December 27, 2003: Terrorists bomb multinational barracks in Iraq

On December 27, 2003 unidentified ‘insurgents’ attacked military barracks in the Iraqi city of Karbala, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 200.

KARBALA, IRAQ – Just because you are in the army does not mean that you can defend yourself against terrorist attacks.

As the ‘war on terrorism‘ enters its third decade the role of the world’s militaries is showing no signs of decreasing on multiple fronts. Whether it is Saudi forces in Yemen fighting the Houthis, or Nigerian soldiers countering Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in that country’s northeast, or any number of military missions (AMISOM in Somalia is a good example) consisting of troops from multiple countries there is no shortage of guns and bullets to ‘defeat’ terrorism.

And while these efforts have indeed eliminated some very dangerous men and women from threatening us again, they have also resulted in civilian casualties (as this New York Times article makes clear). The track record is thus mixed at best.

Similarly, armies have found that they too become the target for terrorist attacks. This should surprise absolutely no one: if I had identified the party trying to whack me wouldn’t I whack them first? The fact that they are very well armed, probably much better armed than even the most capable of terrorist groups, does not seem to be a deterrent.

Hey terrorists! Here we are: come and get us! (Photo: Defence Imagery on flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On this day in 2003

Unidentified ‘insurgentsattacked military barracks in the central Iraqi city of Karbala, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 200. Among the dead were four Bulgarian and two Thai army engineers, serving under a Polish command as part of a multinational force patrolling that part of Iraq. At least 37 troops, including five U.S. soldiers, were hurt.

It takes a very few number of people in the country to create the kind of damage we are seeing.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations for U.S. forces

This attack occurred not too long after the US invasion of Iraq which led, in a way, to the rise of ISIS, one of the worst and most barbaric terrorist groups, if not the worst. An unintended consequence you might say, or another good reason not to see this as a ‘war’ on terrorism?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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