Iraq News
Security

Baghdad feels safer as ISIS threat fades, residents say

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi forces secure Baghdad's western belt on September 14th. [Photo from the Baghdad Operations Command's Facebook page]

As the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) loses ground in Iraq, security has markedly improved in Baghdad, local officials and city residents tell Diyaruna.

There have been fewer terror attacks in the Iraqi capital, compared with previous years, said Iraqi MP Majed al-Gharawi, who serves on the parliamentary security and defence committee.

"In the past, not a day would go by without at least one attack, involving either an improvised explosive device (IED), car bomb, assassination or kidnapping," he told Diyaruna.

Attacks of this nature have decreased considerably, he said, "with incidents occurring further apart".

Al-Gharawi attributed the decline to the defeat of ISIS in many of its former strongholds and the reclamation of territory it occupied at the end of 2014.

"This collapse not only reinforced the security of Baghdad but also the entire country," he said.

Security patrols and a crackdown on sleeper cells, particularly on the outskirts of the capital, has been another important factor in improving security, he said.

"In spite of such good news, we must not forget that terrorists are in constant pursuit of security gaps to breach so as to draw attention to their existence," he said. "This means we have to continue our efforts and always stay vigilant."

Integrated security strategy

Strong co-operation between city residents and the security forces has significantly contributed to improved security, said Baghdad provincial council member Ghalib al-Zamili.

"The outskirts of Baghdad used to pose a serious threat to the capital, as it provided safe havens for terrorists and hideouts where militants would assemble car bombs and a variety of explosive devices," he told Diyaruna.

"ISIS lost what was at the core of its existence, which was its base of sympathisers," he said, noting that some residents had been taken in by its false slogans and empty promises.

"When these people woke up and found out that they had been tricked, they decided to co-operate with the security forces and became a source of intelligence," al-Zamili said.

"If we were to analyse the security situation, the improvement is due to a large degree to this kind of co-operation, that resulted in dismantling a large number of terrorist cells and foiling their operations," he said.

Building an integrated security system that prioritises intelligence, technical operations, striking power and media mobilisation is key to maintaining security, said security expert Jassim Hanoun.

This is important, he told Diyaruna, because ISIS might resort to new tactics, such as those it used during twin attacks on September 24th in al-Nasiriya, which resulted in dozens of civilian casualties.

"The attackers wore military uniforms and were armed with machine guns and hand grenades, which was unprecedented as far as terrorism crimes are concerned," he said, noting that most attacks to date have been carried out by suicide bombers or car bombs.

Bustling streets in Baghdad

Baghdad's streets, shops and public places are now filled with people until late at night, which is a sign of improved security, said Baghdad al-Jadida resident Khdayer Abbas.

"When people are not obsessed about security, this means that everything is alright and that the ISIS terror is fading away," he told Diyaruna.

"We now have nothing to worry about," al-Khadraa neighbourhood resident Faten Jumaa al-Khadraa told Diyaruna.

The security forces are doing their job efficiently, she said, adding that "most people like myself think that the days of explosions and violence are long gone".

Al-Rubaie Street shop owner Kareem al-Saidi said ISIS "was unable to bring life in Baghdad to a screeching halt even during the height of its power".

"People have strong confidence in the security services," he told Diyaruna. "The history of unrest and security crises will not repeat itself."

"We strongly believe in that."

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