On Tuesday, November 21, a car bomb exploded in the village of Tuz Khourmatu (Salah Al-Din province), around 170 km (105 mi) north of Baghdad, reportedly leaving at least 21 people dead and injuring 50 others. The assailant drove a truck into busy a fruit and vegetable market and detonated explosives inside the vehicle. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, however early reporting indicates the target may have been Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) members. If confirmed, the attack would be the first to have targeted Shi'a militia units in the area since Iraqi security forces retook the town from Kurdish Peshmerga forces on October 16.
The village of Tuz Khourmatu is home to residents of many ethnic backgrounds - including Turkmen, Kurds, and Arabs. The area was previously affected by a wave of violence in mid-October related to disputed territories claimed by both the Kurds and the central Iraqi government. Tensions remain high between ethnic Kurds, Iraqi security forces, and PMU units in the region.
Terrorist attacks are common across Iraq. Diversionary and retaliatory attacks by the Islamic State (IS) have become increasingly common as IS has recently lost territory in Iraq and in neighboring Syria. It is likely that the group will continue to employ asymmetric terrorist tactics with greater frequency, using small cells that can operate within the group's progressively fragmenting leadership structure.
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.