The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) claims Saddam Hussein’s nephew Ibrahim al-Sabawi died near Baiji fighting for the terrorist group. The militants hope to capture a key oil refinery in the town.
ISIS members and supporters posted alleged pictures of al-Sabawi’s dead body. Media outlets did not confirm if the body belonged to al-Sabawi, and the Iraq government did not release a statement.
Shi’ite militias accused al-Sabawi “of planning and participating in the Camp Speicher massacre in which ISIS is believed to have killed nearly 1,600 Iraqi Air Force cadets.” ISIS posted pictures of the slaughter on social media. Iraqi forces managed to take over the terrorist group a few months later and identified the graves. The militias begged “the international community to recognize mass killing as genocide.”
Al-Sabawi’s father was Hasan al-Sabawi, “the late dictator’s half-brother” and “a feared intelligence chief.” The United States placed Hasan on their top 55 Most Wanted Iraqis list after the 2003 invasion. Authorities arrested him in 2005, but he died from cancer before officials could carry out his death sentences.
Ibrahim was also a top member of Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, which was banned in the country after Hussein’s regime toppled in 2003. Forces captured al-Sabawi in 2005, but he “escaped from a prison near Mosul the following year.” There is no information about when he joined ISIS, but members and supporters claim he left the Ba’ath Party and embraced the terrorist group.
Experts believe ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reached out to the Sunni Baathist army, “capitalizing on feelings of marginalization and sectarian politics inflamed by Iraq’s Shiite-led government.” There are plenty of former Ba’ath members within ISIS.
“The marginalization of Sunni Muslim coupled with the de-Baathification of the Iraqi army left a lot of people feeling very dissatisfied with the state of affairs,” explained Charlie Winter, a researcher for the London-based Quilliam Foundation. “ISIS is not only selling itself as a utopian, apocalyptic movement but it is also selling itself as a vanguard of Sunni Muslims in the region.”