Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it: the same goes for terrorism.
TIKRIT, IRAQ – A curious phenomenon in modern terrorism analysis and policy making is for people to make assumptions about terrorist groups. Setbacks are often overinterpreted as final nails in the coffin, leading to an underestimation of a particular organisation’s strength and ability to continue to carry out attacks and hence pose a threat.
We saw this most recently with Islamic State (ISIS). After the fall of the self-styled ‘Caliphate‘ (jokingly called by many the ‘Califake’) and the subsequent killing of leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi there were those who stated quite openly that ISIS was dead and hence no longer of concern. Recent events have illustrated quite clearly how wrong that certainty was.
A similar bout of overconfidence occurred when the US invaded Afghanistan and put Al Qaeda (AQ) on its heels. The group had been decimated according to analysts, both figuratively and literally thanks to weapons such as ‘bunker buster bombs’. And yet AQ is still with us.
Sometimes groups perceived to be on the outs not only do not do us a favour and go quietly but merely morph into something else. This is precisely what happened in Iraq in the 2000s, following the US government’s ill-fated decision to invade to get rid of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his non-existent links to AQ and 9/11.
On this day in 2011, two suicide bombers belonging to Al Qaeda in Iraq killed 20 and wounded 60 in Tikrit Iraq.
In the wake of this deployment AQ did show up, but as a new group called AQ in Iraq (AQI). This was in keeping with a tried and true pattern whereby a foreign military occupation leads to the emergence of a terrorist group bent on evicting the outsiders.
AQI was active for a few years until it became Islamic State (IS) which of course then became ISIS. But before that happened it too was behind many terrorist attacks in Iraq, many directed at US forces. Today’s featured incident is a good example.
On this day in 2011 AQI launched two attacks in the city of Tikrit, Iraq, birthplace of Saddam Hussein. In the first, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the center of the mosque during Friday Prayer, causing the dome to collapse onto worshipers. Seconds later, an improvised explosive device was detonated just outside the mosque. Seventeen people died in the explosions, including two members of the provincial council, a judge and a police colonel, and 47 were wounded.
Six hours later, another suicide bomber detonated a device at the hospital where a member of Parliament from the province was visiting the wounded. Two people died in that attack, including a guard for the member of Parliament; two people were wounded. In all at least 21 people died and more than 60 were wounded.
The dual bombings represent the collapse of moral IraqMohammed Qassem, a doctor at the hospital.
AQI and ISIS were of course responsible for many, many lethal attacks. They will be responsible for many, many more. Best not to write them off.