacker,” 6/14/10
- “Security and Defense Parliamentary Committee attribute the Central Bank’s incident to the weak procedures,” 6/14/10

Alsumaria, “Al Qaeda claims attack on Iraq Central Bank,” 6/18/10
- “Death toll of Central Bank attack reaches 21,” 6/14/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “BOC attributes CBI attack to Qaida,” 6/19/10
- “CBI blast leaves 15 civilians, 3 gunmen killed,” 6/13/10
- “CBI security chief says all 7 gunmen killed,” 6/13/10

Chulov, Martin, “Iraqi Central Bank raided by militants disguised in military uniforms,” Guardian, 6/13/10

Financial Times, “Blast at Baghdad central bank kills 15,” 6/13/10

Hussein, Jinan and Fadel, Leila, “Armed men carry out coordinated bombings outside Iraq’s Central Bank,” Washington Post, 6/14/10

Al Jazeera, “Multiple explosions rock Baghdad,” 6/14/10

Latif, Nizar, “In Iraq, al Qa’eda militants are down but far from out,” The National, 6/19/10

Al-Mada, “Terrorist Attack on Iraq’s Central Bank,” MEMRI Blog, 6/14/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “Arrest Led to Strike on Two Top Iraq Qaeda Leaders,” New York Times, 4/22/10

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Baghdad Bank Attack Kills 12,” 6/13/10

Reuters, “Al-Qa’ida ‘running out of suicide bombers in Iraq,’” 5/28/10

Shanker, Thom, “Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Neutralized, U.S. Says,” New York Times, 6/4/10

Sly, Liz and Hamid, Nadeem, “At least 24 killed as gunmen storm Iraq’s Central Bank,” Los Angeles Times, 6/13/10

8 comments:

Payday loans said...

Wow,nice, one of the best read posts so far.

Don Cox said...

"Al Qaeda is likely to remain a plague on Iraq for at least the short-term. Hopefully when the Americans' withdraw in 2011 they will lose much of their rationale, and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries will take up most of the passion of the global jihadist movement so that Iraq will eventually be left alone."

I wish I could share your optimism. I don't think they will rest so long as Iraq is not a Taliban-style theocracy.

Joel Wing said...

Don,

Despite all the high profile attacks Al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. The majority of the Iraqi population has turned on it. I think in 5 years it could disappear. The problem is that leaves Iraq's homegrown insurgents that have much deeper problems with the New Iraq and they could continue for longer.

AndrewSshi said...

Joel, you note that a lot of Iraq's home-grown insurgents have their own problems with the new Iraq. That's true, but I think that the remarkable thing that the Awakening showed was basically how few Iraqis are interested in a return of the Ba'ath Party. I mean, once Iraq's Sunnis got an implicit promise that the U.S. would eventually leave and a more explicit promise that they wouldn't all be murdered by JAM, the bulk of the insurgency seems to have pretty much evaporated.

This is also something that I only recently realized. I mean, I remember whenever you'd see an insurgent interviewed in the western media, he'd generally say that he had no love for the Ba'ath party or Saddam, but I figured they were filtering what they said for their audience. But given the way things played out in 2007-2009 and that the accounts by ex-insurgents say the same thing, it appears that most of them were actually telling the truth.

Joel Wing said...

There are all kinds of divisions within the remaining insurgents. I think there are some that are nationalist that just want the US out. There are others that are opposed to Shiite rule. Some of the Baathist groups want the US out and the party legalized.

I think in the very beginning most of them were angered by the American presence and their actions like disbanding the military. It wasn't until later that they started getting more radicalized and turning toward Islamism. I never thought many of them wanted the return of Saddam or the baathists. I think I gave you a link of some old san Francisco chonicle articles that talked to insurents just a few weeks after the end if the invasion in 2003, and all of them just said they wanted the US out.

Joel Wing said...

I forgot to say that when the us leaves hopefully Al Qaeda and a lot of insurgents will eventually lose their rationale and give up. Then there are others that don't like Kurds, don't like Shiites, will think that whatever Iraqi government in place is illegitimate and a us pawn, etc that will unfortunatley still povide reasons to fight. Even then I think the insurgency will eventually putter out since they've lost almost all their support. The problem is that will still take several years.

AndrewSshi said...

Yeah, Joel, it was your providing a lot of information on the early insurgency that helped correct my opinions on the more nationalist wing of the insurgency.

I wonder, though: since 1) Ba'athism had kind of lost its luster even by the end of the Saddam years and 2) the Iraqi Sunnis have pretty much rejected the psychotic variant of Salafism Zarqawi and al-Masri offered, what sort of motivating ideology is eventually going to emerge for Iraq? Maliki briefly played up a non-sectarian nationalism, but that appears to be over now. Sadrism has appeal to the Shi'a, but obviously not the Sunni Arabs. What's next?

Joel Wing said...

I think nationalism is already there, but it's tempered by the fact that the Shiite parties are determined to stay in power and will usually resort to the lowest common denominator to win. That trumps everything IMO amongst politicians, and that's why things like a Maliki-allawi alliance are not going to happen because ideology is not as important as holding onto office.

When and if those two trends will work themselves out is the big question for iraq's future.

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