Iraq News

Fallujah police quash ISIS extortion attempts

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

A picture taken on January 3rd, 2017 in Fallujah shows Col. Jamal al-Jumaili, the chief of police in the western Iraqi city. [Sabah Arar/AFP]

A picture taken on January 3rd, 2017 in Fallujah shows Col. Jamal al-Jumaili, the chief of police in the western Iraqi city. [Sabah Arar/AFP]

There has been a recent spate of extortion attempts by "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements and criminal gangs operating in the Anbar province city of Fallujah, local officials tell Diyaruna.

In one such incident, recorded in the May 31st issue of Al-Qadhaa magazine, Fallujah police set up an ambush in response to a tip-off and captured an ISIS leader who had tried to extort money from a wealthy businessman.

The ISIS leader had been in charge of the group's media unit while it was in control of Fallujah, and had returned to the city after its liberation, according to the magazine, which is issued by the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council.

He was working with two accomplices, the magazine said.

The three sent a local businessman a threatening message demanding money, telling him to support ISIS or face death, the magazine said, which the ISIS leader later confessed was the third such operation he had carried out.

They also planted an improvised explosive device (IED) close to the businessman's office to scare him, but it did not go off.

The ISIS leader demanded that the businessman hand over $10,000. The agreed drop-off location, which changed several times, was near a restaurant, where the businessman placed the "ransom money" and left.

The ISIS leader moved towards the money, and discovered that the container was empty. Police appeared from every direction, and arrested him on the spot.

ISIS now 'desperate'

The recent extortion attempt and arrest was not an isolated incident, Fallujah police chief Col. Jamal al-Jumaili told Diyaruna.

"Terrorised residents have been emboldened to co-operate with the police by giving information on individuals who are trying to extort their money," he said.

ISIS has now lost all its sources of funding, and the group's remnants are reduced to making desperate attempts to extort money, he said.

Criminal gangs also are extorting residents, said Anbar provincial council member Fahd Mishaan, noting that it has become essential to work in co-operation with local residents to identify the perpetrators and end this problem.

Eliminating the problem of extortion will support Anbar's economy, as investors will shun cities that have security problems, he told Diyaruna.

"Anbar is now ready to reopen its doors to investors, particularly in agriculture, mineral extraction, glass manufacturing and other areas," Mishaan said.

Government support needed

The Iraqi government needs to support the economy in the liberated cities in order to improve living conditions for local populations, economist Nabil Jaafar told Diyaruna.

Higher levels of employment will help to discourage youth from joining extremist groups and criminal gangs, he said.

"The government is obligated to play a central role for all of Iraq, and the liberated areas in particular, to support the private sector with all possible means," he said.

This support includes the provision of job opportunities, which will help to usher in a greater level of security and political stability, he said.

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