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Re: [casi] Bomb in Najaf has kills 82, including leading Shia – FT

< while it may be a million miles away from perfect,
it certainly is more favourable for iraqis than life
under saddam.>

Thus writes someone who has NEVER lived in Iraq before
its occupation by the US/UK, and thus has no knowledge
of what goes on..

Until such time when this self-deception comes to an
end (probably when the orders come from somewhere in
southern Iraq or Iran!!), I am posting the latest
security report from Centurion Risk Assessment
Services, a British firm staffed by former Royal
Marine commandos and British Special forces personnel
that counsels journalists and businessmen on how to
operate safely in dangerous environments. I hope you
will all find it useful...


Sept 9, 2003


There has been a dramatic worsening in the security
situation in Baghdad. Attacks against coalition forces
remain a daily occurrence. This, coupled with general
lawlessness, makes the protection of organisations
such as media, aid agencies, NGOs and businesses a
more challenging task. These organisations are no
longer considered by the local population as impartial
and are seen as being aligned very definitely with US
interests within Iraq.

Many parts of the city are out of bounds due to the
increase in violence. The primary threats in Iraq
remain from terrorist groups who organise the arming
and planning of attacks on coalition forces. These
groups are adapting and improving their tactics,
techniques and procedures in daily attacks. Such
groups are emerging throughout areas within Iraq.

Small arms attacks continue but not all attacks are
the “drive by” shootings or “hit and run” attacks as
have recently occurred. The increase is in sustained
attacks with six or more Iraqis armed with small arms.

Areas in and around the borders of Basra/Iran are rife
with armed smugglers. Contraband includes drugs
smuggled from Afghanistan through Iran into Iraq.
Looted goods from the area are also being ferried
across into Iraq. There are numerous confrontations
between police and armed smugglers, resulting in
various levels of fire-fights.


Threats to all organisations working in Iraq are on
the increase with emphasis on the following:

- Close quarter “assassination” attack whilst working
out on the ground.
- Bomb attacks against hotels and occupied Western
- Under-vehicle improvised explosive device (UVIED)
attached to vehicles being used by agencies and
- Continuing armed attacks against convoys using the
main routes (Amman–Baghdad and Baghdad–Kuwait).
- Injury or fatality to non-military personnel who
happen to be travelling with or are embedded with
coalition forces.
- Continuing attacks especially on the media and aid
agencies in crowd disorders.
- Hijacking by criminal groups.


There is a high incidence of kidnapping. Numerous
attempts have been reported in the southern part of
Iraq and are mostly targeted at the local middle
classes. Most kidnappers are reported to be local
tribal groups.

The recent kidnapping of a sub-contractor from KBR in
Baghdad has made people more aware of the potential
threat that has been pending for a while. This may
become the first of many kidnappings, unfortunately.
The tempting potential is for acquiring easy money, as
happened in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan after the
main conflicts in those places.

The kidnapping is reported to be criminally motivated
which is not uncommon in Iraq. The vehicles involved
in the KBR kidnapping were reported to be two white


Bandits operating on routes where convoys are known to
regularly travel have no fear of retribution because
at time of writing coalition forces and local police
do not patrol those routes in any meaningful way.
Inevitably, the areas seem likely to become worse
instead of improving.

There are rumours that the police are going to start
to police the “dodgy” stretch of road between Jordan
and Baghdad and if that goes well and the threat has
been drastically reduced then that specific route will
be relatively safe to travel on again. It is not known
when this will happen.

The Fedayeen Saddam organisation stages convoy attacks
using decoy vehicles disabled on roadsides. Be aware
of all disused, abandoned vehicles as these could be
the launch platform of an ambush.

The route to Kuwait from Baghdad has become
increasingly dangerous as attackers have heard that
organisations are frequently using this route rather
than the Amman–Baghdad road. Advisors are considering
whether or not to keep using this road if the present
threat continues.

If embedded with the military, and whenever possible,
request to travel in an armoured vehicle. The
coalition force will usually provide this if the
planning and coordination is done at their planning
stage prior to the patrol leaving.

