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Moderate casualties from failed suicide vest attack in Khanaqin

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At around 22:20 on 20 June, an IS member attempted to conduct a suicide bombing against a café in Kurnish area of Tula Frush neighborhood of Khanaqin Town, northeastern Diyala Province. The insurgent reportedly approached the site and attempted to detonate an explosive vest. The device failed to detonate due to an apparent technical failure. The insurgent subsequently attempted to throw a hand grenade, which detonated prematurely in his hand. The insurgent was killed, and at least four civilians were wounded. EOD personnel rendered safe the explosive vest.

Explosive have been encountered under various circumstances through much of 2019, though most involved detonation of devices intended to avoid capture. Significantly, the 20 June incident stands out as the first clear deliberate suicide vest attack in Iraq thus far this year. The attack in Khanaqin was soon followed by a far more effective suicide attack in Baghdad the following afternoon. At approximately 14:00 on 21 June, a suspected IS insurgent detonated a suicide vest at the Shi’a Hussainiyat al-Imam al-Muntadhar Mosque in Baladiyat, located in east Baghdad. The explosion coincided with individuals leaving the site following Friday prayers. Initial reporting suggests that between 7-10 individuals were killed, and as many as 20 others were wounded.

As regularly discussed during Ramadan, the period after Eid al-Fitr tends to be a dangerous period as IS exploits subsequent reductions in security postures. The loosely coordinated 20-21 June suicide vest attacks in Khanaqin and Baghdad formed the first headlining IS attacks during the post-Eid period, and were likely supported by weeks of preparation.

Going forward, suicide vest attacks may continue to be promoted in urban centers of northern, western and central Iraq on an intermittent basis. Associated threat levels are expected to be largely consistent with overall IS capabilities for given security environments. Although attacks in Khanaqin Town are rare, Khanaqin District has proven to be one of the most active environments in Diyala Province despite some improvements in security conditions. However, the attack deep within Baghdad underscored the potential for suicide vest attacks in major urban centers that were historically active, but recently relatively calm, in terms of the threat posed by IS mass-casualty attacks.

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