WASHINGTON — On Monday, a coordinated sequence of terror killed scores of people across Iraq and put a spotlight on ISIL’s suicide bomber factory.
In the town of Muqdadiya, some 49 miles northeast of Baghdad, a twin suicide bombing killed 42 people at a cafe. Another 32 died in an attack on the al-Jawhara shopping mall in Baghdad, after a gunman charged into the facility and started shooting. The gunmen were all killed by Iraq security forces.
ISIL, much like al-Qaida in Iraq in the mid-2000s, seems to have an endless stream of people willing to die for sectarian or ideological reasons.
“They already have the incubators in place for people to blow themselves up, and to join the jihadi groups,” Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., told WTOP.
Iraq has seen more than 37 years of government and sectarian-based violence. Faily points to a culture of war that includes the Iran-Iraq conflict from 1980 to 1988; the Kuwaiti invasion of 1990; and U.S. presence in 2003.
Faily says several factors allowed incubation zones for suicide bombers to materialize. The wars, the intangible anger and death generated by then-dictator Saddam Hussein’s brutality, and the ruthlessness of al-Qaida and ISIL.
Iraq, by far, was hit hardest by suicide attacks, according to the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism. Incomplete data from 2015 indicates there were 190 attacks that killed 1,664 and wounded 2,728 people. Nigeria had 70 attacks, Afghanistan had 66 and Syria had 44.
Complete data from its 2014 research shows 39 percent of the world’s suicide attacks took place in Iraq. Afghanistan was second with 23 percent.
But while Iraq is home to the majority of suicide bombings, Iraqis are not responsible for most of them.
“When you look at the numbers and the personnel involved, we find that the majority of those that blow themselves up are not from Iraq. They are from overseas,” Faily said.
A groundbreaking 2009 study by Yale University’s Macmillian International and Area Studies program refocused the global view of the motivations of suicide bombers. It credited a wide range of factors, not just an individual decision.
“The evidence from the database largely discredits the common wisdom that the personality of suicide bombers and their religion are the principal cause,” the research showed.
“It shows that though religion can play a vital role in recruiting and motivating potential future suicide bombers, the driving force is not religion but a cocktail of motivations including politics, humiliation, revenge, retaliation and altruism.”
Faily believes the assessment still reflects the reality of suicide bombers today and “those who come from overseas already know they are going to a place where they will be able to practice what they’ve been taught about the concept of Holy War.”
He believes the geo-political stew simmering in the region promotes sectarianism, proxy wars and creates opportunities for those who chose conflict over calm.
This past summer, Faily told WTOP that suicide bombings in the west would become regular occurrences unless the world mobilized to stop the growing presence of terror groups.
He said the promotion and glamorization of suicide bombers to impressionable and vulnerable people would have far reaching consequences.
“This is a global problem,” Faily said. “What we’ve been saying for some time now and unfortunately, what took place in Paris is proof of what we prophesied before.”