Iraq News

ISIS tries to blackmail defectors into returning

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

An Iraqi man walks down a Fallujah street on December 29th, 2016, about six months after the city was recaptured from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. [Sabah Arar/AFP]

An Iraqi man walks down a Fallujah street on December 29th, 2016, about six months after the city was recaptured from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. [Sabah Arar/AFP]

The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has been attempting to blackmail defectors into returning to the group by threatening to reveal video evidence of their former membership, Anbar province officials told Diyaruna.

In a similar retaliatory move, the group has made threatening phone calls to members of the province's police force who have refused to work with it.

After the group was defeated in Iraq, dozens of former ISIS elements rejoined society, returning to their jobs and enterprises.

Most of these defectors were ordinary people who had been duped by the group, and not its prominent leaders or those who had been involved in crimes such as murder or bombings, officials said.

This association left them vulnerable to blackmail, however, a tactic ISIS has been using to force them to return to the fold, Anbar provincial council security committee chairman Naeem al-Koud told Diyaruna.

ISIS has been pressuring defectors "who have come to their senses" by threatening to expose them with old videos of their actions, he said.

These threats have forced some ISIS elements to join sleeper cells, he added, which in turn threatens the province's security.

Threats to the police

Threats have been sent to security agencies in the province in an attempt to compromise the Anbar police, said Ahrar al-Furat party chairman Sheikh Abdullah al-Jughaifi, former commander of the tribal mobilisation forces in Anbar.

"Police departments in the western areas of the province have received telephone calls from ISIS elements claiming that certain local police officers used to work with them as members of the group," he told Diyaruna.

ISIS had tried to persuade certain police officers to collaborate with it, he said, and "when they refused, it retaliated against them by reporting them, hoping to see them arrested" and punished by the authorities.

Al-Jughaifi expressed his concern that this tactic could actually succeed in recruiting ISIS elements inside the province, where some residents are known to have declared their loyalty to the group when it controlled Anbar.

ISIS elements at large

It is worrisome that a large number of ISIS elements remain at large, al-Jughaifi said, noting that while many were killed in the battles to oust the group from Iraq, a good number are still unaccounted for.

Most ISIS elements fled to the Syrian towns of Deir Ezzor and Albu Kamal or are hiding in the Anbar desert in Iraq, he said, specifically in the areas of al-Shamiya and Wadi Hauran.

Their presence in the desert is clear due to the large number of arrests in that area, he said, and the recent discovery of motorbikes and dug-in hideouts by Iraqi army 7th Division forces during a raid on Wadi Hauran.

Col. Mahmoud al-Azzawi, who commands the 2nd regiment of the Anbar Operations Command, told Diyaruna his forces had on March 5th seized an arms cache belonging to ISIS in al-Karabila district.

The cache contained light, medium and heavy weapons and rocket launchers, he said, noting that Anbar police continue to uncover arms caches in the province.

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