An unescorted mail convoy going from Al-Hillah was
ambushed. It did however have some coalition personnel
riding in some of the vehicles within the convoy. The
convoy took small arms fire and the driver in the lead
vehicle was shot and killed.

To reiterate the point: attackers can and have used
pick-up trucks and delivery vans to drive between
vehicles in convoys, then open fire with RPGs in order
to stop the vehicles or even the whole convoy.

As mentioned previously, unless the task is extremely
important travel with coalition forces should be
drastically restricted in order to reduce the threats
to non-military personnel in such incidents as
potential IEDs, ambushes, etc.

Since the route to Amman from Baghdad (passing Ramadi)
is becoming more dangerous, media companies are using
an alternative route that takes them to the border of
Turkey. This has proved to be a safer route for the
present, even though it means a slower journey as
there is a long drive and flight to undergo within
Turkey just to get to Istanbul. However, it is safer.
How long this route will remain safe from attacks and
ambushes is unknown, but at present it remains the

The roads in and around Basra have known “choke”
points where traffic at most times will come to a
standstill, giving the opportunity for bandits to
attack and steal.

Ensure that all windows, boot and doors are locked
while stationary at these locations. If you need a
window open while stationary then have it open only a
couple of inches so no one can get their hand in. Once
on the move open it fully if needed.

On the road north of Basra there have been several
hijackings, while the roads around the border areas
are occupied by armed smugglers and bandits.

Fuel tankers are still being hijacked for the fuel.
Sometimes the fuel is hijacked for personal use; on
other occasions it is sold on to organisations.

Numerous hijackings of vehicles are reported around
Basra, especially 4x4 type vehicles, most of which are
being driven across the border into Iran.

IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)

The number of command detonated IEDs and mortar rounds
continues to increase.
IED attacks are continuing and are on the increase as
sophistication in their construction improves.

IEDs appear to remain the weapons of choice. They are
being hidden in various things from rubbish boxes,
drink cans, ration boxes, disused and broken down
vehicles to even animal carcasses at the side of the

Use of these items is not a new tactic as experience
has proved in the past. Anything that can hide,
disguise and contain an IED will be used. Again,
beware of secondary explosions.

An IED was seen hanging from a tree ready to explode
on the next passing military convoy. It was reported
and defused.

A three-vehicle convoy including a bus carrying nine
foreign journalists was hit by two IEDs while
travelling on the road to Baghdad airport. Minor
injuries were reported to the guard force but the
journalists escaped any injuries even though there was
minor damage to the bus.

A military convoy was hit by an IED resulting in
injury to one soldier.

Another three-vehicle military convoy was struck by an
IED, wounding four soldiers. All were reported to be
in stable condition.

A red Volkswagen vehicle was reported to drive near a
coalition base and drop off the passenger who walked
towards the compound with a box. The box detonated,
killing the person carrying it and wounding two


It has been mentioned in prior reports that
communications need to be secure whenever possible.
This has proved to be an ongoing problem as reports
have mentioned that the use of mobile (cell) phones
are easily monitored. All travel plans, timings, how,
where, when, etc should be restricted to personnel who
need to know only. IEDs, ambushes, etc are usually the
result of either overheard or monitored calls. Do not
discuss the convoy or any potential tasks outside of
the office, especially in restaurants or bars.


There are flights operating from Amman–Baghdad and
Beirut–Baghdad operated by AIRSERV based in Amman but
they do enforce a strict baggage restriction.
Contact numbers: +962 796 748067 and 796 941365 /
Thuraya Sat phone +8821677443562.


There are major concerns from a threat of fire within
hotels. This has been mentioned by advisors on the
ground over the last few months.

It is strongly recommended that all personnel using
hotels make themselves familiar with fire drills, the
location and use of fire-fighting equipment, emergency
exits and emergency muster points. Emergency
procedures and drills should be discussed regularly
and fires should not be discounted as a minor threat.
Terrorists can deploy fire incendiary devices as well
as IEDs and also cause considerable damage in a “drive
by” throwing petrol bombs into hotels and other


The general feeling regarding Iraqis is that there is
increased tension between the population and coalition
forces. Originally this was attributed to the recent
funeral of the late Ayatollah Hakim, but generally
locals appear to be more aggressive.

