(BAGHDAD) — The added militant element in Syria’s conflict and the rise of violence in Iraq by radical Sunni groups can at least be partly traced to a series of prison breaks in Iraq, according to a New York Times report.
The al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, undertook a plan in 2012 and 2013 to get militants out of Iraqi jails, which the group called “Operation Breaking the Walls.”
Although the most spectacular prison break at Abu Ghraib garnered the most headlines in July 2013, there were numerous other efforts that proved fruitful in freeing militant fighters and criminals.
It’s believed that hundreds of those who escaped joined the ISIS in both senior leadership roles and as foot soldiers.
Many of those who were once in Iraqi jails are now fighting in Syria to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime while other escapees stayed behind in Iraq to continue efforts to destabilize Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.
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Angela Dewan and Max Blau, CNN
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Billy Hallowell, Deseret News
Reed Alexander and James Griffiths, CNN