Friday, March 24, 2017

Face to Face with the Ghost of ISIS
By Robin Wright 
On a crisp spring day in March, in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah, I met Abu Islam, a senior isis leader nicknamed the Ghost of isis by Iraqi intelligence for his elusiveness. He was escorted into a small office with faux-wood paneling and no windows at the Special Forces Security Compound in Kurdistan. His hands were manacled in front of him; he was blindfolded by a dark hood pulled over his loose black Shirley Temple curls. Long sought by the Iraqi government, Abu Islam was notorious for running clandestine cells of suicide bombers—some of whom were as young as twelve—and carrying out covert terrorist operations beyond the Islamic State’s borders. Having had a few years of religious training, he was also tasked with teaching the unique isis version of Islam to new fighters. Still in his mid-twenties, Abu Islam rose to become the isis “emir” of Iraq’s oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Abu Islam’s capture, in October, was one of the most important in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State. Most of the isis √©lite have fled or been killed since Iraq launched its most ambitious military offensive, late last year, to retake Mosul. “He’s a guy we chased for more than two years,” Lahur Talabany, the head of Kurdistan’s Zanyari intelligence service, told me. “To pick him up and realize that we finally got him, it was a big catch for us.”
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