Thursday, June 23, 2016

Islamic State Picks Up Its Suicide Bombers In Iraq And Syria

The Islamic State is in the midst of its annual spring offensive. This has been marked by an increase in suicide bombings in both Iraq and Syria. Monthly numbers the group has released on social media show this campaign. In November 2015 it launched 54 suicide bombers, followed by 61 in December, spiking at 85 in January 2016, before going back down to 69 in February. Then the spring campaign started and there were 112 suicide bombers in March, 83 in April and 81 in May. As a recent RAND study found the Islamic State is a bureaucratic organization that loves keeping records of all of its different operations and actions. While these figures may not cover all of the suicide bombings in Iraq and Syria they probably constitute the majority of them.

Islamic State vs Iraqi Govt Suicide Bombing Claims

Islamic State
Iraqi Govt
(Successful vs Destroyed)
310 (49 vs 261)
233 (25 vs 208)
235 (41 vs 194)
141 (13 vs 128)
248 (40 vs 208)
174 (27 vs 147)
217 (26 vs 191)

IS’s new campaign was reflected in figures given by the Iraqi forces. The number of successful suicide bombings in Iraq roughly followed IS’s statistics. Bombings went from 26 in November to 27 in December, then up to 40 in January, and then down to 13 in February following IS’s totals of 54, 61, 85, and 69. When spring started bombings went up to 41 in March, 25 in April and 49 in May just as IS’s figures had 112, 83 and 81 for those months.

At the same time, Iraq was hugely exaggerating the number of suicide bombers it killed each month. In November it claimed 191, followed by 147 in December, 208 in January, 128 in February, 194 in March, 208 in April, and 261 in May. In total that would mean in November 2014 when IS claimed 54 suicide bombers in both Iraq and Syria, the Iraqis claimed that they faced 217 such attacks. There were many times when the Iraqi press would initially say one suicide car bomb was destroyed in the morning, and then by the night that was up to 5 to 10 blown up. The number of killed suicide bombers also did not follow the ebb and flow of IS’s figures. It seemed like the Iraqi numbers were driven more by when its forces went on the offensive against IS. That was when the insurgents would counter attack and the Iraqi forces would claim most of these included suicide bombers. In March for example, the Iraqi forces were trying to clear western Anbar and started an operation in the Makhmour district of Ninewa it claimed a total of 235 suicide bombings, up from 141 the month before. In May they cleared out western Anbar from Ramadi to Jordan and then started the attack upon Fallujah and claimed 310 suicide bombs as a result. In comparison, IS said it launched 81 suicide bombers total in both Syria and Iraq that month.

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