Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters “liberated” prisons in Mosul after soldiers and guards abandoned their posts, a Saudi national who was among the prisoners has told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Saudi citizen said that prison guards at the Tasfirat (Transfer) Prison in Mosul removed their uniforms and donned yellow prison uniforms to disguise themselves as prisoners out of fear of being killed by the Islamist militants.
“The [ISIS] gunmen, most of them Iraqi nationals, stormed Tasfirat prison in Mosul where I was being held and freed me. They were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ at the top of their voices and did not ask anything in return for freeing us,” he said.
“There were only around 15 of them, but they were carrying heavy weapons, and they were in possession of Iraqi army and police vehicles,” he added.
The Saudi national, who told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was arrested in Baghdad Airport in 2012 on charges of smuggling, said: “The gunmen were dressed in black and wearing masks. From their accents, it was clear that they were Iraqis and Syrians.”
The freed Saudi prisoner, who is currently staying with a local Iraqi family, affirmed that the ISIS militias have been moving freely throughout Mosul, Iraq’s second city. “Life in the city has practically returned to normal. Gas stations are working again under the supervision of the gunmen, and some restaurants have also reopened.”
“There are no [ISIS] checkpoints near the neighborhood where I am currently staying, but I have seen a lot of army and police vehicles being driven by the militants, they have also seized three helicopters from a military airbase in Mosul,” he added.
The Saudi national said that he has met a number of prisoners who have been freed from other jails in the area, including some who had been imprisoned on terrorism charges. Recounting the chaos and confusion that has prevailed across the region during the ISIS advance, he said that Iraqi prison officers had sought to kill prisoners rather than allow them to escape. Describing an incident that occurred at another prison, he claimed that a prison officer, Major Faris, threw a hand-grenade into a prison cell killing seven prisoners during an ISIS attack. “The militants were able to kill Major Faris,” the Saudi national added.
ISIS confirmed that it has captured a number of prisons in its recent advance in Iraq, freeing “thousands” of prisoners. International media put the number of prisoners freed by ISIS at around 2,500, including ISIS members convicted by the Baghdad government who may have rejoined the fight.