Militants launch wave of onslaughts across Iraq

Updated: 2014-06-09 07:31

By Agence France-Presse in Baghdad (China Daily)

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Baghdad bombings kill over 60 as security forces battle insurgents

Three days of major attacks by jihadi fighters around Iraq, including at a university, have left dozens dead in a stark display of militant strength and the country's enormous security challenges.

Militants assaulted the city of Samarra, battled security forces in Mosul, took hundreds of hostages at Anbar University in Ramadi and carried out numerous other attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere.

A wave of car bombs exploded across Baghdad on Saturday, targeting mainly Shiite districts and killing more than 60 people.

Iraq is suffering its worst violence in years, and with no quick solutions in sight for the myriad problems that contribute to the heightened unrest, the bloodshed is likely to continue unabated.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - a jihadi group - has been blamed for most of the latest attacks, and is believed to be responsible for much of the violence in the country.

"Evidently, ISIL is in a very strong position," said John Drake, a London-based security analyst at AKE Group. "It is able to stand its ground in open fighting with the national security forces, which is major."

The United States previously struggled to curb violence in the country, and it will be even more challenging for Iraqi security forces, which have significant shortcomings in training and discipline.

"Militancy in the center of the country was a major headache for the strongest military force in the world, so it's no wonder that the Iraqi security forces are encountering such difficulties," Drake said.

"They are facing a massive challenge."

Kirk Sowell, the Amman-based publisher of the Inside Iraqi Politics newsletter, said the violence clearly shows that the militants are "very strong".

But the question is why "they have maintained this strength - why are the Iraqi security forces not more capable of dealing with this?"

New generals

One issue is widespread arrest campaigns by security forces that Sowell said sweep up many people who are likely innocent, terming it a "completely ineffective security policy".

He also said the high rate of turnover among senior officers is problematic, noting that there have been five different top commanders in restive Anbar province in roughly two years.

"They keep recycling these generals - but there's no change in tactics, there's no evidence that they're learning," he said.

The latest large-scale attacks began on Thursday morning, when militants traveling in dozens of vehicles, some mounted with anti-aircraft guns, attacked the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, and occupied multiple areas.

They were only displaced after heavy house-to-house fighting and helicopter strikes, during which officials said 12 police and dozens of militants were killed.

The following day, heavy fighting broke out between security forces and militants in multiple areas of the northern city of Mosul, one of the most dangerous areas of the country.

The clashes and shelling, combined with other attacks in the surrounding Nineveh province, killed more than 100 people over two days.

On Saturday, militants infiltrated Anbar University in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, killed its guards and took hundreds of students and staff hostage.

The attack prompted an assault by security forces that eventually freed the hostages but also led to an hourslong battle with militants.

Later on Saturday, a dozen bombs ripped through the Iraqi capital, killing at least 60 people.

(China Daily 06/09/2014 page12)