‘I’m not a butcher’: An interview with ISIS’s architect of death

Der Spiegel reports: The heavy gate slowly opened, but only after the guards had called in to headquarters to confirm the identity of the SPIEGEL team and its 10 p.m. appointment. Inside was an obstacle course of four-meter-high concrete walls with Humvees, equipped with mounted machine guns, parked at two different corners. Only then did the actual prison gate appear.

The high-security facility is in Baghdad, but its name and exact location cannot be revealed. These were the conditions for an interview with its most prominent inmate: a gaunt man in his late 30s known by his nom de guerre, Abu Abdullah. For one and a half years, he was the head logistician for suicide attacks carried out by Islamic State in Baghdad. Abu Abdullah is one of the few Islamic State leaders to have been taken into custody alive. Most either blow themselves up or swallow the capsules of poison many of them carry so as to avoid capture. Or they die in a firefight. Being captured alive is not part of the terror group’s concept.

But Abu Abdullah was overpowered so quickly that he had no time to kill himself. He had been under surveillance for some time before he was arrested in late July 2014, and his bomb factory, camouflaged as an automotive garage, was taken intact by the authorities. Surprisingly, the man himself is also talking from prison.

His name repeatedly surfaced during months of research into the leadership structure of Islamic State. Furthermore, investigators from the Iraqi police, the secret service of the Interior Ministry and other officials all provided details from his testimony to SPIEGEL.

Those fragments were consistent with the image of Islamic State as an organization in which responsibilities are divided, and even sealed off internally. People only know as much about its operations as they need to — like numerous small gears on a piece of machinery that can immediately be replaced when they break. Even if they wanted to, most Islamic State members can provide but little information about its overall structure. Abu Abdullah, though, occupied a key position in Baghdad, one vital for the ongoing terror attacks in the city. He was the one who chose the locations for the attacks, who equipped the suicide bombers and who accompanied them up until shortly before their detonation. [Continue reading…]

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