Inside ISIS: Salman Ahsrafi's photo found in documents revealing underbelly of extremist group
CBC is first North American broadcaster to view secret files obtained by German TV from Iraqi forces
The face of Salman Ashrafi, a Calgary man who drove a bomb-laden car into an Iraqi military base outside Baghdad last November, killing 46 people, appears amid a treasure trove of documents and videos that lay bare the bureaucratic underbelly of ISIS.
The documents and videos provide a new weapon for coalition forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Ever since, much has been said about the intelligence value of the information, but the documents have never been viewed before.
German broadcasters WDR and NDR and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung spent months negotiating with the Iraqi government — making four trips to Baghdad — and were eventually given exclusive access to a small sample that they have now shared with the CBC, the only North American broadcaster to have seen them.
The documents the CBC has seen and independently translated from Arabic to English show monthly expense accounts prepared by ISIS’s accountants for its leadership.
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The spreadsheets list the number of Kalashnikovs, night goggles, Russian-made rifles and American-made scopes, Toyota four wheel-drive pickups, price per units and total costs. In a column for comments, detailed information of who will receive the shipments is shown.
The total cost of weapon purchases for the month of February 2014 for one region — north Baghdad — was nearly $2.5 million US.
Suicide bombing report cards
Another sample of documents provides report cards of suicide bombing missions, listing for the first time the real names, rather than the noms de guerre, of the men — including foreign fighters — chosen to carry them out.
It also shows their education, family details and even lists the phone numbers ISIS leaders are to call at the end of missions.
Terrorism analysts are puzzled that Ashrafi was only in Iraq for eight days before he was sent on a suicide mission. They say that is a clear indication that ISIS thought he had no other value.
Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) in London, England, was shown the documents and says they reveal a lot about the kind of welfare system that the Islamic State has created for its fighters.
“A lot of martyrs would not go on martyrdom missions if they didn't know the Islamic State was taking care of their families and relatives after their death. And this becomes very clear from these documents that the Islamic State is taking this responsibility seriously.”
Injured or on vacation?
In yet another spreadsheet, foreign fighters are listed. One column gives their ranks, another states their specialities with weapons and in the comment section, it states whether they are injured or on vacation.
There is also a breakdown of monthly administrative expenditures.
“The Islamic State organizes itself like a state, it wants to be taken seriously as the new caliphate, it wants to be seen as a new state that sees its future as an organization quite unlike al-Qaeda, which is roaming around different battlefields. It wants to stay there, to hold this territory and potentially expand,” says Neumann.
To the experts in Baghdad studying these documents, they reveal the intricate hierarchy and reporting structures of ISIS, from the collection of taxes, the printing of its own passports and developing its own currency.
They consider those details key in the fight to dismantle ISIS.
With files from Adrienne Arsenault