Martin Chulov in Baghdad interviews Abu Abdullah, known to his ISIS commanders as “the planner” – the man responsible for dispatching suicide bombers to attack mosques, universities, checkpoints and market places across the Iraqi capital: Throughout the past decade, Iraq’s prisons have been condemned by human rights groups as places where torture is routinely used on security prisoners. Abdullah winced when the guards approached him, and a block and chain sat in a plastic crate near the cell door. He bore no visible physical scars, though, and appeared well nourished – a legacy of what a senior officer said was an order from the government to keep all prisoners fed and in cells with constant electricity and air conditioning.
“Can you imagine that,” the officer sneered. “They have a better life than most people in Baghdad.”
When the guards left the room Abdullah appeared far more at ease, quickly switching from submission to defiance. “What is your message to the west?” he was asked. Abdullah paused briefly, then looked towards the door to see if we were alone. His eyes flashed: “Islam is coming. What the Islamic State has achieved in the past year cannot be undone. The caliphate is a reality.”
Abdullah, whose real name is Ibrahim Ammar Ali al-Khazali, claimed to have been a member of Isis and all of its earlier incarnations since 2004. His path to violent jihad was unorthodox: he was born a Shia Muslim and practised the faith until the late 1990s, when he converted to Sunni Islam and disavowed the teachings of the rival sect.
He said he had been active in the organisation’s earlier years until 2007 when he was shot in the head during a clash with Iraqi forces. Entry and exit scars were obvious near his left ear and he moved slowly, even taking into account the shackles and chains, as if he had lost some of his motor skills.
Whatever his injury, his resolve appeared to harden in recent years. “It was after 2011 that I got busy again,” he said. “I wanted to live in an Islamic state ruled by sharia. I want every thing that [Isis] wants. Their goals are my goals, there is no difference.” [Continue reading…]