Islamic State group 'seeks prisoner swap' with Iraqi government
The Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) is trying to make a deal with the Iraqi government that would see the release of hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civil servants, tribal sources in north Mosul have told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
The militants' proposed deal would come in exchange for the release of high-profile IS members recently detained by Iraqi troops.
A well-known sheikh in Mosul told al-Araby that the IS had been holding hundreds in secret prisons for several months.
"The IS stopped killing prisoners days ago, at the same time as leaks came out saying the group was looking to make a prisoner exchange," said the sheikh.
"Around 21 Islamic scholars and clerics are also being held [by the IS] because they refused to swear allegiance to the group and endorse it. Leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iraqi Islamic Party, and tribal sheikhs are also being held."
The IS group is believed to be holding the detainees in Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit, and moved some of the more prominent prisoners to Syria a few days ago.
"The information we have says the IS intends to find a way to swap them for its top members held in Iraqi government prisons," said the Mosul sheikh.
IS in crisis
"The IS' eagerness for this deal, if true, hints that it is going through a major crisis in recruiting new blood to the group, especially leaders, after the international coalition's success in targeting it," said Iraqi political analyst Fouad Ali. Some IS leaders are believed to have been killed in recent airstrikes.
Ali thinks it likely that the IS is trying to copy the exchange of the Maaloula nuns for Nusra Front prisoners in March.
|The IS' eagerness for an exchange hints that it is going through a major crisis in recruiting new blood.
- Fouad Ali, political analyst
On Wednesday, the IS handed out leaflets in Mosul describing how it would continue to thrive and expand.
"The daily spilling of civilian and fighters' blood is a tax for the caliphate," said one, according to Mosul residents.
"Pushing on will eventually lead to everyone recognising the caliphate in Syria and Iraq. You will all soon see everyone flocking to the caliphate to open embassies. You all will see how Islam is dear to the blood that has been split recently," the pamphlet continued.
The IS vowed that "crusaders and apostate Arabs" would be punished by "the soldiers of the caliphate".
It also identified Baghdad-backed militias as its primary enemy. "Killing them is more delicious than killing ten Americans," read the pamphlet. "[They] will be attacked so terrifyingly they will lose their minds before their heads, when they least expect and on their own ground."
Recent IS statements have expanded the scope of its threats to include other countries in the region.
It is thought this might be a sign of bluster in the face of what has been reported as successful attacks carried out on IS by the US-led coalition forces. The airstrikes are believed to have destroyed much of the IS' military and logistical strength.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.