A former jaildbird at Camp Bucca, a US-run prison in southern Iraq, says the rise of the ISIS would not be possible without the US prisons.
In an exclusive interview to the Guardian, Abu Ahmed, now a senior official within ISIS, reveals how ISIS might never have formed if US detention centers hadn’t existed.
Abu Ahmed said that he along with other prisoners quickly realised that far from their worst fears, the US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else.” But at the Camp Bucca “we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”
He added that the Abubakr Al-Baghdadi was respected very much by the US army. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State.
“If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”
“We had so much time to sit and plan,” he continued. “It was the perfect environment. We all agreed to get together when we got out. The way to reconnect was easy. We wrote each other’s details on the elastic of our boxer shorts. When we got out, we called. Everyone who was important to me was written on white elastic. I had their phone numbers, their villages. By 2009, many of us were back doing what we did before we were caught. But this time we were doing it better.”
The first thing he did when he was safe in west Baghdad was to undress, then carefully take a pair of scissors to his underwear. “I cut the fabric from my boxers and all the numbers were there. We reconnected. And we got to work.” Across Iraq, other ex-inmates were doing the same. “It really was that simple,” Abu Ahmed said, smiling for the first time in our conversation as he recalled how his captors had been outwitted. “Boxers helped us win the war.”