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ISIS leader was once a 'cooperative' prison informant who ratted out terrorists to the US military, newly-released records show

Submitted by Tech Insider on April 8, 2021 - 12:11pm

Islamic State group militants hold up their flag as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq in 2014.

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The current leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was once a prison informant who named or described dozens of terrorists during interrogation sessions while in US military custody.

After US forces killed ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019, the terror group chose a new leader, a man whose nom de guerre is Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi. The US has since identified that man as Amir Muhammad Sa'id Abd-al-Rahman al-Mawla.

US counterterrorism officials know the Iraqi terrorist leader well because he was previously an informant while detained in a coalition prison in 2008.

In September, the Pentagon-funded Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released once confidential records of three interrogation sessions where al-Mawla named or described, often in detail, 88 people affiliated in some way with the Islamic State in Iraq, out of which ISIS grew.

The center released another 53 interrogation records this week. The newly-released records show that not only was he informing on terrorists within the organization that would evolve into the one he leads today, but he was doing so in a "very cooperative and forthcoming" way.

In the records, which run from January to July 2008, al-Mawla regularly gives up information on rivals and foreign-born terrorists within the organization.

For example, after first denying knowing anything, he provided detailed information, even drawing a map of his compound, on the terror group's foreign-born second in command, Abu Qaswarah. US forces killed the man a few weeks later. It is unclear if they were operating on al-Mawla's intel.

Daniel Milton, an associate professor and the director of research at the Combating Terrorism Center, wrote in a Lawfare article this week that the new records show that the new ISIS leader was once "a songbird of unique talent and ability."

When the center first released a handful of tactical interrogation reports last fall, Haroro Ingram, a senior research fellow with George Washington University's program on extremism, described al-Mawla as the "canary caliph," Middle East Eye reported.

Christopher Maier, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told The Washington Post, which first reported the release of the new records, that al-Mawla did what he did "to save his own neck."

In one of the later interrogation sessions, when al-Mawla's willingness to cooperate appears to be fading, he acknowledged that while he provided true information in many cases, some information may have been exaggerated.

Born in 1976, al-Mawla was in his early 30s when he was detained by US forces in Iraq. It is unclear exactly when or why he was released.

Al-Mawla, who keeps a low profile, currently leads a crippled organization that has lost control of its so-called caliphate, which once stretched across Iraq and Syria, but ISIS has not yet been defeated.

Last month, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with the foreign ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group to discuss the ISIS threat.

The officials who attended the meeting "acknowledged that while Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and nearly eight million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria, the threat remains," a joint statement said.

"The Coalition," the statement continued, "must continue to be vigilant against the threat of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, to build on the success it has achieved and continue to act together against any threats to this outcome to avoid security vacuums that Daesh/ISIS may exploit."

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