February 20, 2007

Desperate Insurgents Detonate Chemical Bomb

A chemical tanker carrying chlorine gas and equipped with a bomb killed 5-6 Iraqi civilians and injured over 100 when detonated outside a restaurant in the Iraqi town of Taji:

A tanker carrying chlorine gas exploded Tuesday morning outside a restaurant in the Iraqi town of Taji, killing at least six people, an Interior Ministry official said. At least 105 other people were either injured by the blast or poisoned by the fumes.

The official said a bomb on board the tanker caused the explosion.

Baghdad Security plan spokesman Gen. Qassim Atta had different casualty figures, telling state-run al-Iraqiya TV that five people died in the blast and 148 were poisoned by the gas.

Taji is located about 12 miles (20 km) north of Baghdad.

Somewhat ironically, Taji was home to a Saddam-era airfield and Iraqi Republican Guard base that had a large complex used to manufacture chemical weapons. UNSCOM found 6,000 canisters at the base that would have been filled with chemical weapons for 122mm rockets. In 1998, UNSCOM weapons inspectors found that the Iraqis had loaded VX nerve agent into missile warheads prior to the 1990-91 Gulf War for apparent use against the coalition, but these weapons were never used.

The use of a chemical bomb in Iraq is a new escalation for the Sunni insurgency, and one that may indicate a certain level of desperation for those who would use a weapon that comes with such a stigma. Based upon the nature of the weapon, it's location, and its target (a civilian restaurant) is reasonable to make the assumption that the remnants of what used to be al Qaeda in Iraq, which has folded along with other collapsing Sunni insurgent groups into an organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq, is behind the bombing.

The group was created last year as coalition forces continued to decimate various elements of the Sunni insurgency, and the survivors decided to come together "to unify their efforts and coordinate attacks" in a futile effort to establish a Sunni caliphate within Iraq under Sharia law.

Last August, al Qaeda in Iraq "oveplayed its hand" when it murdered Sheik Khalid of the Albu Ali Jassim tribe, and in response, Sunni tribes have been actively hunting and killing insurgents in a movement of Sunni tribes known as "the Awakening."

Since then, al Qaeda and its increasingly fewer affiliate Islamists has more often been the hunted than the hunter, and the use of a chemical bomb today hints at the level of desperation they have now reached.

While the western media is almost certain to interpret the attack as an increase in the level of violence to counter the "surge" of American and Iraqi troops and implementation of the the Petraeus plan designed to crush the remaining al Qaeda strongholds, it is doubtful they will recognize, much less publicize, the level of desperation that the Sunni Islamists militants in Iraq have reached to use a weapon that can only diminish their collapsing support.

al Qaeda in Iraq is dying, and there is a noticeable feeling that momentum is shifting no only in Iraq, but at home, to finish this war with victory (h/t Instapundit).

The Sunni Islamists in Iraq are becoming ever more desperate. The war in Iraq is far from over, but there seems little chance that these elements of the insurgency, increasing turned upon by the very Sunni tribes that once made up their base of support, will survive as any sort of cohesive force.

Update: Hot Air reminds us that this was not the first attempt to detonate a chemical bomb, just the first successful attempt.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 20, 2007 11:55 AM

I am actually suprised that the terrorists didn't save this one to go after a US base. They must have been pressured to 'use it or lose it' to waste it on slaughtering Shiites. Chemical weapons are so risky. A wrong wind and the gas cloud could have wound up in a Sunni neighborhood. This will not play well on the "Arab Street" for Al Qaeda.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at February 20, 2007 12:40 PM