Former Isis leader was subjected to sexual torture in US military prison in Iraq, widow says

The widow of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has claimed that the slain Isis leader was subjected to “sexual torture” in an American prison in Iraq.

Before he was held in 2004, al-Baghdadi was “religious but not extremist“, Umm Hudaifa said in an interview with BBC News.

Umm Hudaifa is under investigation for her suspected role in Isis and the crimes committed by the extremist group, which briefly ruled, in the middle of the last decade, a vast expanse of territory in Iraq and Syria. She is currently lodged in an Iraqi prison in Baghdad.

Under al-Baghdadi’s leadership, Isis committed a genocide against the Yazidi people and took thousands of women as slaves. It killed hostages and massacred civilians, most of them Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Her late husband was “conservative but open minded”, Umm Hudaifa asserted, but his year-long detention in Camp Bucca changed him. Al-Baghdadi was reportedly arrested after founding a militant Sunni group to fight American and allied Western occupation forces.

He developed “psychological problems” after his release, his widow recalled. “He became short-tempered and given to outbursts of anger.”

When she asked him about it, al-Baghdadi told her that “he was exposed to something that ‘you cannot understand’”.

Although he did not tell her so explicitly, Hudaifa said she believed “he was subjected to sexual torture”.

Al-Baghdadi was killed during a US military raid in northern Syria on 27 October 2019.

Reportedly born in the Iraqi city of Samarra in 1971, al-Baghdadi rose from near obscurity to global attention when Isis swept through northern Iraq and northeastern Syria over a decade ago and established a self-styled caliphate. He made a rare public appearance in 2014 to declare himself the caliph, the spiritual and temporal leader of the global Muslim community, a claim rejected by almost all Muslims religious and political groups.

Umm Hudaifa is herself being investigated for suspected involvement in the sexual enslavement of kidnapped women and girls. She has denied the accusations saying she herself attempted to escape Isis but the armed men at checkposts sent her back.

She described Isis atrocities as a “huge shock” and “inhumane”. They “crossed the line of humanity”, she said, adding that she “felt ashamed” of the violence against the Yazidis.

Umm Hudaifa claimed to have confronted her husband about the murder of “innocent people” and told him there were other things under Islamic law “that could have been done, like guiding them towards repentance”.

Hamid Yazidi, whose two wives, 26 children, two brothers and their families were kidnapped by Isis in Sinjar, told the BBC that Umm Hudaifa wasn’t a victim as she claimed to be and was involved in the kidnapping and enslavement of Yazidi girls.

While most of Hamid Yazidi’s relatives were released after paying ransom, six of his children went missing.

He and his niece Soad, who was allegedly trafficked seven times by Isis, have brought a civil case against Umm Hudaifa and sought the death penalty for her.

“She was responsible for everything,” Soad told the broadcaster. “She made the selections – this one to serve her, that one to serve her husband... and my sister was one of those girls.”