Security

Dhi Qar tightens security after ISIS attacks

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

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Security personnel stand near the wreckage of a car used in a September 14th 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' suicide attack on a restaurant and security checkpoint on the international highway in Nasiriyah. [Photo from Dhi Qar police's al-Sahroon website]

Following the recent double attack in Nasiriyah, the provincial capital of Dhi Qar, local and federal security authorities have stepped up security measures to protect civilians from potential violence.

On September 14th, "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) gunmen and suicide bombers carried out a deadly double attack, starting with a restaurant on the international highway in western Nasiriyah.

Stepping out of their vehicle, they opened fire on women, children and the elderly who were at the restaurant.

They then moved on to a nearby security checkpoint and detonated a car bomb that was parked alongside civilian vehicles.

The attacks left 84 dead and 93 injured, most of whom were civilians, including a large number of children.

Boosting security in remote areas

Security officials said ISIS appears to have targeted this area because it was on a highway, with a weaker security presence and fewer checkpoints, with roads connected to desert areas that could serve as a base for the group's operations.

ISIS has failed to infiltrate cities due to the tight security in place at entry points, so it has resorted to targeting areas along highways and in the desert, Dhi Qar provincial council security committee chairman Jabbar al-Mousawi said.

"The terrorist group, ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the attack, targeted civilians on an external road that connects Basra with Dhi Qar, al-Muthana and other provinces in the western part of the country," he told Diyaruna.

"This is a road that mainly runs through swathes of desert land," he said.

After the attacks, the Ministry of Interior, via security authorities in Baghdad and Nasiriyah and al-Rafidayn Operations Command, which supervises security in the southern provinces, put in place a "a new road map", al-Mousawi said.

This differs from previous security plans as it considers gaps in security coverage and the movements of extremists in remote areas, he explained.

So far, he said, "70% of the new plans, which are classified, have been completed and will be implemented on the ground upon full completion and official approval".

Security personnel and equipment

"Once the plans are in place, it is expected that the security situation inside the cities and beyond will be stabilised," al-Mousawi said.

Without going into the specifics, he said, the plan "aims at protecting restaurants on external roads and monitoring vehicle movement on international highways, in addition to tightening security at checkpoints along external roads and co-ordinating the movement of military convoys and checking their identities".

Al-Mousawi called on the federal government not to focus on security in Baghdad at the expense of other provinces.

He said 5,000 additional security personnel are needed to support the police in Dhi Qar, and noted that its police station is responsible for the Nasiriyah Correctional Facility, one of the largest prisons in the country.

"Hardened Iraqi and foreign terrorists" are serving sentences there, he said.

Al-Mousawi requested sonar equipment to help detect explosives -- which could be installed at the entry points to the city and along external roads in an effort to detect car bombs -- and police dogs trained to sniff out explosives.

The current war is one of information and intelligence, he added, calling on the federal government to support the intelligence services in the province through more training and equipment.

Iraqi MP Hakim al-Zamili, who chairs the parliamentary security committee, told Diyaruna that "a weak intelligence presence and lack of information were reasons why the latest security breach occurred in Nasiriyah".

The southern Iraqi provinces, including Dhi Qar, are in dire need of heightened security efforts and intensive training courses, he said, not to mention special equipment, which would help prevent future attacks.

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