The following commentary originally appeared in Musings On Iraq
2008 has been the year of the female suicide bomber. The first incidents occurred in 2003 when two women carried out separate bombings that year. In 2004 there were no such attacks, but there were four between 2005 and 2006, and then eight in 2007. In comparison, there have been 34 as of November 24, 2008 when the last bombing happened. So far 295 people have been killed this year as a result, and 731 wounded. The favorite targets have been Shiite pilgrims traveling to holy cities in the south, local police, and the Sons of Iraq. Diyala in the northeast of has seen the most attacks in 2008 with 19, nine in the provincial capital of Baquba. Baghdad was second with six attacks. Islamist insurgents are believed to be organizing these attacks, which shows both their dire situation, and their ability to adapt.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is generally considered to be behind this new terror tactic. Using women came out of desperation for the group. Before, foreign fighters were the favorite means to carry out suicide attacks. Most of these came through Syria, and entered Iraq through Anbar province. As security improved this supply shriveled up. From February to June 2007 for example, the U.S. estimated that between 80-110 foreigners came to Iraq. By 2008 that dropped to 12-15. Forced to adjust, the Islamists turned to women because they were easier to get passed security checkpoints.
According to Iraqi intelligence there are three Sunni clerics in charge of this program. They target women that have lost family members to U.S. or Iraqi security forces. Women with family problems are also recruited. They are told that they can solve their issues by committing suicide. Females usually go through four days of training led by a holy man. Al Qaeda’s front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claims that these women are then organized into an all female squad called Naseeba al-Ansariya Martydom Battalion. The U.S. doubts this unit actually exists, but there are definitely networks in Diyala working to gain women bombers.
The U.S. and Iraq have attempted to foil these attacks using a combination of defensive tactics, and going on the offensive in Diyala. The Americans started a new program called the Daughters of Iraq in the province in July 2008. As of October 80 women have graduated. At the same time, Iraq launched a security offensive in the province towards the end of July meant to flush out Al Qaeda in Iraq from the countryside where they are based. While some attacks have been foiled, and a few women have been arrested before they could detonate their bombs, ultimately, there is probably nothing that can be done to completely end these suicide bombings. On the one hand they show the weakness of the insurgency because their traditional methods have dried up, while on the other their ability to survive in a new security environment.
2008 Female Suicide Attacks In Iraq
1. 1/2/08 a women bomber killed chief Abu Sajad, head of a local Sons of Iraq unit in Baquba, Diyala province along with six others. Twenty-two were wounded. This was the second attack in three days using a female bomber against tribal Sons of Iraq forces.
2. 1/16/08 a women bomber killed eight and wounded seven in a market in the Shiite town of Khan Bani Saad near Baquba, Diyala province.
3. 1/29/08 a women set off her bomb at a police checkpoint to a market in Baghdad killing two and wounding five.
4. & 5. 2/1/08 a female bomber killed forty-five and wounded 82 in a pet market in Baghdad. A few minutes later another women bomber set off her bomb at another market in Baghdad killing 27 and wounding 67. Initial reports that both women were mentally handicapped later turned out to be false.
6. 2/17/08 a woman bomber set her device off after being stopped at a checkpoint in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad killing three and wounding ten.
7. 3/10/08 in Kanaan, Diyala province outside of Baquba, a woman bomber killed Sheikh Thaeir Ghadhban al-Karkhi, head of the town’s Sons of Iraq unit.
8. 3/17/08 a woman detonated her bomb in the middle of a crowd of Shiites in the holy city of Karbala killing 40 and wounding 65.
9. 3/19/08 in Balad Ruz, Diyala province a woman suicide bomber killed four, including two policemen, and wounded twelve outside of an office that arranges religious pilgrimages.
10. 4/22/08 a police station in Baquba, Diyala province was attacked by a woman bomber who killed eight, including five policemen, and wounded seventeen.
11. 4/23/08 a female bomber attacked a police station in Diyala province killing eighteen and wounding two.
12. 4/29/08 in Abu Saida, Diyala, a woman set off her bomb amongst a group of Sons of Iraq fighters, killing two of them and wounding ten.
13. 4/29/08 a female suicide bomber set off her bomb at a bus stop near Muqdadiyah, Diyala province killing one and wounding five.
14. 5/14/08 a woman blew herself up killing a Shiite army commander in Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad.
