Daesh ‘expertise, methods inherited from Iraq army’

Iraqi Army's 53rd Brigade participate in a live ammunition training exercise with coalition forces trainers at Taji military base north of Baghdad, Iraq, in this August 9, 2017 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 April 2018
0

Daesh ‘expertise, methods inherited from Iraq army’

BAGHDAD: As Iraqi forces battled Daesh, former general Abdel Karim Khalaf came to a sad realization — they were fighting against some of his former army comrades.
The tactics Daesh terrorists used — from the way they dug tunnels to their construction of defenses — were lifted straight from the manual of the old Iraqi armed forces under dictator Saddam Hussein.
“They had expertise and methods inherited from the army,” said retired army commander Khalaf. “They knew us.”
When the US-led invasion toppled Saddam 15 years ago in 2003 it splintered Iraqi society and fractured loyalties among those who had served in the country’s armed forces.
One of the first decisions made by Paul Bremmer, the American head of the occupation authority, was to dismantle all security forces in the country.
That controversial move would come back to haunt US-led forces as it pushed many members of Iraq’s disbanded military, police and intelligence agencies to join movements fighting against them.
“Saddam-era military expertise was critical to the development of the insurgency,” said Fanar Haddad, an Iraq expert at the Middle East Institute.
The seepage of knowledge from Iraq’s former security forces into the insurgency came to devastating fruition when Daesh stormed across Iraq and northern Syria in 2014.
Among the group’s leadership were veterans of Saddam’s forces who put their training to use conquering territory and running the self-declared “caliphate.”
Former Republican Guard officer Fadel Ahmad Al-Hayali was second-in-command to Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi until he was killed in an October 2015 airstrike near Mosul in northern Iraq, the US has said.
As Baghdadi’s deputy, he was in charge of arms transfers, explosives, vehicles and people between Iraq and Syria. Another veteran was Samir Abd Muhammad Al-Khlifawi, called the group’s “most important strategist” by German weekly Der Spiegel.
Using the nom de guerre Hajji Bakr, the former air force intelligence officer helped devise plans used by the group to take control of northern Syria before he was killed by rebels in 2014.
Hisham Al-Hashemi, an expert on jihadist movements, said these were not isolated examples as Daesh filled its military and security bodies with former Saddam-era officers.
When the government launched its gruelling fight back against Daesh, it too relied on officials from the previous regime.
Key commanders, including the leaders of Iraq’s elite counterterrorism units, were “former soldiers under Saddam” who had been reintegrated into the forces set up after the 2003 invasion, Hashemi said.
With a US-led coalition backing them up in the skies above, Iraqi forces overcame their opponents after a protracted and bloody campaign that saw some of the world’s fiercest urban fighting in decades.
Ultimately the familiarity between the two sides gave Baghdad a key advantage that allowed it to declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year.
“The army won because they knew IS (Daesh) used the methods of Saddam Hussein’s special forces and were able to anticipate their movements,” Hashemi said.
Beating back Daesh has been hailed as a major turning point for Iraqi forces that retreated in disarray when the terrorists first struck in 2014.
The brutal fight was the latest — and most vicious — testing ground for capabilities honed in the 15 years of chaos since the ouster of Saddam.
For former general Khalaf the triumph was also at least in part down to the know-how gleaned by the armed forces back before the US-led invasion turned Iraq on its head.
“Iraqi forces knew the nature of the battle and the geography of the terrain,” he said.
“We understood how the enemy fought, and all of this came from reflexes acquired in the army.”


Egyptian sentenced to death for murder of Christian doctor

Updated 18 November 2018
0

Egyptian sentenced to death for murder of Christian doctor

CAIRO: An Egyptian man affiliated with Daesh was sentenced to death Saturday in the fatal stabbing of an 82-year-old Christian doctor in Cairo in Sept. 2017.
The assailant, identified as 40-year-old Hassan G., pretended to be a patient to gain access to the doctor, identified as Dr. Tharwat. Once admitted to the clinic’s examination room he began stabbing the elderly doctor. When the doctor’s assistant, Susan K., attempted to intervene, she was also stabbed.
During the trial, prosecutors said the defendant had embraced the extremist ideology of Daesh.
At the time of the incident, the Ministry of Interior reported that the defendant’s motivation was believed to be financial. He was unemployed and facing financial difficulties and intended to rob the doctor, it was believed.
Saturday’s verdict will be sent to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, for ratification. While the Grand Mufti’s opinions are not binding, he is customarily asked to review death sentences and his recommendation is often followed.
Also on Saturday, another Egyptian court sentenced one Egyptian to death and six others to 10 years in prison. The defendants had appealed a similar Dec. 2016 sentence over an attack on policemen and soldiers north of Cairo; most attacks on police, military and civilians in Egypt over the last few years have been claimed by the Daesh.
Daesh, which has gained a foothold in the remote areas of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, has vowed to target Egypt’s Christian minority in retaliation for their support of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
In early November, Daesh claimed credit for an attack on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims outside the Monastery of St. Samuel that left seven dead and wounded 19 – in nearly the same location that another attack killed 28 pilgrims in May 2017. In response, the Ministry of Interior announced two days later that 19 “militants” linked to the attack had been killed.
Elected in 2014, El-Sisi has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups since coming to power after Muslim Brotherhood ex-President Muhammad Mursi was removed from power in the summer of 2013. Mursi’s ouster came after mass protests calling for the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood. Daesh blames El-Sisi for the ensuing crackdown on Mursi’s followers.
The Coptic Orthodox leadership and many other Christians supported El-Sisi in the wake of Mursi’s ouster, hoping he could protect them against violent attacks by Islamists.
Groups affiliated with Daesh have claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Christians in the four years since El-Sisi’s election. In 2015, the group posted a video of the beheading of a dozen Christian Egyptians in Libya.
In December 2016, a suicide bomber killed 29 in an attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral compound in Cairo. Daesh took credit for killing nearly 80 Egyptian Christians and wounding over 150 in 2017 in two Palm Sunday bombings and attacks on buses carrying Christians. Last month, an Egyptian military court sentenced 17 to death for the fatal attacks.