ISIS used a ‘unique, strange and terrible’ weapon that killed 292 Iraqis in Baghdad on July 3rd.
The worst ever attack by the terrorist group was carried out using a car bomb that went undetected through security checkpoints and was uniquely designed to have a devastating effect.
Hardly a day goes by without an attack somewhere in a city laced with security checkpoints and armed guards.
But the explosion in Baghdad’s Karrada neighbourhood was no ordinary bomb. From its design to its destination, this attack underlines that IS has found a new way to inflict harm and cause terror.
“Daesh used, for the first time, a new tactic which helped it to move undetected through checkpoints,” a Western security source in Baghdad tells me, using the name for IS more commonly used in the region.
“We’ve never seen it before, and it’s very worrying.”
‘Unique’ chemical mix
Precise details of the attack, which is under Iraqi investigation, are still being pieced together.
The tactic known as a VBIED – vehicle-borne improvised explosive device – is now widely used in suicide bombings.
But this one is said to differ in the way the explosives were placed in the van, and how the chemicals were put together.
“It’s really difficult to make,” an explosives expert who has knowledge of the investigation explained, saying the device may have been developed in the Iraqi city of Falluja when it was under IS control.
“Daesh has given a lot of thought to how to move through checkpoints.”
The bomb-makers are believed to have taken a formula “available on the internet”, and then adjusted the quantities to reduce its risk of detection, and increase its impact.
Several Iraqi experts also described the mix of chemicals as “unique”.
“We are used to big fires but the chemicals in this bomb were used for the first time in Iraq,” says Brigadier General Kadhim Bashir Saleh of the Civil Defense Force.
“It was unique, strange, and terrible.”
Another Iraqi security expert, Hisham al-Hashimi, told me he believes a similar mix of explosives may have been used, only once, in an attack by al-Qaeda in 2004.
Major attacks in Iraq since 2003
3 July 2016: Islamic State bombing in Baghdad kills 292
August 2014: IS kill hundreds of minority Yazidi men and boys in Nineveh province, north-west of Baghdad
12 June 2014: Up to 1,700 military recruits are killed by IS at a former US base, an incident known as the Camp Speicher massacre
19 August 2009: Two car bombs near the Green Zone in Baghdad kill at least 155 people
14 August 2007: Multiple suicide bombings targeting the Yazidi community in northern Iraq kill more than 500 people
23 November 2006: More than 200 people killed as six car bombs detonate in the Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad
But he describes this new tactic deployed by IS as “very serious and dangerous”.
The van exploded on the narrow street just after midnight shortly before Eid Festival when shops were packed with families, football fans were glued to big screens, and the billiard hall was doing brisk business.
Several say the heat created by the first blast was “as hot as the surface of the sun”.
The explosion left no gaping crater, and its impact did not wreck the nearest buildings.
But it set off secondary fires which turned out to be the most deadly of all.