Saturday, July 24, 2010

Four Islamic State Of Iraq Members Escape From Prison

On July 15, 2010 the United States military passed over control of the last prison it operated, Camp Cropper, to the Iraqi government. The facility holds 1,500 prisoners, and is attached to the Baghdad international airport. At the handover ceremonies, U.S. General Jerry Cannon stated that he believed the Iraqis were up to the task of running the prison. Just five days later, four members of Al Qaeda in Iraq's umbrella organization the Islamic State of Iraq disappeared from the newly named Karkh Prison.

The Islamic State of Iraq escapees included its Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance, a judge, and another whose position is unknown. All four were captured by American forces in Mosul in 2008, and been held for 15 months. Also conspicuously absent from work the next day were the camp’s warden and several guards. Some Iraqi sources told the Los Angeles Times that they were investigating whether the warden drove the Islamic State prisoners out of the camp in his car. The warden was appointed by the U.S., and kept on the job after the prison was turned over to the Iraqis.

Karkh Prison is located in a heavily guarded area of Baghdad with dozens of checkpoints, and is the site of the U.S. military command in Iraq. The story was kept secret by Iraqi authorities for two days before finally being aired on television.

The escapes are an obvious embarrassment to the Iraqi government and a setback in the fight against Al Qaeda. In the beginning of June 2010 the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno claimed that 34 of Al Qaeda’s top 42 leaders had been killed or captured, marking a devastating blow to the organization. Every week there are more stories of Al Qaeda elements being rounded up. Now four top members have escaped. That also points to the insurgency’s ability to infiltrate the government and security forces because the missing prisoners obviously had inside help to get out of such a heavily guarded area of the capitol. In June, over 30 policemen, including an officer, were arrested in Diyala for ties to Al Qaeda. There is also suspicion that Al Qaeda worked with members of the government to attack the Central Bank of Iraq last month as well. While the Islamist group is obviously a shell of its former self, these operations and escapes point to its continued ability to not only operate in Iraq, but to curry favor with some in positions of authority.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Escaped Iraq detainees are Qaeda suspects: police,” 7/23/10

Parker, Ned, “U.S. Hands over last prison to Iraqi control,” Los Angeles Times, 7/15/10

Parker, Ned and Redha, Usama, “Four Iraqis escape from prison at Baghdad airport compound,” Los Angeles Times, 7/23/10

Shanker, Thom, “Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Neutralized, U.S. Says,” New York Times, 6/4/10

Williams, Timothy and Al-Jawoshy, Omar, “Top Insurgents Escaped Prison Days After Iraq Took Over,” New York Times, 7/23/10

7 comments:

AndrewSshi said...

The one thing I find kind of odd about AQI influence in the government is that I have a hard time seeing why so many of the Dawa cronies that make up the government would work with the folks who are willing to kill them as heretics in a heartbeat. Unless their families are being threatened or something.

AndrewSshi said...

Oh, one other note. I did see that the Cropper warden was an American appointee, so it was in this case probably someone from MNF-I who had spectacularly bad judgment. My remark about government and al Qaeda was meant in a general sense.

Joel Wing said...

Andrew
Yes Dawa is infamous for "infiltrating the bureaucracy" as some have put it, but there are plenty of Sunnis in the government and security forces. All those police rounded up in Diyala last month for example were Sunni Arabs. I think all the local police are recruited locally, so whatever the make-up of the community is, that's reflected in the police both in terms of ethnosectarian representation and politically.

Joel Wing said...

Andrew there are so many opportunities to infiltrate and bribe officials its ridiculous. There are city councils, mayors, subdstrict councils, district councils many of which were put together by the Americans back in the 2003-2005 period with votes by whoever they could find. Those people all get to appoint local officials. Then there are the provincial councils which get elected and place more of their followers in the bureaucracy. Then the larger parties that still run ministries like fiefdoms. The amount of corruption that is going on at all these different levels is mind boggling and only barely mentioned in reports. That opens up plenty of opportunities for insurgents, militias and gangs.

In Diyala for example Al Qaeda was accused of ingratiating themselves with some social circles in two subdistricts and got officials and police officers to cooperate with them. Some of that ring got rounded up in June after a bombing at a market. Insurgents and Al Qaeda are also suspected of infiltrating and co-opting police in Mosul which allows them to carry out so many attacks there.

Luckily the militants are severely restricted these days in where they can operate, but whose taken their place are a lot of gangs who ironically include many former insurgents and militiamen.

I'm putting together some articles right now about organized crime, oil smuggling, etc. in Iraq so hopefully I'll be able to put out more information about this soon.

Joel Wing said...

Here's a report about the collaboration of police and officials in Diyala with insurgents.

Diyala: "Joint security force arrests head of Saadiyah local council."

Diyala, June 15 (AKnews) - A joint security force arrested the head of Saadiyah local Council (60 km north east Iraq's city of Ba'aquba), an official security source at the Police Emergency Assistance said today.

"A joint force from Emergency regiment and Jalawla Crimes Office which belongs to Diyala police directorate raided the house of the head of Saadiyah local council Saleh Mohammed Zabbalah and took him to security centers for interrogation after finding explosives at his home," he added.

An official security source in Diyala Province revealed to (AKnews) last Thursday that a group of security members that collaborated with the armed groups were disclosed in Saadiyah district, 70 km north of Diyala Province's capital city Ba'aquba headed by a captain who has close relations with al-Qaeda in Jalawla and accused of leaking security information about the movements of the leaders of those forces to the armed groups.

"The force found five kg of TNT, four maps and two bombs at Zabbala's home," the security source said.

Local observers considered that Al-Qaeda had managed earlier in establishing a foothold in a number of villages in the district which enabled a number of its personnel to penetrate the security forces, after imposing themselves on social circles, and some civil society organizations, he added.

Saadiyah and its villages had been scene of an insurgency that killed and injured innocent people, clerics, preachers and moderate imams, and in the latest attack killing the Imam and preacher of the district Sheikh Abdullah Shakkour, who was beheaded and hanged on an electricity column at the center of the district.

http://www.aknews.com/en/aknews/4/155298/

Don Cox said...

I think the general pattern around the world is that freedom fighters become terrorists and terrorists become organised crime gangs.

Joel Wing said...

Crime and insurgencies are connected in many countries because it's an off the books way to raise money to fund operations. In iraq's case huge gangs emerged under saddam that operated under state patronage to help break sanctions. Many tribes in anbar and Basra for example were able to carve out their own little criminal fiefs during that time. When the us invaded and the state collapsed the gangs had even more freedom to operate and grow. A lot of them ended up joining the insurgency and militias and used their criminal activities to fund their operations. Then when both of those got broken up by the US and Iraqi forces a lot of the fighters went back to being criminals because they didn't have anything else to do to make a living.

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