15. 5/17/08 a woman in Diyala province detonated a car bomb alongside an Iraqi security forces vehicle wounding seven.
16. 5/17/08 a woman suicide bomber blew herself up attacking a Sons of Iraq unit in Diyala province killing one and wounding sixteen.
17. 5/20/08 a woman blew herself up outside of the house of Sheikh Mutlib al-Nidawi, the head of a Sons of Iraq group in Mandili, Diyala province, killing one family member and wounding al-Nidawai and two of his guards.
18. 5/20/08 a female suicide bomber killed a Sons of Iraq fighter and wounded seven others outside a police station in Rutba.
19. 5/21/08 two police and four others were wounded when a woman set off her bomb outside of a Sons of Iraq headquarters in Anbar City.
20. 6/7/08 four policemen and two civilians were wounded in Khalidiya by a female bomber outside a police station in Anbar province.
21. 6/14/08 in the town of Qara Tappah outside of Baghdad, a woman bomber targeted a café where people were watching the Iraqi soccer team play China in the World Cup. 34 were wounded.
22. 6/22/08 a woman set off her bomb near a government office building in Baquba killing thirteen people and wounding 30. The bomb was aimed at a police patrol.
23. 6/29/08 a female bomber blew herself up near a Sons of Iraq council in Baquba wounding three.
24. 7/7/08 a female suicide bomber detonated herself in a market in Baquba killing nine .
25. 7/24/08 a woman attacked a Sons of Iraq (SOI) unit in Baquba killing eight SOI fighters, and wounding 24. The target was Sheikh Naaim al-Dulaimi, the SOI leader of western Baquba, who was killed along with several of his bodyguards.
26. 7/28/08 Three female suicide bombers attacked a crowd of Shiite pilgrims in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad as they were traveling to the Kadhimiya Shrine. 32 people were killed, 100 wounded. This was the third deadliest attack by a woman bomber of 2008.
27. 8/11/08 a woman walked up to a police checkpoint at a market in Baquba, Diyala province and detonated her bomb killing one and wounding fourteen.
28. 8/14/08 two women attacked Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala. The bombing occurred in Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad. 19 were killed, 75 wounded.
29. 9/15/08 a woman detonated her bomb outside of a jail where police officers were waiting for one of their comrades to be released killing 22 and wounding 34 in Diyala.
30. 10/8/08 woman bomber attacked police and soldiers outside of a courthouse in Baquba, Diyala province killing 9 and wounding 21.
31. 10/17/08 Sons of Iraq (SOI) guards fired on a woman who refused to stop in the town of Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad. She detonated her bomb before being killed injuring five SOI members.
32. 11/8/08 a suspicious woman was chased by the police. She detonated her bomb outside of a hospital in Fallujah killing 3, wounding 10, most of which were medical personnel.
33. 11/9/08 a thirteen-year-old girl detonated a bomb by a Sons of Iraq checkpoint in Baquba, Diyala. Killed four Sons of Iraq members and wounded 15.
34. 11/24/08 three bombs were set off in Baghdad. One was by a woman outside an entrance to the Green Zone that targeted employees of the country’s intelligence service. The woman’s bomb killed five and injured 17.
