On the night of 8 April, according to a video released by a new Iraqi militia group calling itself Ashab al-Kahf (People of the Cave), its “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” forces conducted an IED attack against a US logistics convoy travelling from Erbil through Salah ad Din province along Highway 1 in the Uwaynat area, located south of Tikrit city. Video footage and images depicted heavy trucks transporting HMMWVs and other armored vehicles near Quds Gate. An IED detonated against the convoy, and a second IED subsequently detonated against the halted movement as part of claimed intent to target dismounted personnel.
The group claimed the targeted convoy sustained significant casualties and losses in equipment including the destruction of military vehicles. The attack was said to be timed with the Shi’a celebration of Sha’abaniyah. Plausible reports from unnamed sources claimed the attack targeted a PSC convoy that was transporting military equipment towards Baghdad. Equipment losses were plausible, but no casualties were confirmed amongst scant reporting from official Iraqi and CF security sources.
Relevant official reporting was limited to what was possibly the clearance of a third IED involved in these events. On 9 April, the Directorate to Combat Explosives announced that an EOD unit rendered safe an IED based on an anti-armor landmine near the southern Tikrit gate on Highway 1. No mention was made of an associated attack against a convoy during the brief statement, further highlighting the active suppression of relevant reporting.
Latest IED attack against PSC logistics convoys near Tikrit:
The 8 April attack is consistent with an ongoing intermittent series of IED attacks against PSC logistics convoys contracted to support US military and diplomatic missions in Iraq. Such attacks are intended to threaten the sustainability of US forces by targeting vulnerable supply lines. Each of the incidents were located in diverse segments of Highway 1 extending through southern Iraq, suburbs of Baghdad, and suburbs of Tikrit. On 16 March, an IED attack targeted a US-contracted Iraqi PSC travelling near Quds Gate, the same area affected by the 8 April incident. In another potentially relevant incident on 20 March, ISF found and cleared an IED near Abu Aqrab Checkpoint, located along Highway 1 in an area north of Tikrit city.
These attacks correspond with a “final warning” issued by Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) threatening to target a broad range of organizations accused of dealing with US forces, including contracted logistics companies, following the expiration of a deadline after 15 March. Accordingly, the group calling itself Ashab al-Kahf in the 8 April attack is likely acting as a front for KH or another Iranian proxy. Similar connotations surround the other recently formed group calling itself Usbat al-Thaireen (League of the Revolutionaries). By promoting front groups, KH is able to reduce the likelihood of retaliatory actions including airstrikes and targeted sanctions.
For further discussion and analysis on this incident please see our full report.