Convicted Criminals Serve as “Freedom Fighters” in Syria: Saudi, Pakistani and Iraqi Prison Inmates Replenish Al Qaeda Ranks

16 Feb

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, February 16, 2014

Several hundred prisoners who escaped from carefully guarded prisons in Iraq have recently joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as the Al Qaeda affiliated rebel force, Jabhat Al Nusra.

According to the NYT: “the prison breaks also reflect the surging demand for experienced fighters, which led to a concerted effort by militant groups, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, to seek them in the one place where they were held en masse — Iraq’s prison cells.(Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt, Escaped Inmates From Iraq Fuel Syrian Insurgency, NYT, February 12, 2014):

“American officials estimate, a few hundred of the escapees have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, several in senior leadership roles.”

Acknowledged by the NYT, the prison breakouts are part of the recruitment of jihadists to serve in the Syrian insurgency. What is not mentioned, however, is that the recruitment of mercenaries is a covert operation, coordinated by NATO, Turkey and Saudi Arabia with the support of the Obama administration. Moreover, known and documented, most Al Qaeda affiliated forces are covertly supported by Western intelligence including the CIA, Mossad and Britain’s MI6.

The prison breaks in Iraq are part of a coordinated endeavor entitled “Operation Breaking the Walls,” established in July 2012 by the ISIS. Acknowledged by an American counterterrorism official quoted by the NYT,

“The influx of these terrorists, who collectively have decades of battlefield experience, probably has strengthened the group and deepened its leadership bench.”

US Occupation forces and military personnel in the prisons turned a blind eye to the breakouts.

Abu Aisha was originally arrested by the Americans and then released from Camp Bucca, the infamous American prison in southern Iraq, in 2008. He was rearrested by the Iraqis in 2010.

“Finally, they put me in Abu Ghraib, and I again met some of the leaders and fighters I knew, including princes from Al Qaeda — Iraqis, Arabs and other nationalities,” he said. “Most of them had been at Bucca as well.”

One night last summer, as Abu Aisha sat in his cell waiting, as he did each day, for his date with the executioner, explosions and gunfire erupted and a familiar prison guard opened the doors to his cell and told him to leave immediately. With hundreds of others, Abu Aisha ran through the prison’s corridors until he escaped through a hole that had been blasted through a wall. He hopped into a waiting Kia truck that took him to freedom — and back to the battlefield.

Abu Aisha said leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gave him a choice: leave and fight with them in Syria, or stay and fight in Iraq. (NYT, op cit, emphasis added)

Coordinated Program

The recent prison breakouts have the hallmarks of a carefully planned covert operation requiring the complicity of Iraqi and US prison personnel.

The prison breakouts are not limited to Iraq. Planned prison escapes to join the jihadist insurgency have occurred simultaneously in several countries, indicating the existence of a coordinated recruitment program.

Saudi Arabia –which has played a central role in channeling weapons (including anti-aircraft missiles) to the jihadists on behalf of Washington– has been actively involved in the recruitment of mercenaries from the kingdom’s prisons.

In Saudi Arabia, however, there were no breakouts: criminals serving jail sentences were released from the kingdom’s prisons on condition they join the Syrian jihad.

A top secret memo sent by the Ministry of Interior in Saudi Arabia “reveals the Saudi Kingdom sent death-row inmates, sentenced to execution by decapitation, to Syria to fight Jihad against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences.”

According to an April 17, 2012 memo, Saudi Arabia recruited some 1200 inmates, “offering them a full pardon and a monthly salary for their families, who were to remain in the Kingdom, in exchange for “…training for the sake of sending to the Jihad in Syria.”
Among those recruited in Saudi Arabia were inmates from Yemen, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.

Prison breaks also occurred in Summer 2013 in Libya and Pakistan and Iraq in what appeared to be a carefully coordinated program:

On July 23, 2013, Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons were broken into in a carefully waged operation, leading to the escape of 500-1000 inmates, most of whom were recruited into the ranks of ISIS:

The attacks were allegedly carried out after months of preparations on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is a merger between Al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria and Iraq.

Between 500 to 1,000 prisoners have escaped as a result of the attack, “most of them were convicted senior members of Al-Qaeda and had received death sentences,” said Hakim Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament.

Suicide bombers drove cars with explosives into the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night, while gunmen attacked guards with mortar fire as well as rocket propelled grenades. (Russia Today, July 2013)

On Saturday, July 26, at a maximum security prison in Benghazi, Libya, an almost identical prison break to the one that happened in Iraq occurred.

There were riots within the prison, with fires set. Suddenly gunmen flocked upon the prison and opened fire. About 1,200 of Libya’s most deadly inmates escaped. Peregrino Brimah, Obama’s Syria Endgame: New Al Qaeda “Recruits” Dispatched to Syria, Global Research, September 4, 2013, emphasis added)

And midnight, July 29-30,

Taliban gunmen with rocket launchers and suicide bombers, wearing police uniforms attacked the largest jail in Dera Ismail Khan, in a northern Pakistani province, releasing over 300 inmates. They came well coordinated, with rocket-propelled grenades and freed top militants–some of the Taliban’s most deadly men. They used loud speakers to announce the names of the men they needed. According to an official (Reuters), only 70 of the 200 guards on duty were at work that fateful night, suggesting higher level security-government involvement. (Ibid, emphasis added)

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