Center for Strategic Communication

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, an al Qaeda branch in the Middle East, killed 21 people in a suicide attack at a military recruiting center in Baghdad today. The attack was launched as the ISIS continues to control Fallujah, parts of Ramadi, and other areas in Anbar province.

The suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives outside the Iraqi Army recruitment center at the Muthanna airport in Baghdad, according to the National Iraqi News Agency. Iraqi officials reported that 21 Iraqis, including four soldiers protecting the center, were killed and 35 more were wounded in the deadly blast.

Between 2005 and 2007, ISIS predecessor al Qaeda in Iraq routinely attacked military and police recruitment sites with suicide and car bombs in an effort to dissuade Iraqis from joining the security forces.

Today’s attack takes place as the Iraqi government is contemplating military action to retake the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi from the ISIS, which seized Anbar’s two largest cities last week. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda seizes partial control of 2 cities in western Iraq.] Although Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki initially said the military would move in to retake the cities, he is now encouraging Anbar’s tribes to fight the ISIS.

Fallujah remains fully under the control of the ISIS and allied tribes one week after Iraqi forces were withdrawn from the city. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda, tribal allies ‘control’ Fallujah.] Half of Ramadi is still said to be controlled by the ISIS. Iraqi forces have blockaded the cities, and in Fallujah, troops are launching artillery strikes into civilian areas thought to be held by the ISIS.

In addition to Fallujah and Ramadi, the city of Karma, which is just east of Fallujah, has also fallen to the ISIS, according to The New York Times. Iraqi security forces have “isolated the Karma area … from Abu Ghraib,” a district in the western part of Anbar province, “by emplacing concrete block to separate them apart,” the National Iraqi News Agency reported yesterday.

While the ISIS remains in control of large areas of Anbar, Iraqi forces claimed to have killed several top leaders in the group. The military said it killed Bashir Alewi Markab, an al Qaeda “prince,” in Karma on Jan. 6

In Ramadi, the military reported that Khalid Ali, the ISIS’ military commander for the city, was killed along with four fighters. Abu Abelrahman al Baghdadi, who is said to be the ISIS’s emir for Ramadi, is rumored to have been killed at the start of the fighting in the city.

North of Baghdad in the town of Tarmiyah, the military claimed to have killed Abdul Rahman, who is said to be the driver for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the ISIS.