Face-to-face with ISIS inside an Iraqi prison

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For Abdelrahman al-Azy the task was brutal but the justifications were simple. As a member of ISIS, he must follow the instructions of his local emir or commander. The order: to help kill a man in cold blood.

As directed, al-Azy drove a fellow ISIS militant to the home of a SWAT member, an elite unit of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service,reports CNN.

The 23-year-old sat in the car as his co-conspirator stepped out of the vehicle, then shot and killed their victim.
At the time, al-Azy says he felt proud of the murder, but now sitting in handcuffs, he told CNN he regrets his actions and believes they were wrong.
Al-Azy is one of three men who spoke to CNN exclusively from inside a Kurdish-run prison at an undisclosed location in northern Iraq.
This is unprecedented access to a group of men who all admit they played a role in an ISIS attack on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk in October.
The commando-style raid involved a couple of hundred ISIS fighters, at least two suicide bombers, and local sleeper cells. It left 96 people dead and was considered by many a distraction from the battle to recapture Mosul, ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq.
Each of the three men CNN spoke to played very different roles and held varying degrees of closeness to the terror organization. Together, their stories draw a picture of how the organization functions on a local-level at a time when it is fighting for its very survival.
All three of the men say they agreed to speak to CNN and were not coerced by the Kurdish officials that run the detention center. Each remains under investigation for their crimes.
The fighter
Laith Ahmed was working as a carpenter when ISIS took control of his village near the predominantly Sunni city of Hawija in the summer of 2014. Three days later, a man came to him promising a salary if he joined the so-called Islamic State. Poor and illiterate, Ahmed says he agreed to sign-up without understanding the consequences of his decision.
“I made a mistake. I don’t know how to read or write. Everything I did was wrong.” Ahmed said as he fidgeted with his hands.
He is 26-years-old with shoulder-length, stringy blond hair and a long beard. His eyes are a striking blue-green and he has dark, pattern scars on his forehead and nose. In so many ways he is the ideal ISIS foot soldier: submissive in demeanor, uneducated, and from a hotbed of Sunni radicalism.
“I swear they tricked us. I don’t know anything.” Ahmed said, “The brought us on foot into Kirkuk and gave us AKs. Then they positioned us in specific locations and left.”
Kurdish authorities tell us the 26-year-old was an inghamisi, meaning suicide fighter, and lead a group of five other men into the assault on Kirkuk. Ahmed tells us he is unaware of his position as an inghamisi.
CCTV footage obtained by CNN shows Ahmed engaged in a brief gun battle before he is shot in the foot and forced to crawl to safety. Later a group of furious local residents capture and restrain him until Kurdish security forces take him into custody
“I hope this will be over soon. I don’t know what my fate may be,” Ahmed said, “But I will go to court and one day I hope I can be re-united with my wife and children.”
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