Thursday, May 14, 2015

Car Bombs Continue To Climb In Iraq

As the Islamic State (IS) began to retreat in Iraq it also lost some of its important car bomb factories. Jurf al-Sakhr in Babil for example, which was lost at the end of last year was the main base for bombing southern Iraq and parts of Baghdad. That led to a steady decline in vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) at the end of 2014. In the new year, IS has been picking up these types of attacks. This is to make up for its setbacks on the battlefield, and shows that it has been able to rebuild some of its networks.

Each month of 2015 has seen an increase in the number of successful car bomb attacks. In January there were 45, February 52, March 62, and then 67 in April. When averaged out that went from 1.4 VBIEDs per day in January to 2.2 per day by April. The amount of days with car bombs has also gone up with 16 in January, 17 in February, 18 in March, and 20 in April. The actual number of car bombs deployed was much higher as dozens more were destroyed before reaching their targets.

Number of VBIEDs in Iraq 2015
Avg # of VBIEDs per day
Number of days with VBIEDs

As the amount of VBIEDs has increased their targets have shifted as well. From January to March the vast major of car bombs were aimed at the battlefield. In January 21 of 39 attacks were tactical ones mostly aimed at government forces. In February it was more even at 17 military and 14 civilian targets. In March 22 out of 36 attacks were military ones. In April however the numbers shifted to 30 out of 48 being civilian targets. The locations of the VBIEDs showed the same thing. In the first three months of the year the vast majority of car bombs were in places like Salahaddin, Anbar, etc. instead of Baghdad, which historically has seen the most bombings. That suddenly shifted in April with 22 attacks being aimed the capital province showing the return of terrorist attacks against civilians.  

Car Bomb Targets 2015
Military 21
Civilian 18
Kirkuk 1
Babil 2
Baghdad 2
Diyala 2
Ninewa 3
Salahaddin 9
Anbar 12
Military 17
Civilian 14
Kirkuk 1
Ninewa 1
Anbar 3
Babil 3
Diyala 3
Baghdad 4
Salahaddin 17
Military 22
Civilian 14
Babil 1
Diyala 1
Kirkuk 2
Baghdad 7
Salahaddin 10
Anbar 15
Military 18
Civilian 30
Irbil 1
Kirkuk 1
Babil 2
Diyala 2
Salahaddin 6
Anbar 14
Baghdad 22
The steady increase in car bombs throughout 2015 showed that the Islamic State was determined to take a toll on Iraq while it was losing ground. It has faced setbacks in some of its major strongholds in Diyala, Babil and Salahaddin. As the government has taken back more territory the number of VBIEDs has steadily increased. That points to IS rebuilding its car bomb networks. The group may also be picking up the pace of operations for another summer offensive, which actually starts in the spring. This may consist of more terrorist attacks upon civilians rather than attempts at seizing ground as IS may lack the capabilities to make anything but small tactical gains at this point.

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