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Isis Extends Deadly Reach with Suicide Bombing in Kurdish Capital
Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks
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A suicide bomber blew himself up in a vehicle packed with explosives at the entrance to the governor’s office in the Kurdish capital Erbil today, killing at least four people. The attack was claimed by Isis with the aim of spreading insecurity in Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq by showing that the Islamic militants can evade security measures.

The bomber first tried to enter the compound of the governorate near the centre of the city and detonated his explosives when he was stopped by guards. The building has blast walls which may have reduced the damage, but two policemen and two civilians were killed, and 22 people were injured.

Well-armed guards quickly appeared at other likely targets in the city such as government buildings and hotels, with cars being barred from entering and told not to stop for more than a few seconds to leave off passengers.

The governorate, a grim looking building from Saddam Hussein’s times, is close to the ancient citadel of Erbil which is built on a hill made up of the ruins of earlier cities dating back 8,000 years. After the blast, open air markets in the area selling everything from old clothes to furniture, went on functioning despite the risk of a second bomb attack. This may be because people are inured to violence or because Kurds in Erbil have less experience of car bombs than other parts of Iraq. In a single week this month vehicle-borne bombs killed 159 and injured 336 Iraqis, the majority of them in Baghdad.

Isis has a large supply of suicide bombers and it uses such attacks to maintain a sense of insecurity even when it is not making ground attacks. Fanatical, but militarily untrained, foreign jihadis from countries like Britain or France, who would otherwise be useless to Isis as combatants, can be used as bombers against civilian and military targets.

It is the first big bomb attack in Erbil for over a year and underlines that Isis continues to pose a threat to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which has favourably contrasted its security record with that of Baghdad, where bombings occur daily. Since June, the KRG has had a 650-mile common frontier with Isis which is too long to defend properly.

The failure of the Kurdish peshmerga to defend its positions in August when attacked by Isis had already created doubts among Kurds about the military effectiveness of their armed forces. Previously, the peshmerga was regarded as determined and effective because of its record in fighting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, but this time it fled without offering serious resistance. In doing so it abandoned the Kurdish Yazidi minority to murder, rape and enslavement by Isis while the Christian community, one of the most ancient in the world, fled their homes and escaped to Erbil and elsewhere in the KRG.

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Kurdish leaders say that their armed forces were outgunned by Isis, which had captured American-made armoured vehicles, artillery and tanks from the Iraqi Army. But interviews by The Independent with Yazidis and Christians, who saw Isis units enter their villages and towns, say that they were small in number and using soft-skinned civilian vehicles and not captured American Humvees. The KRG is demanding sophisticated heavy equipment from the US and other allies such as Apache helicopters, tanks and artillery before it stages a counter-offensive.

US air strikes and Iranian backing on the ground saved Erbil in August and steadied Kurdish morale, but it is still brittle. The Kurdish capital is full of refugees who are renting at high prices or living in half-built buildings or tents. The city has many housing and commercial developments but little construction work is going on because of the proximity of Isis forces which are an hour’s drive way.

The KRG is also short of money because it did not receive its share of Iraqi oil revenues for the last eight months because of a dispute with Baghdad. Many of the hotels and restaurants once packed with foreign business delegations attracted by the Kurdish oil boom are now half empty. If thes bomb is followed by others, Erbil’s reputation for being the safest part of Iraq will soon disappear.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ISIS, Kurds 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “It is the first big bomb attack in Erbil for over a year”. Whereas ISIS held cities are bombed at will by the U.S. and its allies. But then is it is reported that this “underlines that the U.S. continues to pose a threat ISIS”? Of course not. Then it is reported how much U.S. bombing is alienating the population and creating more terrorists! Let’s face it, any idiot can set off a bomb and kill or injure civilians. But just like the German bombing of England, and the Allied bombing of Germany mere strengthened the will of the bombed population to resist, so ISIS terrorist attacks will only strengthen the will of the Kurds to resist. But no journalist can write that because that would contrary to the narrative which always must be that the U.S.’s enemies are moving from strength to strength while the U.S. and its allies are always on the verge of collapse. How many readers remember when it was confidently predicted that the U.S. wouldn’t even be able to withdraw from Iraq because the all-power Muqtada Al-Sadr would cut off their retreat and massacre them to a man? Or how many journalists leaped up to claim victory for Al-Sadr in his climatic confrontation with the Iraqi regular army in the battles of Basra and Sadr City, despite the fact that led in short order to the complete disbanding of his “mahdi army”? And now for the most interesting question – what leads so many western journalists to become cheerleaders for people who would happily behead them if they were fool enough to wander into their clutches?

    • Replies: @Vendetta
  2. Vendetta says:
    @Anonymous

    Sadr’s disbanding of the Mahdi Army was a strategic move, using the credibility it won in its battles with the occupation forces to transform itself from a street militia into a political party and movement with a small, professional armed wing. It is a similar evolution to the ones carried out by Hezbollah, the IRA, and other groups in the past.

    Sadr won a credible victory in the eyes of the Iraqis because his forces did not surrender to the US – in spite of the fact that, because it was a street militia facing off with a professional army – the battles were one-sided. The Mahdi Army’s militiamen got themselves massacred – but the US could not get them to surrender.

    It was only when Ayatollah Sistani ordered them to lay down their arms that they finally withdrew and stood down – and went back to their homes, instead of occupation prison. AK-47s are easily replaced. Much more important was the credibility and loyalty Sadr won.

    And the impact of bombing upon civilian targets is not always the same. In Lebanon, al-Nusra’s suicide bombings have done nothing to weaken the resolve of Hezbollah – but they have played a major part in increasing the division between Hezbollah and its rival factions in Lebanon. Israel’s bombings in 2006, on the other hand, managed to unite the rest of Lebanon behind Hezbollah.

    The psychology and culture of the people being bombed of terrorized really has much to do with the outcome. Spain, for instance, pulled out of Iraq after one major domestic terrorist attack.

    The Kurds, however, are made of sturdier stuff. One suicide bombing, particularly a low-casualty one like this, will not shake their resolve.

  3. Bianca says:

    It is obvious, isn’t it. So far, the results are as follows. ISIS attacks Iraq and Iraqi Kurds. US demands that Iraq change government as a condition to help them. Now, that help is not forthcoming, as the weapons will “not be safe in Iraqi hands”. Of course, as nobody will bother to protect Baghdad from ISIS. Then, Kurds are expected to beg for help — and sure enough, armies of “advisors” flood Iraqi Kurdistan. Syrian Kurds are an obstacle to being able to go after Damascus, so they will be butchered — while allies bomb endless deserts and ancient rocks. In the meantime, Israel levels Gaza, for who knows how many times in a row — not a peep from the erstwhile Islamists of ISIS. Naturally, they know where the money, arms, food, telecom and hundreds of shiny white Toyotas come from — Israel’s allies in the Middle East.

    Dust is clearing, though. Turkey signed a deal with Baghdad on military cooperation. There may be some deal with Kurds coming up — and thus, now it is time to show Kurds that unless they pay “protection” money, they will not be safe. The more this lasts, the more it feels like ISIS is nothing more then a mercenary army with an ideological cloak to attract desperate and foolish. Let us see if they will go bad as Al-Qaeda did, and start threatening Saudi Arabia. It will be interesting to see how long can they stay on task. Once splits occur, it will be different. ISIS arms are the product of two years of arming and training “Syrian” rebels — not some loot they acquired in Iraq.

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