At approximately 15:00 on 22 October, IS gunmen armed with light weapons ambushed a boat transporting senior Federal Police personnel in the Sur Shinas area, located near the Tigris River in an area north of Samarra city. At least six Federal Police members were killed including the 4th Federal Police Division Commander, Major General Ali al-Lami, and the division’s operations officer, Brigadier General Muhammad Alawi. The four remaining fatalities were members of their security detail according to sources within the Samarra Operations Command. The Federal Police members were reportedly on a reconnaissance mission when they were targeted.
This incident closely follows a deadly attack in another area of Salah ad Din province the night prior. At least five Oil Police members were killed, and five others were wounded, during a complex attack in the Alas Oil Field. Both incidents were indicative of the types of well-planned attacks IS was expected to conduct as security measures began to return to normal in the aftermath of Arba’een. At the tactical level, IS militants remain active suburbs of Samarra and Balad, regularly conducting attacks against isolated security personnel. This includes ambushes targeting ISF movements in difficult to patrol heavily vegetated areas north of Samarra.
Based on the preceding well-planned ambushes specifically targeting other security personnel including a PMF commander, it is unlikely that the 22 October ambush was entirely opportunistic as portrayed by some security sources. Attacks specifically targeting ranking ISF officers and senior government officials are far from unprecedented in Salah ad Din province. These recent and historic events prominently illustrate IS intelligence capabilities given the challenges involved in identifying specific movements. They also underscore the dangers posed by skilled IS gunmen despite reductions in activity levels from historic heights.