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Moderately effective vehicle borne IED detonation in Fallujah City

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On the morning of 6 October, a parked vehicle borne IED based in a Kia vehicle, detonated near shops in the Nazzal area situated near the Alshaya Exchange Company in Fallujah City. Casualty figures varied somewhat but remained comparatively low, with two police officers and three civilians most widely reported as being wounded. Casualty figures confirm the attack remains in line with historic IS targeting focused on civilians and security personnel in high-traffic pedestrian areas which pose a comparatively “soft target.”

Security sources subsequently denied imposing a curfew in the Fallujah District in the aftermath of the blast, though raid and search operations were reportedly launched in the Shuhada Neighborhood in order to search for those responsible. No arrests have been discussed, though security leaders will face considerable pressure to make arrests over the near term, with or without significant evidence being readily uncovered.  An attack within the city limits will draw even greater attention from high-level officials and may see the sacking of one or more security personnel as senior leaders seek to limit backlash over the coming days.

On 6 October, IS-affiliated Amaq News Agency claimed that IS security detachments parked a vehicle borne IED near al-Ayadat Bridge in central Fallujah City.  The device detonated against a gathering of local police, killing or wounding a number of them and destroying a vehicle. The claim also cited promises for future attacks.

Vehicle borne IED incidents are periodically reported in Anbar – with this being the fourth such incident in 2018 – though the vast majority comprise interdictions at checkpoint locations, resulting when security forces challenge would-be attackers in transit. The last detonation in the province was reported on 29 August, when a suicide vehicle borne IED detonated at the al-Shahid Haydar Checkpoint, located at the Al Qaim-Akashat intersection east of Al Qaim City. The device ultimately detonated in close proximity to the checkpoint which was manned by a joint security force comprised of ISF and PMF, with some reporting to suggest that security personnel engaged the vehicle prior to the detonation. As many as eight individuals were killed and 13 others were wounded. 

Notably, this is the first vehicle borne IED incident reported in Fallujah City for a considerable period, and the first in the Fallujah District in over a year. Three previous finds were reported in July and September of 2017 west of the city at the Halabsa Checkpoint and two finds and a detonation were reported in June and July of 2017 at the Suqor Checkpoint east of the city.

While the use of a parked rather than suicide vehicle borne IED, and the comparatively low number of resulting casualties denotes a still limited capability to conduct high profile events in the city, it will remain important to continue monitoring for indications of reemerging IS capability in this former IS stronghold. That said, the use of vehicle borne IEDs remains labour and material intensive, and assuming a cell responsible is not dismantled in the days following this attack, planning, preparation and staging of additional events by a single attack cell is likely to take weeks rather than days.

Operations should be prepared for increased security throughout the city over the near term, with checkpoints conducting searches and document checks at main entrances into the city and investigations and arrest operations also expected. It will remain important to monitor for any extrajudicial targeting in the aftermath of this event, and operations may wish to avoid potential areas of likely ISF search and raid operations.

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