At approximately 10:45 on 28 April, two insurgents travelling in a vehicle approached the Kirkuk Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Directorate office in the Qadisiyah neighborhood of Kirkuk city. One insurgent dismounted and threw a hand grenade against police members at the gate of the facility. The insurgent subsequently detonated a suicide vest at the compound entrance as he was engaged by ISF. Reports indicate ISF engaged the driver of the vehicle with small arms fire, but the insurgent evaded ISF. Between 4-5 ISF including three policemen and one intelligence member were wounded as well as one civilian. Heightened security postures went into effect in the area as part of typical responses.
Initial reporting pertaining to the incident was highly conflicting, including reports detailing a complex suicide attack. IS reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, but details of the statement were initially unavailable. An uptick in security operations is likely in Kirkuk city and surrounding areas as part of responses to the incident. Limited reports claimed ISF had prior intelligence indicating IS was planning to conduct a suicide attack against the location, but deceptive efforts to save face are possible.
First deliberate suicide vest attack in recent past:
The 28 April incident is assessed to comprise the first effective deliberate suicide vest attack in Iraq since 23 October 2018, and the first in a sizeable urban center since 10 September 2018. The frequency of suicide vest bombings dropped sharply following the conclusion of major counter-IS operations in late 2017. While explosive vests and belts are regularly recovered in IS caches, steep reductions in the availability of foreign fighters removed the most willing candidates for suicide attacks. Most incidents said to involve suicide bombers are assessed to more accurately reflect insurgents detonating relatively small explosive belts as a weapon of last resort to avoid capture during security operations and other compromising circumstances.
The revitalization of this threat correlates with established IS intent to promote high-profile attacks in urban centers during Ramadan. In light of a suicide attack against an ISF intelligence headquarters in a major population center during this holy month, the 28 April incident deservedly achieved some international media attention. However, with no fatalities other than the bomber, the attack paled in comparison with much more lethal suicide attacks on a historic basis. Attack effectiveness varies in accordance with several factors including the size of the device and the density of proximate targets. An attack against concentrations of Shi’a civilians would have undoubtedly proven far more effective than the attack against an ISF location.
For further discussion and analysis please see our full report.