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Tue, Aug 30, 2011 | WikiLeaks

Fatah al-Islam "Islamist" Jihadists

 

WikiLeaks: Syria’s Proxy War in Iraq

Lawyer and Syrian Human Rights Organization — SWASIAH activist Catherine al-Tali (strictly protect) updated us on SWASIAH’s ongoing investigation into what happened during the Seidnaya prison riots in July and December 2008, and January 2009. SWASIAH’s investigation, al-Tali confided at a February 11 meeting, had culminated in a series of taped interviews on the riots with three military personnel, one Seidnaya prison guard, and one former Seidnaya inmate. According to these sources, the Islamists in Seidnaya responsible for the riots were part of a cadre of inmates sent to Iraq sometime after 2003 to fight with the insurgency. Upon their return to Syria, they were re-arrested and returned to Seidnaya prison. Feeling that their service warranted better treatment from the SARG, the prisoners staged two riots that led to the death of many military personnel, nearly 100 prisoners, and untold injuries.


 

Source: WikiLeaks

Reference Created Classification Origin
10DAMASCUS158 2010-02-24 11:33 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Damascus

 

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0158/01 0551133
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 241133Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7394
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0062
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 5234
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0883
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0836
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T DAMASCUS 000158

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/NESCA, S/CT
NSC FOR SHAPIRO/MCDERMOTT
LONDON FOR MILLER
PARIS FOR NOBLES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2020
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV PINR PINS PTER KISL KTSD MASS
MOPS, IZ, LE, SY
SUBJECT: WHEN CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST: SYRIA’S PROXY
WAR IN IRAQ AT HEART OF 2008-09 SEIDNAYA PRISON RIOTS

REF: A. 08 DAMASCUS 00482
¶B. 08 DAMASCUS 00517
¶C. 08 DAMASCUS 00814
¶D. 08 DAMASCUS 00885
¶E. 09 DAMASCUS 00006

Classified By: CDA Charles Hunter for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (S/NF) Summary: Lawyer and Syrian Human Rights
Organization-SWASIAH activist Catherine al-Tali (strictly
protect) updated us on SWASIAH’s ongoing investigation into
what happened during the Seidnaya prison riots in July and
December 2008, and January 2009 (refs A, B, D and E).
SWASIAH’s investigation, al-Tali confided at a February 11
meeting, had culminated in a series of taped interviews on
the riots with three military personnel, one Seidnaya prison
guard, and one former Seidnaya inmate. According to these
sources, the Islamists in Seidnaya responsible for the riots
were part of a cadre of inmates sent to Iraq sometime after
2003 to fight with the insurgency. Upon their return to
Syria, they were re-arrested and returned to Seidnaya prison.
Feeling that their service warranted better treatment from
the SARG, the prisoners staged two riots that led to the
death of many military personnel, nearly 100 prisoners, and
untold injuries. End Summary.

——————————–
From Prisoner to Foreign Fighter
——————————–

¶2. (S/NF) Lawyer and Syrian Human Rights Organization-SWASIAH
activist Catherine al-Tali told us that over the last four
months she had taped interviews with three military
personnel, one prison guard, and one former Seidnaya inmate,
all of whom reportedly had first-hand knowledge of the
Seidnaya prison riots. Tali said she was in the process of
compiling a written report that she would pass to us. When
asked for copies of the taped interviews, Tali hesitated and
said she would try.

¶3. (S/NF) According to Tali’s contacts, after the U.S.
invasion of Iraq, the SARG offered Seidnaya inmates the
opportunity to receive military training in Syria and then
travel to Iraq and fight coalition forces, a claim we had
heard in early January 2009 from imprisoned SWASIAH leader
Muhanad al-Hasani (ref E). Tali had no additional
information on how many inmates joined or at what times they
were sent to Iraq. She did report, however, that of those
who returned from Iraq to Syria, some remained at large (but
in contact with the regime), others were sent to Lebanon, and
a third group were re-arrested and remanded to Seidnaya
prison. The group in Seidnaya were, Tali claimed,
“Islamists.” (Comment: Tali was unable to identify the
specific government/security entity responsible for routing
prisoners in and out of the country; nor did she know how
many of those former inmates still at large or presently in
Lebanon were also Islamists. End Comment.)

————-
Planned Riots
————-

¶4. (S/NF) The group of returned foreign fighters in Seidnaya
felt the SARG, by sending them back to prison, had cheated
them, Tali explained. The inmates had expected better
treatment, perhaps even freedom, and were upset over prison
conditions. These factors led to the planning of the July 5,
2008 riot (refs A & B), she said. Her sources claimed the
inmates fashioned swords from iron bed supports. Once they
had accumulated a sufficient supply of arms, they staged a
riotous protest over prison conditions.

¶5. (S/NF) The SARG reportedly responded by surrounding the
prison with elements of the Fourth Armored Brigade and
sending a group of military cadets, armed only with batons,
to quell the uprising. According to Tali’s sources, the
armed inmates quickly captured the cadets, stripped them of
their uniforms, forced them to don prison garb, and then
marched them at sword-point onto the roof of the prison.
When the cadets emerged onto the roof, the military (assuming
them to be prisoners) opened fire, killing an unknown number
before realizing their error. Once it became clear what had
happened, Tali said, the Fourth Armored Brigade entered the
prison, killing between 50-60 inmates.

¶6. (S/NF) Tali’s sources claimed the SARG military were only
partially successful in quelling the riot. The Islamist
faction reportedly maintained control over part of the prison
and held a large enough number of hostages that from July
through October they were able to trade hostages for food.
During that time, Tali contended, the prisoners regrouped and
planned the riots that took place in December 2008 (ref D &
E), which resulted in an additional 35-50 inmate deaths.
Tali’s sources believed that the prisoners’ organized
violence and ability to hold on for as long as they did was
largely due to the military training they had received prior
to being sent to Iraq.

¶7. (S/NF) Comment: Still a sensitive subject and a black mark
for military and security services who for months failed to
subdue the riots, the Seidnaya troubles seem to have subsided
and the SARG has begun to allow families limited access to
imprisoned relatives, though we have heard there are still
prisoners whom nobody has been able to visit since the riots
began. Tali’s reporting adds to the mounting evidence that
the SARG allowed Seidnaya prisoners to train in Syria for
combat operations in Iraq. According to Hasani and other
diplomatic contacts, the SARG coordinated with Damascus-based
Fatah al-Islam elements (ref C & E) to train the prisoners
and transport them across the Iraqi-Syrian border. The
SARG’s roundup and return to Seidnaya of prisoner-combatants
might have provided a revenge motive, as diplomatic sources
suspected, for Fatah al-Islam’s alleged bombing of a Syrian
Military Intelligence site on September 27, 2008 (ref C). End
Comment.

HUNTER


2 Comments to “WikiLeaks: Syria’s Proxy War in Iraq”

  1. WikiLeaks: Syria’s Proxy War in Iraq | Middle East, Israel, Arab World, Southwest Asia, Maghreb http://t.co/GYJ8R9ja

  2. avatar Elisabeth says:

    WikiLeaks: Syria’s Proxy War in Iraq | Middle East, Israel, Arab World, Southwest Asia, Maghreb http://t.co/GYJ8R9ja


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