Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Bicycle Bomber of Baquba

 

A suicide bomber riding a bicycle detonated explosives packed with iron balls in a crowd of police recruits in Baquba yesterday, killing 28 people and wounding at least 20 others.

“I saw many bodies covered in blood,” said Ali Shahine, a shopkeeper in the city in Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad. “Some were dying, some had arms and legs blown off.” He saw the bomber cycle through a gap in a concrete security wall before blowing himself up.

The Iraqi police also announced yesterday that they had found the decapitated corpses of 20 unidentified people near the city.

The bicycle attack was one of the deadliest against the security forces for months and comes as Iraqi and US casualties are falling sharply. The Iraqi health, interior and defence ministries say that, before the suicide bombing in Baquba, 285 Iraqi civilians and security personnel had been killed so far this month, the lowest figure since February 2006.

US military casualties are also down. Some 33 US soldiers have been killed in October, compared to 65 in September and 126 in May. American military fatalities had been averaging three to four a day and have dropped to just over one a day. But it is still unclear whether the decrease in violence is temporary, since none of the disputes between Iraqi communities and between Iraqis and the American occupation forces have been resolved.

The attack in Baquba is likely to have been the work of al-Qa’ida and shows it still has the ability to carry out suicide bombings despite much of the Sunni community turning against it. In Anbar and Diyala provinces, US-backed Sunni tribal militias have inflicted heavy losses on al-Qa’ida and the Sunni insurgency has split, with a consequent reduction in US losses.

Al-Qa’ida has also failed in recent months to carry out one of its massive vehicle-borne suicide bombings against Shia markets and gathering places in Baghdad. These used to inflict hundreds of casualties at a time and provoke retaliation by Shia death squads, which would kill equivalent numbers of Sunni.

Many Sunni turned against al-Qa’ida when it overplayed its hand in 2006 by setting up the Islamic State of Iraq umbrella group that tried to force all Sunni families to send at least one son to join al-Qa’ida.

But the level of violence in Iraq remains very high. On Sunday, 10 anti-al-Qa’ida sheikhs ñ seven Shia and three Sunni ñ from Diyala were kidnapped in the Shia district of Shaab in Baghdad after meeting with the government. The body of one of the Sunni sheikhs, Mishaan Hilaan, was found 50 yards away and the US military says that a dissident Shia militia leader, Arkan Hasnawi, a former commander in the Mehdi Army, was responsible. The kidnappers offered to release the Shia sheikhs, but they refused to go unless the surviving two Sunni sheikhs were freed with them. Eventually all the sheikhs were freed.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who leads the Mehdi Army, has stood down his militiamen for six months in order to assert his previously uncertain control over them and to avoid confrontation with the US Army. The US claims that special units of the Mehdi Army are in fact controlled and paid by Iran, an allegation Iran denies.

The American military said that Hasnawi’s actions showed that he had “joined forces with Iranian-supported special groups that are rejecting Muqtada al-Sadr’s direction to embrace fellow Iraqis”.

The US handed over security in the Shia province of Kerbala to the Iraqi government yesterday, making it, in theory, the eighth province in Iraq where military rule has ended. In reality, the Iraqi security forces in Kerbala are dominated by the Badr Organisation, the militia of the Shia party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which is the rival of the Mehdi Army in southern Iraq. The Mehdi Army’s strength is mostly in Baghdad, where one of its commanders said recently that it controls “50 per cent of the city and 80 per cent of Shia neighbourhoods”. The long-term impact of US successes and the implosion of al-Qa’ida may be exaggerated. An ABC News/BBC/ NTV poll in August showed that 93 per cent of Sunni and 50 per cent of Shia say it is acceptable to attack coalition forces.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
stclair
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail