A suicide bomber killed more than 20 people in a market near the Shi’a city of Kerbala on Friday, June 9. Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, which came ten days after a bombing in Baghdad killed more than 25 civilians.
These attacks came as Muslims in Iraq and around the world celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The Baghdad attack occurred as Iraqis were gathered en masse in the streets and restaurants of the city to break the daily Ramadan fast. During Ramadan 2016, Baghdad witnessed one of its deadliest-ever attacks, when an IS suicide bomber killed more than 300 people in the Karrada neighborhood.
Ramadan is a period of reflection and self-restraint and it carries great significance within the Muslim calendar. Muslims traditionally observe daytime fasting and are called to practice increased devotion and abstain from certain activities. Ramadan typically marks a significant increase in the terror threat in many Muslim-majority countries. In recent years, IS, as well as other groups, have called on their fighters to perpetrate attacks during the holy month, which takes place from May 26 to June 25 in 2017. Generally speaking, terrorist attacks are already common across the country, particularly in Baghdad, as Iraqi authorities continue their fight to eliminate IS from their territory. Diversionary and retaliatory attacks by IS have become increasingly common since the Mosul offensive was launched in mid-October 2016, led by Iraqi security forces and backed by Shi'a Popular Mobilization forces and tribal groups.
Individuals in Iraq are advised remain aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious behavior. It is advised not to eat, drink, or smoke in public throughout this period to avoid drawing undue attention to yourself. Travelers are also advised to allow additional time for travel and to avoid any form of public demonstration or public gathering.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is permissible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.