According to an extensive investigation by CBS News, of all the unlikely places, it appears as if a U.S. military prison may be the birthplace of ISIS. At least 12 of the group’s top officials, including its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, served sentences at the famed Camp Bucca.
When ISIS first attacked the city of Mosul this past summer, it was as if they crawled out of nowhere, leaving people wondering where they came from. It has been discovered that it is very probable that the group’s formation began in Camp Bucca, one of the largest and toughest prisons in Iraq.
The Independent reported that the Soufan Group, a terrorist analyst organization, said that apart from Baghdadi, his second in command Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and senior military leader Haji Bakr were also incarcerated at Bucca. Soufan added that the men were likely already extremists when they entered the prison but it was the breeding ground for the formation of ISIS.
CBS News investigators were able to obtain photos of ten of the now top ISIS officials in Bucca’s yellow inmate jumpsuits, including Baghdadi. During his time at the prison, he would have spent a considerable amount of time with some of the world’s most dangerous Islamic extremists.
“Before their detention, Baghdadi and others were violent radicals, intent on attacking America,” wrote military veteran Andrew Thompson and academic Jeremi Suri in the New York Times this month. “Their time in prison deepened their extremism and gave them opportunities to broaden their following. The prisons became virtual terrorist universities. The hardened radicals were the professors, the other detainees were the students, and the prison authorities played the role of absent custodian.”
“I think it is undeniable that one of the main causes of ISIS’ explosive growth after 2010 was Bucca,” said Patrick Skinner, a former CIA agent who spent time in Iraq. “It is where they met, it is where they planned. Everybody could see what was happening but nobody could do anything about it.”
U.S. officials who worked at Bucca told CBS News that they were concerned that prisoners were becoming radicalized. Former prison commander James Gerrond wrote about his concern that “instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism.” Bucca had served as the perfect setting for the birth of the powerful alliance between Islamic extremists and angry loyalists of Saddam Hussein.
“You put them together and you get a mixture of organized military discipline with highly motivated, highly active ideological fervor, and the results is what we see today,” said Skinner. “There were other circumstances, but the toxic brew of Bucca started this recipe.”