Saturday, 6 February 2016

Iraq conflict: Baghdad building wall around capital to prevent Islamic State attacks

Security-wall-in-Ghazaliya-district-of-Baghdad-Iraq-2011. Photo: AFP

Iraqi security forces have begun building a wall around the capital Baghdad in an effort to prevent attacks by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The interior ministry’s spokesman, police Brigadier General Saad Maan, told the Associated Press that work began this week on a 100km (65-mile) stretch of the wall and trench on the northern and northwestern approaches of the capital.

The wall will be three metres (10 feet) high and partially made up of concrete barriers already in use across much of the capital, he said. He declined to specify the measurements of the trench.

Since the 2003 US-led invasion, Baghdad has seen near-daily bombings, mainly targeting security forces and the country’s Shia majority.

The Islamic State group and its predecessors have been blamed for most of these attacks, which occasionally include high-profile, multiple bombings claiming dozens of lives.

On Wednesday, roadside bombings in various parts of the city and a drive-by shooting killed eight people and wounded 28 – a grimly routine toll for the capital.

Last month, according to UN figures, 490 civilians were killed and 1,157 were wounded in Iraq – figures that include the federal police, civil defence forces and personal security details. Baghdad was the worst affected, with 299 civilians killed and 785 wounded.

Baghdad has at times resembled a labyrinth of blast walls, which first began appearing after the 2003 invasion and remain outside government offices, banks, police stations, schools, hospitals and university campuses.

The prime minister’s office, his Cabinet offices, western embassies and UN agencies are located in the “Green Zone,” a heavily protected and walled-off swath of land on the west bank of the Tigris.

Many of the city’s neighborhoods are also walled off, dissecting the capital and standing as a grim reminder of the Sunni-Shia violence that almost plunged Iraq into civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Maan said the Baghdad wall and trench will be built by the military’s Engineering Corps about 30kms (20 miles) from the city centre and will reduce the number of checkpoints inside the city by 50% in six months.

ISIS Soldiers, Photo: YouTube

Reducing the number of checkpoints would free up thousands of troops and police for combat duties and ease the city’s horrendous traffic.

The walls and barriers around the so-called Green Zone are expected to remain. Created by the U.S.-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, this heavily fortified zone now houses the government, parliament and many embassies including those of the U.S. and Britain.

In June 2014, IS seized large parts of northern and western Iraq, and proclaimed the creation of a caliphate stretching across the border with Syria.

The group has continued to launch counter-offensives and attacks in Iraq despite US-led coalition air strikes and ground operations.

In the latest of its attacks, Shia Muslims were targeted by militants on a Baghdad shopping centre, and at least 18 people were killed.

Source: International Business Times


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