Foreign travel advice

Iraq

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Iraq. Extremist groups like Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) are responsible for the majority of attacks. Following Parliament’s support on 26 September 2014 for UK airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq, there is a heightened threat of attacks against western interests in Iraq.

Following Daesh’s expansion into the country in 2014, there have been numerous and frequent terrorist attacks, and levels of violence remain high. The UN has reported that at least 7,515 civilians were killed by terrorism and violence during 2015. This trend has continued in 2016.

Attacks are more frequent in areas where Daesh has a strong presence and capability, such as Anbar, Baghdad, Ninewah, Salah-Al-Din, Diyala and Tam’mim (Kirkuk) provinces, but can and do occur throughout the entire country.

Terrorist attacks are common in Baghdad city, where Daesh frequently targets the Iraqi government, security forces and Shia civilians. Attacks have also occurred in the Kurdistan Region with a small number in Erbil and its surrounds in 2015.

Targets for terrorist attacks have included: residential compounds, military establishments, oil facilities, public transport, commercial venues, including markets and stores, maritime facilities, land border crossings, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, large crowds, police stations, party political offices/events, sports venues/stadiums and religious sites/ceremonies. While attacks can take place at any time, there’s a heightened threat during religious or public holidays.

Methods of attack have included shootings, large-scale co-ordinated bombings designed to cause mass casualties, suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, rockets and mortars. In the early months of 2014 and in October 2014 there were several reports of indirect fire on the International Zone in Baghdad and Baghdad International Airport.

Foreign nationals, including those of non-western appearance, are high value targets for terrorists, insurgents and criminals. Indiscriminate attacks against public places and Iraqi civilians also occur.

On 3 July 2016, a truck bomb killed at least 200 civilians and injured several others in a busy shopping district of central Baghdad. Daesh claimed responsibility. A second explosion in another part of the city killed five civilians.

On 17 April 2015, a car bomb detonated outside the US Consulate General in the district of Ainkawa in Erbil. At least 3 civilians were killed and more than 8 injured in the attack. Daesh subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Kidnap

There’s a high threat of kidnapping in Iraq from both Daesh and other terrorist and militant groups. Kidnappings can be for purely ideological reasons as well as financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. British nationals have previously been targeted. Individuals have been kidnapped from homes, workplaces and while travelling. Some hostages have died.

You should regularly reassess your security arrangements and consider carefully any travel around the country, especially when moving outside the International Zone in Baghdad. Close security protection is important but doesn’t remove the threat; a number of previous kidnap victims had security arrangements in place.

During a major Daesh offensive which began in June 2014, there was an increase in reported kidnappings by Daesh. The threat of kidnap is highest in areas where Daesh have a strong presence, but they are not the only group who may seek to take hostages. Western nationals who come into contact with Daesh are likely to be seized and held as hostages.

International and local journalists have previously been detained in Iraq due to allegations of inadequate paperwork. Journalists should exercise extreme caution and take adequate security measures.

Daesh and other terrorist groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.