Haji Bakr: Former Saddam Hussein spy is mastermind behind Isis takeover of northern Syria and push into Iraq, report claims

Documents uncovered by Der Spiegel claim Bakr made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Isis’ leader to give the group a ‘religious face’

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Wednesday 23 September 2015 10:39
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A former spy for Saddam Hussein is understood to have drawn up the blue print for Isis's invasion of northern Syria
A former spy for Saddam Hussein is understood to have drawn up the blue print for Isis's invasion of northern Syria

Isis’s takeover of northern Syria and its intentions to overrun Iraq were masterminded by a man named Haji Bakr, a former intelligence officer for Saddam Hussein, it has been claimed.

In a lengthy report published by Der Spiegel, entitled “Secret files reveal the structure of Islamic State,” the German magazine said it had gained access to 31 pages of handwritten charts, lists and schedules that amount to a blueprint for the establishment of a caliphate in Syria.

The papers, which were seized by rebels in the Syrian city of Aleppo early last year after Isis (formerly known as Islamic State) fighters were forced to abandon their headquarters there, were obtained by the magazine following lengthy negotiations with the rebels.

A man called Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, who also went by the better-known pseudonym of Haji Bakr, is claimed to be the author of the documents.

A former colonel in the intelligence service for Saddam Hussein’s air defence force, Bakr is understood to have overseen a meticulous plan for the takeover of northern Syria, using techniques learned in the Hussein regime, including surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping, Der Spiegel claims.

The report follows claims made by Isis defectors that a number of former officers and security agents from Hussein’s regime have been running Isis during its bloody campaign to establish a caliphate.

“What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for takeover,” the magazine’s story, written by Christoph Reuter, claimed.

Bakr's techniques deployed in the takeover of northern Syria include surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping, which he learned in Hussein's regime

“It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an ‘Islamic Intelligence State’ – a caliphate run by an organisation that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency,” it said.

The report documents Bakr’s movements from the fall of the Iraqi army in 2003 by US authorities until his death last year. It claims that between 2006 and 2008 Bakr was held in US detention facilities – including Abu Graib – before becoming highly influential in the creation of Isis in 2010.

Bakr reportedly worked with a small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers to place Abu Bakr al-Bagdhdadi at the head of the militant operation, with the goal of giving the group a “religious face,” while Bakr himself was described as a nationalist, rather than an Islamist.

Der Spiegel asserts that the combination of fanatical beliefs and strategic calculations – which were led by Bakr – have led to the success of the militant group in its goal to overrun northern Syria and to push into Iraq.

Bakr is understood to have travelled to Syria in 2012 to oversee the takeover of the country’s northern region, and that he chose to use a number of novice foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Europe, as well as experienced Chechen and Uzbek fighters in Isis’ military campaign.

The former intelligence officer was reportedly killed during fighting with Syrian rebels in January last year, which was after his takeover plan had been implemented and the militants had been placed in a strong strategic position to be able to move into Iraq.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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