Captured Iraqi Daesh member details splits in the extremist group

Iraq said it had arrested Abdul Nasser Qardash. (Courtesy: Al Arabiya)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Captured Iraqi Daesh member details splits in the extremist group

  • Abdul Nasser Qardash told Al Arabiya that new Daesh leader ‘not as firm’ as Al-Baghdadi

LONDON: A senior Daesh member being held in Iraq has described the group’s new leader as “not as firm” as his predecessor Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Iraq said on Wednesday it had arrested Abdul Nasser Qardash, a militant who had been operating since before the extremist group was formed.

However, analysts said Qardash was arrested last year in Syria and recently handed over to Iraq by Kurdish forces.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Qardash described the divisions within the extremist group that once held control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. 

He said he was in direct contact with Al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US special forces last year. He is also known to the new leader Ameer Muhammed Saeed Al-Salbi Al-Mawla, who is also known as Haji Abdullah, or Abdullah Qardash.

Speaking about Al-Baghdadi, Abdul Nasser Qardash said: “He was known to be so firm and would not retract his decisions easily.” 

However, the current leader is “not as firm,” he said. 

He said there was a deep divide within Daesh between the Arab members and the “foreigners,” as well as the theft of funds and the expelling of families during battles.

He also said there were disputes over the killing of prisoners. The group specialised in brutal executions and beheadings, which they videoed and posted online as part of its warped propaganda.

“We had to revise some of the group’s ideas after losing some territory,” Qardash said.

It was unclear where exactly the interview took place.

The new Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Thursday referred to Qardash’s “capture” and said it helped foil a terrorist attack. He also said Daesh activity in Iraq was increasing.

In announcing Qardash was in custody, Iraqi state media said that he was also considered a successor to Al-Baghdadi.

However, this appears to overstate his role.

Born in Mosul, Qardash fought with Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was the predecessor of Daesh.

He chaired Daesh’s delegated committee but told Al Arabiya he was removed from this position after a meeting with Al-Baghdadi, because they “disagreed of some points of view.”

He oversaw several military operations in both Syria and Iraq. 

Al-Baghdadi blew himself up in October after he was cornered by US special forces in a cave at his hideout in Syria. 

Daesh emerged in 2011 as an extremist faction in the Syrian conflict that installed brutal rules and punishments in the territory it controlled. In 2014, it launched an attack into northern Iraq, sparking fighting with government troops, militias and an international coalition that eventually beat the extremists out of Iraq’s main cities by the end of 2017.


US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

Updated 51 min 24 sec ago

US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

  • Iran-backed militias renege on agreement to allow UN inspectors aboard stricken vessel holding 1.4 million barrels of oil

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The US blasted Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on Sunday for reneging on a deal to allow UN teams to board a rusting oil storage vessel that threatens an environmental disaster in the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. It fell into Houthi hands in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis briefly bowed to pressure last month and agreed to allow a team of UN engineers to visit the ship, before changing their minds and restating their previous demands for the revenue from the oil. As the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

“The Houthis have failed to follow through on their agreement to allow a UN team on to the Safer,” the White House National Security Council said on Sunday.

“They are courting environmental and humanitarian disaster by obstructing and delaying. For the good of Yemen and the region, the Houthis must allow the UN aboard the Safer.”

A recent water leak into the tanker’s engine prompted warnings of a major disaster.

“The time has come for a resolute response for an outcome,” the Yemen Embassy in Washington said on Sunday. 

“There cannot be more delays or deliberations. UN inspectors must immediately access and assess the Safer oil tanker even without Houthi permission.”

The UK echoed its concerns. “There is another floating disaster off the Yemeni coast with potentially as massive an ecological footprint as the shockwave that engulfed Beirut,” former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said. “The politics preventing safe evacuation of the oil must stop immediately.”