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IED attack against US-contracted logistics convoy on Highway 1 near Samarra

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On the evening of 15 July, according to social media sources affiliated with pro-Iranian organizations and security sources, at least one IED detonated against a private logistics convoy contracted with the US military travelling on Highway 1 near Mukayshifah village, located between Tikrit and Samarra cities. Some reports suggested that the convoy comprised 11 transport and security escort vehicles, and multiple vehicles were damaged as a result. No casualties were reported. Limited reporting from security sources identified the security provider as Babylon Eagles Security Company (BESC).

The militia group calling itself Ashab al-Kahf (People of the Cave) claimed responsibility for an attack against a large logistics convoy and its foreign security personnel. “We confirm the destruction of a large logistical support convoy with its materials in Salahuddin,” the group announced in statement. Mainstream media reporting of the incident was scarce. Samarra Operations Commander Major General Emad al-Zahiri denied an IED had occurred, describing the incident as an accident involving a tire blowout affecting a tanker truck. A more concise denial would have been more credible than this statement, which implied that Ashab al-Kahf expertly issued a timely false claim of responsibility for a vehicle accident. No comments were made by CF or by the company that was allegedly targeted, with further clarification unlikely to surface.

The 15 July 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 demonstrate the ability to threaten the sustainability of US forces by targeting vulnerable supply lines. There were several attacks along these lines between February and April during the spike in tensions in the aftermath of the assassination of Qassem Sulaimani. This included detonations on 10 February5 March, 14 March, 16 March, and 8 April along diverse segments of Highway 1. Three additional IEDs were found and cleared in southern Iraq between 15 February and 4 March.

Closely preceding the latest incident was an attack against a logistics convoy on Highway 1 in Diwaniyah province on 11 July, with three vehicles torched after being interdicted. The militia calling itself the 1920 Revolution Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack. For the latest incident, Ashab al-Kahf is also assessed to act as a front for Katai’ib Hezbollah or another mainstream Iranian proxy. The group previously claimed responsibility for an attack against a PSC convoy south of Tikrit on 8 April. More recently on 21 June, Ashab al-Kahf once again threatened to target logistics contractors, naming BESC amongst other companies.

An uptick in attacks against US-contracted logistics convoys was considered possible in the aftermath of the 25 June operation against Kata’ib Hezbollah members, and in accordance with elevated tensions surrounding the ongoing strategic dialogue between the US and Iraqi governments. That said, the tempo of attacks, casualties, and material losses, remain moderate for the time being as opposed to more decisive threats.

For further discussion and analysis, please see the full report.

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