Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has released a statement claiming credit for the complex suicide assaults on prisons in Abu Ghraib and Taji that resulted in the escape of more than 500 terrorists, including several top-level commanders who had been sentenced to death. Twenty-six Iraqi policemen and 10 al Qaeda fighters were killed during the attacks, which began late on July 21 and included suicide car bombs, mortar attacks, and the deployment of blocking teams along the roads to halt Iraqi reinforcements. Although the prisoners escaped from Abu Ghraib, the assault on Taji was repelled.
The ISIL claimed credit for the attack in a statement that was released today by the al-I’tissam Media Foundation, an official ISIL media outlet. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The ISIL named the operation the “Invasion of Crushing the Tyrants,” according to SITE. “The mujahideen brigades took off [to attack the prisons] after months of preparation and planning,” ISIL’s statement read. Today Iraq’s Interior Ministry alleged that that ISIL had inside help. A government statement said that “[t]here has been a conspiracy between some of the guards of both prisons and the terrorist gangs that attacked the prisons,” Al Jazeera reported.
“The ISIL claimed that 120 Iraqi guards and SWAT forces were killed and dozens were injured, and noted that the operation came exactly one year after the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the ‘Destroying the Gates’ campaign to free Muslim prisoners in the country,” SITE stated. [Note: The campaign is also called “Destroying the Walls”; see LWJ reports, Al Qaeda in Iraq claims nationwide attacks that killed more than 100 Iraqis, and Al Qaeda in Iraq claims credit for Tikrit jailbreak.]
The attacks on Abu Ghraib and Taji are major wins for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group has, with minimal losses, increased its manpower by more than 500 fighters. And some senior, experienced leaders are now back in the mix to provide an infusion to the group.
From a propaganda standpoint, the assault serves to showcase al Qaeda’s strengths in Iraq: the ability to successfully launch simultaneous complex operations against heavily fortified targets. But perhaps more importantly, al Qaeda is telling its fighters and leaders in jail that, through its Destroying the Walls campaign, they will not be forgotten.