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Former ISIS Commander Helping Iraqi Forces Recapture Strategic Towns by Providing Key Intelligence

Iraqi Army soldiers
Iraqi Army personnel take part during an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar, October 27, 2014. |

A former Islamic State commander, currently locked away in a Baghdad prison, is now a key informant for the Iraqi government and has provided crucial intelligence that has aided the liberation of strategic areas that were once under ISIS control.

After being arrested by the Iraqi government at the end of 2013, Abu Shakr, ISIS' head of security operations in the town of Fallujah, was given a choice by Iraqi security officials.

The 36-year-old Sunni extremist said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that the offer was if he aided the Iraqi government in defeating ISIS, he would be provided special prison privileges including free roam of his max-security prison and quality free time with his five children.

Holding a love sentiment for his family, Shakr, which is not his real name, felt inclined to cooperate in order to protect his family against any kind of government action taken against them.

"Everyone has a weakness," an Iraqi security official named Haitham told the AP. "His biggest weakness is his family … We knew that if we were going to get him to cooperate with us, we needed to get his family too."

Iraqi security officials claim that Shakr's guidance has helped them gain a deeper understanding of ISIS' military tactics and has also helped the government find, capture and interrogate militants. Additionally, the officials said his guidance has helped Iraqi forces to win back strategic towns that had previously been seized by the militants.

The biggest of the Shakr-aided victories came in the town of Beiji, which Iraqi forces fully recaptured last Friday by driving ISIS militants out of the town's oil refinery. The town's prominence mainly lies with the big refinery on the outskirts of town. The Beiji oil refinery is the largest oil refinery in Iraq and produces 320,000 barrels of oil a day, which equals one-quarter of Iraq's total oil capacity.

Shakr, who wanted to use this pseudonym because he has been threatened numerous times by the extremists, originally got involved in the jihad when he joined an Al Qaeda outfit in Baghdad after becoming conflicted by the U.S. occupation starting in 2003 and the subsequent persecution that Sunni Muslims faced under a Shiite-led Iraqi government.

After Iraq's al Qaeda leaders were killed in 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began his ascension to power, and in 2013, Iraqi al Qaeda outfits were renamed the Islamic State.

Although Shakr did not indicate that he held any remorse for being involved with the Islamic State's reign of terror and atrocious extremism, he indicated that he did not fully agree with the way the group began to treat Christians and Shiite Muslims under al-Baghdadi's control.

"It was not supposed to be this way," Shakr said. "We can't stop this thing, but we can limit it. Daesh has nothing to lose."

Shakr further added that under al-Baghdadi, the group's policies became "random" and began to cause conflict between ISIS and al Qaeda. Al Qaeda head leader Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized ISIS' publicity of beheadings, Shakr said.

"Al-Zawahiri objected to the policy of beheading. He told them, 'Don't get carried away with this publicity, it is not acceptable,'" he said.

Haitham said that when they learned of Shakr and his prominent role within the ISIS outfit in Fallujah, they staked outside of his living quarters for 11 days. Haitham even added that sometimes he would sneak into the house to listen to the conversations.

Although Shakr will likely be in jail for the remainder of his life, he now considers the Iraqi government to be his ally.

"I may be in prison for the rest of my life, and I'm sorry for that. But I see now that it was my arrest that saved my family," Shakr said.

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