Terror groups are turning to a new weapon in attempts to intimidate the local populace: the knife. Stabbings are increasing in Iraq because, as one al-Qaeda insider says, assassination by knife is cheaper and easier amid high security.
The corpse that Iraqi authorities found in west Baghdad on May 2 was similar to other corpses in some ways. For instance, the dead man was a security guard and a member of a political party. But what was different was the way in which the man had been killed: rather than being shot, he had been stabbed.
Only a few days beforehand, at the end of April, a family of four in east Baghdad had been killed in a similar way. NIQASH also spoke with the relatives of two more people who were stabbed to death over the past few weeks - family members didn’t want to go on the record with comments for fear of retribution.
And the Iraqi authorities have found this noteworthy. “Since November 2011, there have been an increasing number of attacks and assassination attempts using knives,” they said.
Interestingly no accurate statistics are kept on knife attacks because they are not classified as serious enough. “Knife attacks are not considered terrorist attacks,” the deputy Minister of the Interior, Ahmed al-Khafaji, said. “However the Ministry is going to further discuss how these new methods can be combated.”
A source, well informed about methods being used by Sunni Muslim extremist organisation, al-Qaeda, agreed. “The organization has started to use knives more and it is also using more guns with silencers,” the source told NIQASH. “Recent reports from inside the organisation indicate that al-Qaeda started using knives in assassination attempts when there were tighter security measures. And in simpler operations, it’s just easier to use a knife. Al-Qaeda plans to use more knives in individual assassinations because the risk of failure is lower and because attacking like this costs less money.”
During Iraq’s recent, most deadly, period of conflict – between 2006 and 2007 - al-Qaeda’s ambitions involved controlling Iraq’s mostly Sunni provinces as well as the mostly Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad. Over the ensuing years, the US military and their local allies managed to retake a lot of these areas – however since the departure of the US military at the end of 2011, there have been more attacks and assassinations (possibly motivated by revenge and aimed at intimidation), which have increasingly used knives.
“The number of attacks with knives hasn’t yet equalled the number using guns with silencers,” MP Shwan Mohammed Taha, a member of the parliamentary committee on security and defence, said. “But the number of knife attacks is growing.”
Perhaps this is far from surprising though; observers of terrorist groups in Iraq say the groups adapt quickly.
“Armed groups develop methods to suit their circumstances,” local political analyst, Usama Murtada, a professor at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, explained. “However, the Iraqi security forces are not adapting as well, or as quickly, and are not foiling these new methods.”