On July 23rd the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) launched a well-planned and probably rehearsed raid on the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. The ISI staged out in the desert prior to the attack with dozens of vehicles. This is the same organization that US Special Operations was fighting prior to our departure from Iraq.
In this screen capture taken from ISI footage of the lead up to the attack, you should note the technicals and the heavy machine gun mounted in the back of the flatbed truck. After the attack on the prison, ISI announced that they killed 120 police officers in their assault, which included suicide bombers and VBIEDs, another type of suicide bomb which uses a human being for target vectoring. The Iraqi government reports a much smaller number of slain policemen, putting their number at 29. One way or the other, the prison raid was successful and managed to free around 500 prisoners. I fear for the Iraqi people knowing what kind of whackjobs we policed up in Iraq that are now back on the streets.
Still, most of us in Special Forces knew that those we captured would be released anyway. If not an ISI raid, some corrupt judge would set them loose eventually, or they would be released in some under-the-table political deal that GOI (Government of Iraq) would probably cut with ISI.
Days later came another prison break in the Middle East, this one in a location that has been covered in depth on this website. You got it, Benghazi. One report came that local people raided the Koyfiya prison because they didn’t want it near their neighborhood. This sort of spontaneous do-gooder social action sounds on the surface about as ridiculous as a anti-Islam youtube video causing the attack on the US Consulate on 9/11/12, but that’s just this author’s opinion…
This time, about 1,200 inmates escaped and flooded into Benghazi. This jail break probably had more to do with the extensive assassinations happening in Benghazi and across Eastern Libya, the killings called “systematic” by one Libyan official. The assassinations are being conducted by the militias, Jihadi and otherwise, but tucked away and hidden within those killings are a smaller number of assassinations that may be undertaken by a second actor who prefers to go unnoticed. Interestingly, the prison break happened as Libyan protestors, dare we say patriots, stormed the offices of the Islamist political parties all across the country.
Our third jailbreak happened last night in Pakistan. About 40 Pakistani Taliban stormed the prison in Dera Ismail Khan, with reports indicating that some members were disguised as prison guards and that they may have explosively breached several walls. RPGs and machine guns were utilized as the Taliban fought their way into the prison and shot the locks off prison cells. 250 prisoners were freed by this attack.
After talking to several other SOFREP writers about this sequence of events, the question became whether or not these prison breaks are all part of some pre-coordinated strategy. The prison raids in Iraq and Pakistan were almost certainly planned weeks, if not months, in advance. The media likes to throw around terms like “military-precision” or “sophisticated” whenever terrorists strike, for some reason. Maybe it makes people feel better knowing that the only way terrorists could be successful is if they are very sophisticated and use military-precision in their actions. The flip side is that our security sucks and it is easy for the bad guys to kick our ass, which makes for a far more unsettling answer.
The reality is that when you mix up ideology and armed movements you get a sort of large-scale pep rally prior to these sorts of attacks, which is both a mission rehearsal and a Come-To-Allah moment for the terrorists that gets them all jazzed up for the assault. The North Vietnamese Army used to do the same type of rehearsals before attacking American installations during the Vietnam War.
So are these prison breaks a coordinated strategy between various Islamist movements? Perhaps. There is an even scarier answer, although it seems less likely in this case. It could be a matter of social learning, people seeing what is possible on the Internet and on satellite television and then mimicking it at their own local level. We’ve seen in the past how quickly terrorists learn from each other, and develop new types of IEDs by sharing information with each other on the Internet. This could also be an indication that these groups are, in fact, getting more sophisticated as their planning and decision making process is rapidly getting shorter.
Keep an eye on Egypt, because I don’t think this is over yet.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Nation.com.pk)