|(New York Times)|
The first attack took place on January 18 in Tikrit, Salahaddin. There a suicide bomber struck a police recruitment center. At the time, hundreds of men were lined up to apply for 2,000 new positions offered by the security forces. At 10 a.m. the insurgent set off his device, killing 54 and wounding 137.
The next day insurgents targeted the security forces again, this time in Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala. This was another suicide attack, this time using an ambulance, which struck the Facilities Protection Service headquarters in the city. Five were killed, and 7 wounded, although another report said 12 died.
Militants then moved to Shiites participating in the pilgrimage to Imam Hussein’s tomb in Karbala. On December 19 a suicide car bomb went off amongst politicians and pilgrims outside of Baquba, Diyala. The target was likely the deputy head of the provincial council, Sadiq al-Husseini, who had stopped along the highway to great pilgrims heading for Baghdad. He, along with four of his bodyguards were all killed. The following day three car bombs went off near police checkpoints around Karbala. 52 ended up dead, with another 203 wounded. January 23 saw a bobby-trapped car go off next to a bus in Baghdad carrying Iranian pilgrims to Karbala, killing one and leaving eight wounded. January 24, eight were killed and 88 wounded when two bobby-trapped cars went off in two different sections of Karbala. Finally, on January 25 another bus, this time bringing people back from their pilgrimage, was bombed in Baghdad, wounding six.
The question is who was responsible for all of these breaches in security? Local Iraqi officials immediately blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq and Baathists as the most likely culprits. Al Qaeda’s front group, the Islamic State of Iraq originally praised the Tikrit bombing, but did not claim responsibility. About a week later however, the Islamic State said that it was behind both the Tikrit and Baquba attacks upon the security forces on a jihadist forum. The change in stance might mean that the Islamists were simply trying to take credit for another group’s work. In actuality, a mix of different insurgents were probably behind the series of bombings. On January 22 for example, police arrested the head of a Sons of Iraq (SOI) unit and his deputy in Hamiyah, Babil for the three car bombings in Baghdad on January 20. The Islamic Army used to be one of the largest insurgent groups, but recently went through a series of divisions. The Army is an Islamist organization, mostly made up of former soldiers who have largely remained independent of Al Qaeda. A few days later, police arrested sixteen suspects behind the January 24 car bombings in Karbala. One was a local official from Iskandiriyah in Babil. A security source in Diyala also told the press that there were many militants active in the province including the Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna, and the Naqshibandi Group, and Hizb al-Awda, both Baathist led organizations.
The recent wave of attacks show the new phase of the insurgency. Al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq are still active, and were probably behind some of the bombings around the country, but today they are mostly in it for the publicity. Other groups made up of Islamists, former soldiers, and Baathists are more active in the day-to-day attacks that still plague Iraq. The arrest of the SOI members and local official in Babil, one of which was connected to the Islamic Army of Iraq, are a sign of this change. In total, 127 were killed and 512 wounded in just over a week. That makes it one of the bloodiest in recent months. Security incidents and casualties ebb and flow in Iraq, and militants were mostly taking advantage of the huge number of people traveling throughout the country to reach the Shiite shrine in Karbala, which happens nearly every year. There was no retaliation by militias, and attacks are likely to drop off until the next surge. These unfortunate events then, symbolize the current security situation in the country.
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