Samarra, Iraq — Like their hardline Islamist brethren in other nations — such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, among others — the Islamic State of Iraq (or “ISI,” the name under which al Qaeda in Iraq has organized in Iraq) has built a brutal reputation not only for terrorism against its members’ own countrymen and against the coalition, but also for being a proponent of the most medieval, fundamentalist interpretation — and enforcement – of what its leaders claim to be the laws of the Koran.
Enforcement of these laws — which can perhaps be described as Shari’a taken to the greatest extreme — has included taking measures to brutally punish people who commit the slightest offense, from smoking, to a woman failing to cover her head in public, to a man not growing a long enough beard. The strictest social mores are to be observed and any deviation from the standard can result in a punishment consisting of torture, mutilation, or death — including, as the western world has seen on a few occasions (though not enough to grasp the extent of its use), beheading
Unfortunately for those who might have chosen to join this hardline Islamist faction in hopes of keeping more virtuous company, the recent apprehension of a key ISI figure showed just how hypocritical – and, as if more evidence was necessary, unspeakably inhuman — the leadership of that movement is capable of being.
Earlier this week in Samarra, the Iraqi National Police apprehended a man named Ahmed Mohammed Sabar Hamud al-Medhi al-Bazi, a key figure in a five-man ISI cell which was responsible for an attack on the National Police using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), as well as for IED, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), and small arms attacks on coalition forces.
Upon being taken into custody, Medhi openly declared himself to be a member of al Qaeda, and freely admitted (and signed a written confession stating) that he had helped orchestrate and execute these attacks on Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces. Perhaps wishing to escape the punishing clutches of the NPs, and knowing full well — as do all fighters in Iraq and elsewhere – how strict the rules are that Americans must abide by with regard to the humane treatment of prisoners and detainees, Medhi asked to be handed over to the coalition forces from Charlie Company 2-505 PIR (82nd Airborne) at Patrol Base Olson, in northwestern Samarra. In exchange for the transfer of custody, he had more information (and more confessions) that he was willing to provide.
What it was that he confessed to once in American custody shocked and outraged even his seasoned coalition captors, who had been facing ISI in this city for over a year.
Without a bit of pressure — indeed, without the appearance of a care in the world — Medhi, described in graphic detail the other half of his ISI cell’s operations: running an organized al Qaeda Rape ring in Samarra. With a modus operandi of breaking into various houses and either raping women on the spot or threatening the family with death while taking their daughter away to become a hostage and a sex slave, Medhi, a self-described homosexual who engaged in intercourse (via rape) with women “because other members of this group” did, confessed to his cell’s penchant for abducing girls and “holding them [hostage] just for their pleasure.” Most recently, he said, he had taken part in the rape, kidnapping, and/or killing of five women, three of whom were supposedly still alive.
Among these most recent victims was “a twenty-five year old virgin,” who was “alone in her house” when the al Qaeda leaders “raided” it. Breaking into the house, all five members of the cell held her captive in her own home and raped her repeatedly. Finally, when all five had quenched their base desire for that action which they so brutally prohibited others from humanely engaging in, under the guise of enforcing “true Islamic law,” the terrorists departed, leaving the woman alone in her pain and misery.
If there is such a thing as “getting off easy” for a girl who is gang-raped, this first woman did just that. Two others, both age 23, met a much more gruesome fate shortly after the first, as they were taken from their houses (in front of their families), raped repeatedly by the entire al Qaeda cell, and then slaughtered. According to Medhi, their bodies were buried in a cemetery somewhere in the city.
The two most recent victims — girls aged 23 and 20 — were also taken from their family and gang-raped by these supposed enforcers of Islamic virtue. Both, claimed Medhi, were still being held hostage somewhere in Samarra. Unfortunately, the al Qaeda captive’s keenness to confess to such atrocities as though they were simply ordinary daily activities did not translate into a willingness to provide coalition forces with an accurate location of his cell’s current hostages. Twice Charlie Company platoons were dispatched to raid houses fingered by al-Medhi as being the site of his group’s activities; both times, the information turned out to be inaccurate. However, on the last raid — early on the morning of September 18th — Charlie Co.’s White (2nd) Platoon was able to gather enough information to confirm that the other members of the cell, upon Medhi’s capture, had fled Samarra, with the leader having gone all the way to Syria.
The dungeon was never found, nor were the two supposedly living captives, though the best guess by coalition forces is that they were either freed or — much more likely — killed when the remaining members of Medhi’s al Qaeda cell decided to depart the region.
The mindset of such a person as Ahmed al-Medhi is impossible for a civilized person to comprehend; however, this is the face — and the mind — of the radical Islamist movement. This faction, which so brutally enforces “Islamic virtue” in others, is capable of turning right around and walking into families’ houses, taking their daughters (about whom, Medhi said, there was “nothing special” – they just happened to be randomly chosen); and, after gang-raping them, either holding them hostage or slaughtering them.
Though few now seem to remember (only 4½ years from the end of his reign), this is the type of treatment that women in Iraq were subject to under the bloody rule of Saddam Hussein and his two sons, Uday and Qusay. Rape rooms were common throughout the country, and any woman in the vicinity of the Hussein family or their trusted high-ranking Ba’athists had to fear being randomly selected for such brutal treatment.
Now, though such horrifying acts can be (and, unfortunately, are) perpetrated, there is a chance that those who commit such atrocities will be captured, killed, or — at the very least — driven out of the region (and hopefully out of Iraq). Ahmed al-Medhi is an example of this new situation; while he was able to abduct, rape, and murder women for a time, he has been apprehended — by none other than the new Iraqi authorities — and is now in custody and awaiting trial. In another departure from the way that things were done in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Medhi will have his day in court, with his own defense counsel and with the ability to call witnesses on his own behalf.
Based on his own confession, this should not prohibit him from receiving the stiffest penalty that the magistrate court he will be facing can hand down to him. However, the trial will be both fair and open, and as a result, this terrorist — who is now off the streets, and will likely never be able to harm another person again — will have a far greater opportunity to influence his own fate than he ever gave to the countless young girls whose dignity, and whose lives, he so wantonly stole.
Jeff Emanuel, a special operations veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is currently embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq. His reports can be seen at www.JeffEmanuel.com.
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