Militants under pressure?

Militants in Iraq are keen to present themselves as able to strike at any place and at any time, but according to one analyst they are coming under increasing pressure.

Military operations aimed at ejecting them from their strongholds and paralysing their activities are ongoing, Hazim Jawad Yousif, a Baghdad-based security analyst told IRIN, but he warned: “It is like a balloon filled with water. When you press it on one side the water moves to the other.”

“They [militants] will spare no effort to prove that they are still a hardened number in Iraq’s security equation, and that they have the ability to strike anywhere they want with any tool even if it is by using children, women or disabled persons,” Yousif, a retired army major-general, said.

Yousif said militants had now resorted to training women as suicide bombers to penetrate security checkpoints by exploiting Muslim sensitivities which prevent women from being searched by men.

The militants are determined to get their own way and will stop at nothing to achieve their aims: If necessary they will use disabled persons or even children to help launch attacks, he said.

Yousif urged the Iraqi government to counter extremism by launching a war of minds.

“The more psycho-social programmes we have for women, and even for desperate men, the greater the threat we pose to militant groups,” said Iman Rafi’ Awad, an independent woman activist.

The latest attack in which militants used women was on 17 March when a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the presence of Shia worshippers in the holy city of Karbala, killing at least 43 and injuring 75, police said. Karbala, about 120km south of Baghdad, is the site of the most revered Shia shrine.

The attack brought to at least 20 the number of suicide bombings involving women since the US-led invasion in 2003, including one on 1 February said to have been carried out by two disabled women in two Baghdad pet markets and which left 99 people dead.