Is this the reactivation of Daesh in Iraq?


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Elle Greaves


Ending the city's three year respite from large-scale terror attacks, al-Tayaran Square in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, was targeted by two suicide bombers on January 21, 2021. Daesh claimed responsibility for the bombings which killed 32 people and injured more than 110. Such a large scale attack, and one resulting in immense loss of life, has not been seen in Iraq since the January 2018 bombing of the same clothing market.

Despite Daesh’s absence in Iraq for the past three years, commentators are now speculating that this could indicate a resurgence of the terror group in the area and in Iraq more broadly. Current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has reportedly reshuffled key military and intelligence personnel following the attacks, as well as signed off on numerous execution orders, providing a swift and telling response.

History of Daesh in Iraq

From having once held 40 percent of Iraqi territory, Daesh had lost the majority of its stronghold by December 2017. The group rose out of the ashes of al-Qaeda in 2004 and struggled to take hold in Iraq as a result of the United States’ occupation until 2007. By 2011, however, US withdrawal and a ripe climate of political instability has enabled Daesh to form and take hold in Iraq and Syria. Since this turning point, Iraq has been well accustomed to regular suicide bombings. A US-led coalition, with the help of Iraqi forces, eventually drove Daesh out of the region in 2017, with then-Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declaring Iraq free from the terror group.

During its peak in Iraq, Daesh would carry out regular suicide bombings targeting rural and low-income areas. Its presence was therefore centred in the Northern provinces of Dyala, Kirkuk and the Hamrin and Makhoul mountains. Further Daesh units reportedly operated in the Jazira and Anbar deserts in western Iraq. As research shows, hard terrain and mountainous landscapes provide safe havens where militants can openly roam.


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