IS Top Ranks Dominated by Saddam-Era Veterans

IS Top Ranks Dominated by Saddam-Era VeteransIS Top Ranks Dominated by Saddam-Era Veterans

Officers and commanders who served in the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime before the US invasion of Baghdad in 2003 now make up top ranks in the Islamic State militant organization, according to sources and officials.

Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer who has served in Iraq, said Saddam-era military and intelligence officers were a “necessary ingredient” in the IS group’s stunning battlefield successes last year, accounting for its transformation from a “terrorist organization to a proto-state,” AP reported.

“Their military successes last year were not terrorist; they were military successes,” said Skinner.

How officers from Saddam’s regime came to infuse one of the most extremist groups in the world is explained by a confluence of events over the past 20 years, including a Saddam-era program that tolerated hardliners in the military in the 1990s.

The group’s second-in-command, group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputy, is a former Saddam-era army major, Saud Mohsen Hassan, known by the pseudonyms Abu Mutazz and Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, according to an intelligence chief speaking on condition of anonymity.

During the 2000s, Hassan was imprisoned in the US-run Bucca prison camp, the main detention center for members of the insurgency, where al-Baghdadi also was held.

 IS Incubator

The prison was a significant incubator for the group, bringing militants like al-Baghdadi into contact with former Saddam officers, including members of special forces, the elite Republican Guard and the paramilitary force called Fedayeen.

Former Bucca prisoners are now throughout the IS leadership. Among them is Abu Alaa al-Afari, a veteran Iraqi militant who was once with Al-Qaeda and now serves as the head of IS “Beit al-Mal,” or treasury.

Al-Baghdadi has drawn these trusted comrades even closer after he was wounded in an airstrike earlier this year, the intelligence chief said. He has appointed a number of them to the group’s Military Council, believed to have seven to nine members, at least four of whom are former Saddam officers.

Saddam-era veterans also serve as “governors” for seven of the 12 “provinces” set up by the extremist group in the territory it holds in Iraq, the intelligence chief said.

Estimates of the number of Saddam-era veterans in IS ranks vary from 100 to 160 in mostly mid- and senior-level positions, according to the officials.

Typically, they hail from Sunni-dominated areas, with intelligence officers mostly from western Anbar Province, the majority of army officers from the northern city of Mosul and members of security services exclusively from Saddam’s clan around his hometown of Tikrit, said Big. Gen. Abdul-Wahhab al-Saadi, a veteran of battles against IS north and west of Baghdad.

 More Than 2,000 Killed

IS militants have executed over 2,000 people in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, officials said. The militants reportedly created and circulated a list of the victims’ names.

The latest figure applies only to the region around Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, which was seized by IS in June 2014.

“IS militants assassinated in cold blood ... 2,070 residents of Nineveh for ... not cooperating with them,” Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said in a video on Friday.

The insurgents compiled the list with the 2,070 names of their victims and publicly displayed parts of it. The group also requested local medical officials in Mosul to issue death certificates.

Most of the executions happened during the last six months, according to sources in the Mosul morgue cited by Reuters.

The bodies of Iraqi security forces and journalists were only delivered to the morgue on Friday, according to the same sources. Other citizens, executed for common crimes like theft, had already been buried.

The IS list also includes local officials, lawyers, journalists, doctors and rights activists.

IS has boasted of its execution campaign against enemy combatants and people suspected of working against them inside occupied territories.

The terror group conducted several public killings, including decapitation, firing squad, stoning and, in at least one case, pushing the accused off a high building.