Al Qaeda’s staggered bombings designed for maximum casualties

Screenshot from a video taken immediately after an attack in Baghdad.
 
Since early 2013, Iraq has seen an increasing number of indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets. Their operational strategy is almost always the same: serial attacks, in order to kill civilians in a first wave of blasts, and then to kill a second time — sometimes even a third time — when emergency services arrive.
 
A death toll established by AFP counts more than 4,000 casualties from attacks in Iraq as of the beginning of the year. On Sunday, attacks around the country killed 60 people. And on Monday, 11 more were killed in areas north of the capital. Dozens more died in blasts last week.
 
Iraq has been plagued by months of unrelenting violence, the worst since 2008. Most of these attacks, which typically target the Shiite community, are claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq.

“They leave a phone number on the car’s windshield, and when a driver calls that number…”

Amir Jabbar al-Saidi is a security expert living in Baghdad.
 
This type of attack is very frequent in cafés and markets, where crowds tend to congregate. About a month ago, there was even a quadruple car bomb attack in a market in the Shaab neighbourhood, in which I lost several loved ones. This type of attack is used to cause the maximum number of fatalities among the civilian population and the security and emergency services. Generally, when there’s an explosion, people spontaneously run toward the injured in order to help them. These attacks are precisely timed, with a second explosion typically occurring five to ten minutes after the first attack, which coincides with the arrival of emergency and security services.
 
Footage from a recent double blast in the al-Maalif al-Bayyaa neighbourhood of Baghdad.
  
Al Qaeda terrorists employ a range of operational strategies, but they are currently favouring roadside bombs, car bombs, and bombs in public trashcans.
 
A car bomb requires at least three people. One is in charge of building the bomb, typically out of TNT or C4 mixed with nails and other pieces of metal in order to cause the maximum number of casualties. The second person sets up the bomb in one of the car's wheels and connects it to an electrical system. Finally, the third person is in charge of driving the car to the targeted site.
 
In the last couple months, most explosions were either triggered remotely by a cell phone or by suicide bombers. A new, particularly cruel tactic has recently emerged. In a busy parking lot, someone parks their car in a way that blocks other cars from passing, and leaves a phone number on the windshield. When another driver calls that number, this phone call triggers the bomb.
 
Video from a double suicide attack in the al-Amine neighbourhood in Baghdad.

“The security forces are quick to respond, but they’re not very good at prevention”

Ali al-Moussawi is a journalist for a local television channel. He has covered several attacks in Baghdad. The latest attack occurred last week: it was a triple explosion that targeted migrant construction workers.
  
I’ve noticed over the last several months that the security forces have improved their response time to deal with the increased number of bomb attacks. They reach the explosion site very quickly, because there is no longer any place in Baghdad that is more than 500 metres away from a checkpoint. They quickly establish a security perimeter over an extended area, because they know that another attack is likely to occur nearby. It prevents me from filming, but this method saves many lives.
 
That said, prevention is lacking. The authorities have been unable to avoid these attacks, in spite of security forces’ heavy presence throughout the city. Furthermore, what is really shocking is that they continue to use so-called “bomb detectors” at checkpoints, even though we now know that they are totally useless. In fact, the man who designed these detectors was recently sentenced to prison.
 
Iraqis use humour to denounce the fake bomb detectors.
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