Adas, Basil, “Recruitment of suicide bombers down – official,” Gulf News, 6/6/08
Agence France Presse, “Bombs kill six in Iraq’s dangerous Diyala province,” 8/11/08
- “Female suicide bomber kills 16 in Iraq,” 6/22/08
- “Woman suicide bomber kills eight in Iraq: police,” 7/24/08
Alsumaria, “Iraq female bombers driven by revenge,” 8/7/08
Associated Press, “28 militants, Iraqi official killed,” USA Today, 4/29/08
- “Female suicide bomber strikes checkpoint in Baghdad, killing 2 women,” Jerusalem Post, 1/29/08
- “Police: Female suicide bomber kills 3 in Iraq,” MSNBC.com, 2/17/08
- “U.S.-backed operation begins in Diyala province of Iraq,” USA Today, 7/29/08
BBC News, “Iraq suicide blasts cause carnage,” 7/28/08
- “Twin bombs kill scores in Baghdad,” 2/1/08
Black, Ian and Norton-Taylor, Richard, “Experts fear new front with al-Qaida as terror group switches focus from Iraq,” Guardian, 6/11/08
Brookings Institution, “Iraq: One Year Later,” 6/13/08
CNN, “Female suicide bomber kills 40 in Iraq, official says,” 3/17/08
- “U.S. trains Iraqi women to find female suicide bombers,” 6/24/08
Chulov, Martin, “Violent province’s 27 female suicide bombers who set to destroy Iraqi hopes of peace,” Guardian, 11/12/08
Frederick, Jim, “Keeping the Sunni-Shi’a Peace,” Time, 5/28/08
Gamel, Kim, “Female suicide attackers kill 57 in Iraq,” Associated Press, 7/28/08
- “Female suicide bomber strikes soccer fans in Iraq,” Associated Press, 6/14/08
- “Suicide bomber kills 8 US-allied Sunnis in Iraq,” Associated Press, 7/24/08
- “Women bombers show shifting insurgent tactics in Iraq,” Associated Press, 6/6/08
Ghosh, Bobby, “The Mind of a Female Suicide Bomber,” Time, 6/23/08
Haynes, Deborah, “Thirteen burned alive in Baghdad bus bomb,” Times of London, 11/24/08
Al Jazeera, “Suicide blasts target Iraq pilgrims,” 8/15/08
Kadhim, Hussein, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq-Sunday 9 November 2008,” 11/9/08
KUNA, “Woman suicide bomber sets off explosives at hospital entrance in Iraq,” 11/9/08
Londono, Ernesto, “At least 15 killed by Female Bomber in Iraq,” Washington Post, 6/23/08
- “Iraq Bombings Leave 30 Dead,” Washington Post, 9/16/08
McClatchy Newspapers, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Tuesday 22 April 2008,” 4/22/08
Monsters and Critics, “Calm in Baghdad’s Sadr City, some violence elsewhere,” 5/21/08
- “Female bomber kills 18 in attack on Iraq police station (Extra),” 4/23/08
Moore, Solomon, “A 2nd female bomber hits U.S.-allied Iraqi tribesman,” International Herald Tribune, 1/2/08
Multi-National Corps – Iraq, “2 female suicide bombers in Diyala kill 1, wound 23,” 5/17/08
Naughton, Philippe, “Girl, 13, is Iraq’s latest suicide bomber,” Times of London, 11/10/08
O’Rourke, Lindsey, “Behind the Woman Behind the Bomb,” New York Times, 8/2/08
Oppel, Richard, “8 Die in Iraq in Suicide Bombing, Apparently by Woman,” New York Times, 7/25/08
Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Dozens Kill in Iraq Suicide Bombings,” Washington Post, 7/28/08
- “Female Suicide Bombers Are Latest War Tactic,” Washington Post, 9/17/08
Raghavan, Sudarsan and Sarhan, Saad, “Suicide Bomber Kills 18 in Iraq,” Washington Post, 8/15/08
Reuters, “FACTBOX – Security developments in Iraq, Jan 16,” 1/16/08
- “FACTBOX – Security developments in Iraq, May 20,” 5/20/08
- “Female bomber kills seven in northeast Iraq,” 7/24/08
- “Woman suicide bomber kills four in Iraq – police,” 3/19/08
Roggio, Bill, “Letters from Al Qaeda leaders show Iraqi effort is in disarray,” Long War Journal.org, 9/11/08
Rubin, Alissa, “Despair Drives Suicide Attacks by Iraqi Women,” New York Times, 7/5/08
Spangler, Nicholas and Kadhim, Hussein, “Iraqi bombings kill dozens, wound more than 200,” McClatchy Newspapers, 7/28/08
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/08
Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Female suicide bomber wounds 5 in Iraq,” CNN, 10/18/08
Topix.com, “Iraq: Female Suicide Bomber Kills 3,” 3/10/08
Al-Tuwaijri, Ali, “Woman suicide bomber kills nine outside Iraq court,” Agence France Presse, 10/8/08
Vanden Brook, Tom, “Roadside bombs decline in Iraq,” USA Today, 6/22/08
Voices of Iraq, “Female suicide attacker wound six near Ramadi,” 6/7/08
- “Revenge, illiteracy push up female suicide bombers’ number in Diala,” 7/8/08
- “Suicide bombing wounds 3 Sahwa fighters in Diala,” 6/29/08
Washington Times, “Female bombers spreading more terror,” 5/20/08
Weaver, Matthew, “Female suicide bomber kills nine in Iraq,” Guardian, 7/7/08
Xinhua, “Iraqi soldiers foil suicide bomb attack in Mosul,” 4/29/08