Counter-Terrorism: Baghdad CTU

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March 26, 2015: Iraqi police finally shut down a major ISIL bombing operation which, it turned out, was responsible for 52 bombings in Baghdad during the last year. This all began in 2014 when police got lucky and spotted a leader of the group and had him followed for six months. That led to the identification of over 30 other people in the organization as well as several locations they operated from. Recently police organized a special taskforce to shut down the bombing operation and within 72 hours arrested 31 members of the group, seized several locations they operated from and several dozen vehicles. These included ten cars rigged with explosives for suicide or remote control bombings. Also seized were bomb making materials as well as completed suicide bomb vests. Propaganda videos, financial and personnel records and numerous other documents were also found and taken.

This gang specialized in attacks in Shia neighborhoods, which are heavily guarded by Shia militia with multiple checkpoints to get past. It turned out that the group had managed to get good (but forged) IDs allowing the bomb delivery teams to pass for members of one of the Shia militias in Baghdad. Another trick the terrorists used was putting bottles of alcoholic drinks the back seat of a car to subtly emphasize that they weren’t Islamic terrorists on their way to kill Shia Moslems. Yet another clever trick was cars with a special mechanism under the vehicle which allowed a bomb to be armed from inside the care then dropped somewhere without anyone getting out of the car. The car then drove away and someone in the car, or another car, used a wireless device to detonate the bomber or, if jammers were present, a timer would set off the explosives.

Like most terrorist bombing bomber organizations this one was expensive to operate because it was manned by skilled people who did it for a living, as well as to express their hatred for the Shia dominated government of Iraq. Several members had been caught for earlier involvement in bombing gangs but had been released or bribed their way out or were released via a jail break.

Not only are these operations expensive to operate but they take time to set up. Each bomb attack (suicide or not) is supported by a team of ten or more people. The "technicians" do things like make the bomb. If a suicide attack the technicians also come up with a costume the bomber can wear and carry the bomb undetected. There are instructors to teach the bomber how to act, and then drill the bomber to make sure he can do it under the stress of moving among alert security personnel looking for him. There are also several "minders" who stay with the volunteer bomber to make sure he doesn't un-volunteer. And then there are recruiters, looking for more bombers. For non-suicide bomb attacks there are placement teams and detonation teams. For all attacks there are planners and scouts who select targets along with how to get the bomb there and then get support staff out. There are also administrative personnel, to handle records and cash. A large cash payment (usually several thousand dollars) is often paid to the family of the suicide bomber, to insure that the kin don't bad mouth the terrorists, and make it easier to pretend that their dead son was truly a hero. The police raids also found financial records which might provide insight into other ISIL financed bomb gangs.

 

 


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