On the evening of 28 July, according to the Joint Operations Command and other security sources, IS militants using light weapons attacked the Muhammad al-Karawi checkpoint, located south of Hit city along Highway 12. As a result, at least one soldier was killed, and two soldiers were wounded. Counterparts from 29th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, responded to the checkpoint and were also engaged by the insurgents. The Joint Operations Command confirmed that 29th Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Lami was killed. According to security sources, casualties for this incident totaled five soldiers killed including the general and a first lieutenant, with four other soldiers wounded.
IS claimed that as part of the Battle of Attrition, IS snipers shot and killed an Iraqi Army member at the checkpoint and responding forces at the location. IS claimed that the attack killed seven Iraqi Army soldiers including the two officers, and wounded three others in a slightly inflated count. The spokesperson for the commander-in-chief, Maj. Gen. Yehia Rasool vowed that “We will pursue the terrorists who carried out this treacherous and cowardly act, and the blood of our martyrs will not be in vain.”
Second death of an Iraqi Army brigade commander in less than two weeks:
The 28 July incident forms the latest in a series of deadly attacks conducted by skilled IS gunmen as part of the leadup to the Eid al-Adha holiday and the associated latest iteration of the IS Battle of Attrition campaign. To recall, the substantial spike in attacks during Ramadan in April and May centered on a high volume of otherwise routine attacks, with casualties moderate in general. The Eid al-Adha attack series apparently centers more on quality over quantity, with well-planned lethal attacks achieving desired media attention, while reducing vulnerabilities for IS fighters in the process.
Days prior to the latest incident on 24 July, IS gunmen executed five individuals including a mukhtar during a raid near Samarra. The 24 July and 28 July attacks are both classified as the deadliest IS attacks this month. On 17 July, insurgents killed Brig. Gen. Ali Ghaidan, the commander of 59th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and two other soldiers during an ambush in the Tarmiyah district. As seen with other attacks effectively targeting ranking ISF officers in the recent past, these attacks highlighted IS intelligence capabilities.
Unlike the more deliberate ambush on 17 July, the 28 July incident contained an opportunistic element involving the targeting of a ranking officer as he responded to an incident. However, IS may have exploited observations of similar responses by the officer in the past in support of mission planning. In any event, the death of yet another experienced brigade commander in less than one week later is undoubtedly expected to serve as a shock for ISF leadership. While efforts to lead from the front are generally a sign of effective leadership, responses to small-scale attacks should be reserved for subordinate units instead of exposing brigade commanders to potentially hazardous conditions. Distorting conditions, brigade commanders commonly utilize commando units for their security details.
It is interesting to note that responses to the 17 July assassination included the transfer of the 27th Iraqi Army Brigade from the Hit district to Baghdad province. While the loss of one of the 29th Brigade’s sister units is not assessed to have generated decisive security gaps in the Hit district, IS exploitation of these conditions has become increasingly apparent. Preceding the latest incident on 25 July, an IED detonation killed one soldier and wounded two others near Kubaysa town, located west of Hit city. Significant security responses are understandably anticipated in the Hit district and adjacent security environments over the near-term, as are flexible IS responses.
On the evening of 28 July, the Ministry of Defence stated that IS militants attacked the Shahid Mohammad al-Karawi checkpoint in the Akba area of Hit district, western Anbar province. The commander of 29th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, Brigadier Ahmed Abd al-Wahid Musafir al-Lami, was reportedly killed as he led the force responding to the attack. The Joint Operations Command stated that in addition to Brigadier General Ahmed Abd al-Wahid, a first lieutenant and two other soldiers were killed. Two soldiers were also wounded according to initial reports. Social media sources claimed that coalition aircraft targeted the IS cell responsible for the attack. Further details and clarification will be provided in later updates.
For further analysis and discussion please see the full report.