Sixty-nine Arab prisoners of the Islamic State were freed in a military raid near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija. The military mission just happened upon the captives by mistake. American Special Operations forces brought the captives to the Kurdish autonomous region in American Chinook helicopters.
Many of the captives were members of the police or suspected of ties to the Iraqi government or the United States. The militants were suspicious of anybody who had served in the Iraqi police or army. The former prisoners are all Sunni Muslims.
In a two-and-a-half-hour interview at a government building in Iraqi Kurdistan in the town of Salahaddin, the captives described shocking brutality and a harrowing existence under the thumb of the Islamic State. The captives described being beaten and tortured by militants during their captivity. Some of the captives believed that they were just hours away from execution.
Prisoners were kept in their cells day and night. Muhammad Hassan Abdullah al-Jibouri had not seen the sun in more than a month before his rescue. The 35-year-old police officer was one of the lucky ones. New prisoners were electrically shocked, beaten with hoses, and smothered with plastic. A television set in the cell would broadcast Islamic State videos of beheadings and the captives were forced to watch.
The Islamic State captured Hawija long ago and imposed draconian rules and regimented torture across the area. After they arrived, the militants went from house to house, seizing any weapons and money they found. Disobedience or carelessness in following the rules provoked suspicion, or even beatings.
Some of the Islamic State fighters were from the Hawija area itself. Sunni men in the town were offered $50 if they joined the militants. Six Islamic State militants taken out of Hawija by the American and Kurdish soldiers are now being questioned by the Kurds.