Uptick in Baghdad attacks reveals new insurgent tactics

While American and Iraqi fatalities dropped to their lowest levels in October, the US military reports an increase in the use of 'sticky' bombs in targeted assassinations.

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Bombs killed as many as 16 people in Baghdad Tuesday, and wounded dozens more, highlighting the fragility of the recent calm there and the complicated situation still facing American forces.

Attacks have become less common since US and Iraqi security forces began to "gain the upper hand," reports the BBC, although Tuesday was a grim reminder that Iraq is far from pacified, and that insurgents are employing new tactics that the US is calling "sticky IEDs," improvised explosive devices.

Iraqi security officials have been quoted saying insurgents are resorting to using smaller bombs and planting them in vehicles.

Explosions went off around the city Tuesday, a chaotic day in which Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that seven were killed in a bomb attack at a bus station in the Shiite neighborhood of Al Mashtal, while four more died from a roadside bomb.

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Attacks had been abating, reports the Associated Press (AP).

U.S. officials say attacks in Baghdad average about four a day – down nearly 90 percent from levels of late 2006, when Shiite-Sunni fighting was at its high point and just before the U.S. troop surge that helped bring down violence in the capital.
Tuesday's blasts came a day after a series of bombings killed 10 people and wounded 40 more, underscoring the threat still posed by extremists.
Other attacks also took place in Mosul, where violence has spiked in recent months.

UPI reports that on Monday US military officials said they had arrested several high-profile militants, some with ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), in three days of operations in central and northern Iraq.

Among those taken into custody Monday was a man who intelligence reports suggest oversaw the movement of bomb-making materials into Mosul, officials said. Eleven other suspects also were detained, American Forces Press Service said.

The attacks in Baghdad may be a sign that anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr does not have control over all of his followers, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The attacks in eastern Baghdad, once a stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, suggested that some splinter factions from his militia were conducting operations despite a freeze on most of his fighters.

The New York Times reports that the bombings may be the result of sticky IEDs with mounted-on adhesive or magnets that can be stuck on to objects like cars and trucks.

One sticky IED victim was a fish seller in Al Mashtal, the paper quotes a police colonel as saying.

"I warned this fish seller only yesterday that his stand on the side of the street was not safe because anyone passing by could set an I.E.D. s blow him up, along with his customers," the police colonel said. "He didn't listen, and the poor guy lost his life in today's blast."

In October, the Washington Post reported that the US military "has investigated roughly 200 cases involving magnetic bombs." It reported that the bombs have been used to assassinate Iraqi officials.

One of Tuesday's attacks targeted a prominent Shiite politician, Ahmed al-Barak, a former member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which helped administer the country until June 2004. He currently heads the country's property claims commission, according to a blog in the Los Angeles Times.

The attack may also have been the result of a sticky IED, and killed one civilian and injured eight others, including five of Mr. Barak's body guards, it reports.

Despite this week's violence, last month saw the lowest death toll for both US forces and Iraqis since the war began in March 2003, according to the AP. It reports that American troops recorded 13 fatalities and Iraqi authorities showed that at least 364 Iraqis were killed, including members of the country's security services.

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