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< 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... HZ ---------------------------------- http://www.centurion-riskservices.com/mediasafetynet/ LATEST SECURITY REPORT FROM CENTURION ADVISORS IN IRAQ Sept 9, 2003 GENERAL 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. CURRENT THREATS 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 premises. - Under-vehicle improvised explosive device (UVIED) attached to vehicles being used by agencies and organisations. - 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. KIDNAPPINGS 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 Nissans. CONVOY VEHICLE SECURITY 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 safest. 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 road. 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 soldiers. COMMUNICATIONS 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. FLIGHTS 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. HOTELS 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 buildings. LOCALS 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. OTHER INCIDENTS A policeman trying to install some form of law and order was killed on the Amman road at Ramadi on Sunday. 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 increase. 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. HIGH VISIBILITY VESTS (IDENTIFICATION) 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. PERSONAL SAFETY 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” bodyguards. 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 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. SUMMARY 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. __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! 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