Erbil Bombing: Essential Risk Management Systems for International Operations
Friday’s bombing in Erbil missed it’s apparent intended target — the US Consulate in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region. The attack killed 3 and wounded at least 10, including patrons at a restaurant popular with internationals in a city that has largely been spared the violence which has plagued the rest of Iraq. With the emergence of the Islamic State organization, the Kurdish region of Iraq has been drawn into the country’s conflict more than at any time since the US invasion in 2003, upsetting the stability of the region and posing a potential increased risk for international companies and organizations using Erbil as a base of operations.
After years of relative stability, many organizations in Erbil had begun to scale back security measures over the past several years. Armored vehicles and personal security details — mainstays of operations in the rest of the country — have been increasingly absent in Erbil and the rest of the Kurdish region. Travelers to Erbil in recent years have stayed at hotels with limited security, frequented shops and dined out at restaurants.
It is yet to be seen if Friday’s bombing was an isolated incident or a part of an emerging trend, but it is a reminder that the Kurdish regional capital is not immune from violence. Organizations with international staff and travelers in Erbil or elsewhere in the Kurdish region should have flexible, robust security management systems in place and be prepared to respond to a sudden deterioration of the environment. Essential systems should include:
- Tracking of all travelers to the region
- Communication plans and systems to reach personnel quickly in an emergency to confirm status, gather information and pass along guidance
- Travel management procedures including pre-movement risk assessments, route reviews and dedicated, trained drivers
- Physical security measures and access control screening at residences, offices & hotels
- Emergency plans including shelter in place, medical emergency and evacuation
- Relationships with professional security firms with on-the-ground resources to quickly ramp up security or provide emergency response
- Medical and political evacuation service coverage for all international staff and pre-identified emergency medical facilities on the ground for all personnel
- Insurance policies to cover staff and travelers including business travel accident and kidnap, ransom & extortion.