Cracking An Insurgent Cell
Finding--and breaking--the ruthless killers of Iraq is not a pretty business. An exclusive inside look at how it's done
The next morning, Tuesday, Fox heads over to meet with Majeed and his boss, Lt. Col. Ammare Abdullah. "Great job going out and getting Mahmoud," Fox says. "I think we have the whole cell now." Abdullah agrees. Abu Mahmoud, he tells Fox, conceded the night before that his group "is done."
Fox has been told to complete the task he was supposed to do the previous day: bring the two original detainees back to the Iraqi police. Fox tells Abdullah and Majeed: "My commander is worried about the two guys the IP s took."
"Mahmoud is the killer," Majeed says. "These two guys are nothing. . . . If you want to take the two, take them."
But Fox wants more than just the first two detainees. Bringing the actual triggerman to the police, Fox thinks, will help show them the benefits of cooperation. "I think the best thing would be to take them all to One West," he says.
Majeed is skeptical. He does not want to release them just yet. Abu Mahmoud has not yet revealed who supplies the IED materials. With more time, Majeed believes, he can break Abu Mahmoud. But Majeed remains silent.
Outside, eight detainees, their hands bound behind their backs, are being literally stuffed into the back of a pickup truck. "Make sure they have their seat belts on," Fox jokes. Several have empty sandbags on their heads; the rest are blindfolded. After the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Americans stopped permitting bags to be placed over the heads of detainees. Fox asks the Iraqis to take them off. He has to ask several times before the Iraqis begrudgingly remove the bags and replace them with blacked-out goggles provided by the Americans.
At the One West police station, a junior officer runs into the office of Colonel Hassan, the chief intelligence officer, to tell him that the Iraqi Army has brought Abu Mahmoud. "Mahmoud? No," Hassan says. Majeed smiles. "Yes, we got Mahmoud," he says in Arabic.
Fox looks at both Hassan and Majeed. "This is a great example of cooperation between the Iraqi police and Army," he says.
"God willing," Hassan says, "we will always be supporting each other. If we work together, we will get all the terrorists in Mosul."
The police begin to bring in the detainees, starting with Nashwan. He is dressed in the same blue striped shirt, spotted with dried blood, that he was wearing on Saturday. Thin and boyish, he looks younger than his 18 years. "I have six younger brothers," Nashwan tells Hassan. "I have to support my family--that is why I did what I did. But I will work with the police or the Iraqi Army." Hassan nods. Majeed has told Hassan that he thinks Nashwan has been helpful. "Tomorrow, we will take you to the judge," Hassan tells Nashwan. "I want you to tell him the whole story. If you want leniency, you must tell him the same thing."
Next, the police bring in Adel, the young man who told Fox he wanted to kill all of the Americans. He is quieter now, his defiance gone. "Why, when I first saw you at the police station, did you say you wanted to kill me?" Fox asks. "We are trying to help make Iraq a better place."