WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi authorities released a video on Friday of the confession of Jamal al-Mashadani, a Saddam Hussein-era intelligence officer who later became a senior member of the so-called Islamic State (IS.)
Mashadani became IS’ governor of those areas of Kirkuk Province which fell under the control of the terrorist organization in 2014 (after the Iraqi collapse, the Peshmerga saved significant areas of the province, including Kirkuk city and the oil fields.)
In early 2015, after IS burned alive a downed Jordanian pilot, Mashadani had 20 Kurdish prisoners, wearing orange jumpsuits in metal cages, driven through the center of Hawija in pickup trucks, with the implicit threat that they, too, would face a similar fate.
Although Mashadani was known in IS by the nom de guerre, Abu Hamza al-Kurdi, he is not a Kurd.
Mashadani is a Sunni Arab, who claims to have been born in 1973, in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, and to have graduated in 1992 from Iraq’s College of National Security, before joining Iraqi military intelligence.
Mashadani also confessed to involvement in the March 2016 chemical attack on Taza, a Turkmen Shiite town, south of Kirkuk. Najat Hussein Hassan, a Turkman member of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, said at the time that members of the former Iraqi regime were behind the attack.
“It’s the same guys,” Hassan said then. On Friday, he was proven correct.
Najmaldin Karim, Governor of Kirkuk until October 2017—and the last such individual to hold the position according to the procedures stipulated by Iraqi law—speaks similarly.
Karim recently told Kurdistan 24 that IS in Kirkuk Province consisted of local people and not foreign jihadis.
“We have their pictures, we have their DNA,” Karim said. “99 per cent are local people from Kirkuk.”
Hassan Hassan, a Senior Fellow at Washington’s Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, tweeted this is a “BIG Story,” an “example of long-standing, but little-known ISIS leaders who once served under Saddam.”
The highly regarded German news magazine, Der Spiegel, published a lengthy report some years ago, “Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State.” The report, a leak from German intelligence, explains that what lies at the core of IS is the former Iraqi regime.
As IS collapsed in 2017, Mashadani fled to Turkey, but he recently returned to Iraq and “was arrested in his son’s home in Baghdad, soon after arriving from Turkey’s Urfa,” Hassan explained.
Urfa is a city of 2 million in southeast Turkey, with a mixed population of Turks, Kurds, Armenians, and Arabs. An Iraqi would not appear out of place there.
Mashadani said he “was surprised” at his arrest, “because he never communicated with anyone from Baghdad,” suggesting that Turkey had tipped off the Iraqis, Hassan added.
Mashadani’s statement suggests how sensitive senior IS members are regarding their electronic communications. Ordinary signals intelligence, as conducted by countries like the US, may well fail to detect them, because such figures are careful not to betray their location, plans, or other sensitive information through such exchanges.
Turkish support, or at least tolerance, of IS has long been an issue between Washington and Ankara, and the US has pressed Turkey to end any lingering ties with the terrorist group.