Islamic State group thwarts suspected spy ring in Mosul

Islamic State group thwarts suspected spy ring in Mosul
Splits within the group are beginning to emerge.
4 min read
24 October, 2014
Western intelligence appears to have guided airstrikes [Getty]

Mosul's citizens are shackled by the iron rule of the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS), where even the most minor infractions of the group's ultra-conservative code of law often means death for the accused.

But judging from recent reports from Iraqi tribal sources, confirmed by Baghdad, it appears that even members of the jihadi group are not immune to the slaughter. 

The highest IS court in Mosul recently found several of the organisation's most senior figures guilty of spying and sentenced them to death. In addition, the details of absconded former leaders of the Mosul cell were broadcast to parts of Syria and Iraq under IS control, saying that the men had caused the deaths of dozens of IS fighters by spying for "crusaders and infidels".

Yet a prominent tribal leader in Mosul told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the court may have more common financial motivations.

"IS' sharia court sentenced nine prominent figures in the group to death for embezzling close to $10 million of the group's finances," the leader said. "Four of them managed to escape and are thought to have travelled to Lebanon through the Syrian border with part of the money."

Taha al-Dairi, a high-ranking IS officer with a history of criminal activity, is believed to be among those who fled with the cash.

In response to rumours in Mosul that disagreements were emerging between the group's military and "judicial" wings, IS recently conducted a review of hundreds of its troops and armoured divisions on the west bank of the Tigris River.

Reign of terror

The tribal leader, who asked to remain anonymous, said that judges in Mosul has been acting on behalf of the sharia high court based in Raqaa, eastern Syria. Five IS soldiers were executed, their bodies left hanging on crosses outside the town of Tall al-Rumman, to the west of Mosul.

Despite the display of unity in west Mosul by IS fighters, and the seeming dogmatic adherence of members to the cause, rumours of rifts in the group are gaining traction.

"The internal problems that have been plaguing the group over the past few days is not just about embezzlement - which has increased since IS started dealing in petrol and taking protection money from businessmen," he said. "[IS' own] internal security service, known as Uyoun ["Eyes"], also discovered the first spy ring within the group, composed of 16 foreign and Arab fighters believed to be working for the US-led coalition's intelligence."

The alleged spy ring is said to include three Europeans, as well as Syrians, Jordanians and Iraqis.

The alleged spy ring is said to include three Europeans, as well as Syrians, Jordanians and Iraqis.

"They gave information [to the US] on three of the group's main military camps in Nineveh, Anbar and Deir al-Zour, leading to airstrikes that killed dozens of IS troops. They also foiled the last IS attack on Ramadi by revealing the crucial north west point that was ready to attack, which was then shelled by coalition war planes last Sunday," he said.

Divides in the ranks

Uyoun is run by the brother of the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, while the three men who were executed by IS wore long beards and clothes that appeared to be traditional Pakistani dress. Their deaths were confirmed by people in Mosul.

"It's only natural that there would be spy rings operating in IS," said Colonel Ahmad al-Jabri, a former member of the military coordination council with the Anbar tribes. "We can say that western intelligence agencies have succeeded in infiltrating the group but we still don't know if those who were killed were really their agents or not.

"Western intelligence has been more successful in their airstrikes against the group. The intelligence services are now looking to find the group's supply routes and the areas where their leaders operate."

The colonel said that, due to better intelligence on IS, the group is now more vulnerable than before and that the recent killings within the group are probably an attempt to block breaches with the rank and file.

The article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.