The streets of the Iraqi capital have been gradually losing their pedestrians for the past two weeks because of a series of explosions that hit different parts of the capital, leaving hundreds dead and wounded, amid news about the return of fake checkpoints. Iraqi streets are expected to be almost completely devoid of any movement during the first days of the current month, as Iraqi Shiites start the festival of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh Twelver Shiite Muslim, on June 5, 2013.
The latest wave of bombings that hit Baghdad on Thursday, May 30, 2013, left dozens dead as car bombs and improvised explosive devices detonated in the areas of Waziriya, Karrada, Sadiyah, al-Zoyoot and al-Bonook, following a bloody night during which a car bomb targeted a wedding party in the Shiite-majority neighborhood of Al-Hussein, part of the predominantly Sunni al-Jihad area, west of Baghdad. The attack killed and wounded more than 80 people.
The Iraqi security services fear more casualties could result from attacks organized by Sunni militants against the Shiites in Baghdad, who will start to flock to Baghdad at the beginning of the week to visit the shrine of Imam al-Kadhim, located in the district of Kadhimiya, north of Baghdad.
A senior Iraqi officer who attended a security meeting convened by Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Nouri al-Maliki said, “One of the officers who attended the meeting told Maliki that the Islamic State of Iraq organization, an armed wing of al-Qaeda in Iraq, may succeed in killing thousands of Shiites attending the festival of Imam Kadhim in Baghdad, if the government does not impose a complete curfew in the capital.”
The officer told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that intelligence estimates expect growing violence in the Iraqi capital over the next month in light of a severe political crisis, against the backdrop of protests launched by Iraqi’s Sunni-majority provinces against the policies of the Maliki government.
“It was agreed during the meeting to partially restrict the movement of pedestrians and vehicles during the days of the festival, which ends next weekend,” he added.
He continued, “The Baghdad Operations Command, which is responsible for the security of the Iraqi capital, received instructions from the Office of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to withdraw identification cards from all Iraqi intelligence officers, because these enable them to cross checkpoints without being subject to inspection procedures.”
He disclosed that Maliki relieved the chief of his military office, Gen. Farouk al-Araji, of his duties, and assigned instead the senior official in the intelligence service, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, in an attempt to breathe new life into the military establishment, which has been reeling from the impact of frequent security breaches in recent weeks.
In an effort to calm the concerns of Baghdad residents, who fear the collapse of the security situation, Maliki made on Wednesday night [May 29] an “inspection tour of checkpoints in different areas of the two Baghdad neighborhoods of Karkh and Rusafa. The tour lasted about three hours and included the areas of al-Jihad, al-Amiriya, al-Mansour, al-Adel, al-Horiya, al-Kadhimiya, al-Taji and al-Adhamiya,” according to a statement issued by his office and seen by Al-Monitor.
Omar al-Shaher is a contributor to Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. His writing has appeared in publications including France’s LeMonde, Iraq's Alesbuyia, Egypt’s Al-Ahaly and the Elaph website. He previously covered political and security affairs for Iraq's Al-Mada newspaper.