On 19 February a suicide car bomber attacked the Baghdad Police Academy. Nineteen died in the first major al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) incident since the 27 January attack on a Baghdad hospital. The relative lull in major AQI activity was likely a result of the ending of the Shia festival of Arbaeen (a perennial target) and a slight improvement in the political situation. Nonetheless, the Academy has been targeted before (28 people were killed there in March 2009) and will have been prepared for an attack. AQI’s ability to strike such a heavily guarded facility demonstrates that it remains a very potent threat.
Moreover, AQI continues to target figures within the Sunni Awakening Councils (and people associated with them). Indeed, 340 civilians died in January, up from 155 in December: a significant spike only partially explained by the major attacks marking Arbaeen. Moreover, at least 65 militants have so far been executed in 2012 as al-Maliki takes advantage of his current control of both the Interior and Defence Ministries, and three more will be hanged imminently (the total for 2011 was 68). AQI therefore has a very strong incentive to seek revenge, and will likely do so once political tensions (discussed below) worsen once again.