Arab hostages who were freed from an ISIS prison in Iraq by an American-Kurdish raid last week described vicious torture and spoke of feeling like they were already dead when their rescuers arrived.
“We were already dead. God sent us a force from the sky. They rescued us and brought us back to Kurdistan,” Fars Hussein Abdulla of Hawija, one of the 69 rescued hostages, told Kurdish news agency Rudaw.
More from the rescued hostages:
“They tortured us with electricity and put bags on our head until we could not breathe,” said Mohamed Hassan Abdulla, who is from the village of Alkhan in Kirkuk, where he was working in the police office.
“When one of their security officials visited us he was wearing a belt with explosives,” Abdulla told Rudaw. “He asked if we had eaten well, and said ‘if you ate well you will have a good torture,’” added Abdulla, who said he knew of two or three people executed daily.
Ahmed Mahmoud Mustafa said he was arrested four times by ISIS, and that each time he had been imprisoned for two to three weeks.
“The last time they kept me imprisoned for three months,” he said. “They would blindfold our eyes and tie our hands, and the first thing would be to pour water all over you and then torture you with electric cables until you agreed to confess. Even then, they would kill you.”
Mustafa said he was arrested together with his brothers, and they were all tortured.
“There were women with babies in their arms, pleading for mercy and being accused of many things,” said Mustafa, who thanked Kurdish and US forces for the rescue operation.
…Hassan Hussein, from Hawija, said he had been imprisoned for five months, during which time he faced several mock executions.
“They would put a gun to my head and order me to confess. Most of the men confessed to all sorts of things, and many were executed. Our family had no idea we were alive or dead,” he said.
Saad Khalaf Ali Faraj, who was a police officer in Hawija, said he was jailed for more than seven months. “They also took my brother and he was beheaded. They only gave me his body, without his head. I had to bury the body without the head,” he recalled, thanking US and Kurdish forces for the 2 am rescue operation that got them out last week.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters Friday that he “made the decision to assist our Kurdish partners after receiving specific actionable intelligence that a mass execution was imminent.”
Sayb Abdulla Masahir al-Jobouri of Kirkuk told Rudaw that ISIS said he wold be executed on Thursday or Friday. The raid was carried out in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday.
“Every day they were taking several people for execution. We were hearing gunshots all the time. They were burning the bodies,” al-Jobouri said. “Thanks to the efforts of Kurdish and US forces, we were rescued.”
Akram Hussein Mohamed Zahir of Hawija told Rudaw, “You can see the signs of beatings all over my head, legs and back. They broke my teeth. Lastly, they announced my execution date. They told me you are dead. You will witness your own death.”
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla., was wounded in the operation and died later while receiving treatment. “On behalf of Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdish people, I express my condolences to the family and friends of the brave soldier,” Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said. Several Peshmerga were also wounded.