Care should be taken not to antagonise Iraqis when out
and about, as people in both small groups and large
crowds can change from calm to hostile within minutes.

Some media personnel are causing concern by still
going into areas that have been mentioned by coalition
forces as “dangerous and stay out of…”. Individuals
are still venturing into these areas without heeding
warnings. The risk of injury or worse to the
individual or their crew is high if advice is ignored.
There are reports of different media personnel going
into these areas even after warnings both from
advisors as well and individuals’ own crew.

Just recently there was an incident in which someone
in the media wanted to take an advisor and crew into a
very tense area in the city despite advice to avoid
the mosque part of town. Sense eventually prevailed,
much to the relief of the cameraman and driver, who
had been roughly treated in the same area only the
previous day, having had a sword drawn on them and
rammed through the window of their GMC when they tried
to leave.

The advisors are there to give advice. If individuals
do not want to take that advice then why not make it
known to your bureau chief and see what can be done
about it? After all, the advisor is only there to
advise on your safety. So ask yourself, what is that
worth? Think about the safety of others you are
working with and not just your own personal ambition,
objective or aim.


A policeman trying to install some form of law and
order was killed on the Amman road at Ramadi on

An explosion in a detergent factory in Baghdad killed
three Iraqis and injured 75.

A car bomb was detonated in the Iraqi police compound
adjacent to the Rusafa police station in Baghdad.

Coalition forces found numerous weapons including
Sagger missiles and RPG rounds.

An Iraqi grain truck rammed a military vehicle into a
parked vehicle, turning it on its side and injuring
two soldiers.

A motorcyclist threw a grenade which landed under a
military vehicle, seriously wounding two soldiers.

There were a total of seven explosions believed to be
mortar attacks on coalition bases in a 48-hour period.
No injuries were reported. Mortar attacks are on the

There are reports of two missiles being fired at a US
aircraft approximately 15 miles north of the airport.
The missiles were detected by the aircraft and
appropriate counter-measures were put in place. The
missiles passed beneath the aircraft and detonated. No
damage or injuries were sustained.


Organisations are looking into the use of high
visibility jackets for the use of their staff whilst
working out on the ground with respective labelling,
e.g. TV, PRESS or AID AGENCY, etc printed on them. The
idea is that may reduce confusion over who they are
and what they are doing. If working with coalition
forces this may cause a problem as the military may
not want a person wearing a high visibility jacket on
their patrol who will stand out.

The other potential problem that could arise from
wearing this type of jacket will be easy targeting by
hostile forces. Attackers who really do not care who
they target will easily see a person wearing a
high-visibility jacket and may make their job of
sniping at that individual easier.

On the plus side, wearing a jacket with PRESS or TV or
AID AGENCY on the front and back may reduce the threat
from attacks from coalition forces as hopefully these
will be easily recognised by the security forces. If
this jacket is to be used then an agreement between
all civilian organisations and coalition forces may
need to be discussed.

These jackets must definitely not be worn at night as
they will certainly attract attention. However, no-one
should be operating after dark due to threats, curfews
and military operations.
If considering the use of such a vest you must
seriously weigh up the pros and cons.


Anyone approaching any coalition forces should do so
with utmost care and respect. With all the incidents
occurring to date against coalition forces it is only
to be expected that they are at a state of heightened
awareness about their own security.

Where possible make yourself known well in advance.

If necessary and you feel the situation is right, walk
up to them with your arms down and away to the sides
of your body (even if carrying equipment – better
still, leave the equipment with someone) so at least
they can see you are not carrying anything suspicious.

If the situation is right, openly talk to them as you
are approaching, explaining who you are and the reason
for your presence.

If they tell you to stop, etc, do exactly what they
tell you to do, until they have ascertained your
identity and reason for being there.

Remember that, like you, they have a difficult job to
do and they sometimes do not know who is hostile.

This is a time of intense terrorism. Not knowing when
the next attack is coming, from where, from whom and
by what means is very frightening for any soldier let
alone a civilian. Respect coalition forces’ security
implementations and the reasons for them.

There was an incident concerning a news crew who were
filming near a shrine in An Najaf. A pick-up truck
with 10 armed men all dressed in black arrived and
surrounded the crew. At first our advisor with the
crew thought they were local police but then realised
that the tactics, discipline and professionalism these
10 men were using showed otherwise. Their deployment
from the vehicle was quick, occupying positions
without being told to, some covering all round defence
while a couple targeted the crew. Their weapons were
new and consisted of AK47s with 100-round drum
magazines on some of them, and SMGs. The advisor told
the crew to stay put, relax and remain calm but also
informed them to look for immediate cover in the open
graves in case these men suddenly opened fire on them.

The leader of these armed men gave the fixer and
drivers a hard time whilst pulling the inside of the
vehicles apart as they searched. After 10 minutes the
fixer gave these men bottled water. They took one sip
and threw the rest away. They eventually left telling
the crew they were not welcome and not to film near
the shrine again. The crew left and headed back to the
hotel immediately.

On returning to the hotel the drivers and fixer
informed the advisor and crew that the 10 armed men
knew they were from the media organisation they
belonged to, knew where they were staying, but
informed the fixer that they were from the “Badr”

This incident is not the first to be reported of men
claiming to be from the “Badr”, armed and patrolling
around Holy sites and checkpoints leading to the Holy
sites. The word “Badr” is on their arm bands in
Arabic. These groups are apparently patrolling the
areas without any authorisation from the CPA. There
are reports that US forces have disarmed some of these
groups in the past.

If these groups approach you, remain calm and stand
still, let them search your vehicles and possessions
and do not antagonise them. Do not argue; do not speak
until spoken to. If you have an Iraqi with you,
whether a driver or fixer, brief them before going out
on task to ensure everyone in the crew is sure of what
to do. Let the driver or fixer do the explaining to
try to defuse the situation. Any warning or advice
these armed men give you – do it and get out.


Basra remains under British forces’ control and
compared with other parts of Iraq has not been the
scene of too many sustained terrorist attacks. It is
reported to be a lot quieter with fewer incidents.
However crowd disorders leading to intense violence
have occurred on many occasions due to the lack of
water, food and fuel shortages.

Major looting is still occurring throughout areas in
Basra. Whenever possible lock and secure all goods
including vehicles and rooms.

Due to the number of political parties in Basra with
armed militia there have been many clashes between
them and numerous fire-fights have ensued. Be aware of
crossfire. If caught in crossfire hit the ground as
fast as possible and seek improved cover -- holes in
ground, natural banks, thick walls, etc -- and remain
there until the firing has stopped.


The anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks
approaches so, again, be vigilant, aware, observant
and above all use common sense at all times. Report
anything that may seem out of the ordinary or any
object that doesn’t look right to the advisors or
coalition forces. In doing so, you will assist and
benefit the overall security of one and all in Iraq.

There is a continuing threat against targets such as
pipelines, power stations and water pipes. Reports
continue to pass around organisations operating in
Iraq predicting large number of attacks not just
against the coalition forces but also civilians from
the media, aid agencies, NGOs and businesses. As
always, utmost vigilance is required, improve your
security both personally and collectively.

Listen to our advisors who are with you. You may have
had numerous years of experience working in hostile
areas such as previous wars, but remember the advisor
has as well, and his advice is from many years of
specialised experience, specifically from a military
perspective, knowing how terrorists work and operate
and the different tactics they employ, what they are
capable of and what different weapons, IEDs, grenades
can do. So the advisors can offer you a lot of advice.

Since the beginning of the conflict our advisors have
saved lives and reduced injury to media crews and
other organisations. They have defused situations on
many occasions, so trust them. They do know what they
are doing.

Many thanks to Centurion advisors in Iraq for
providing information for this Field Report.

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