An Iraqi lawmaker has accused unscrupulous Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) personnel of making corrupt under the table deals with extremists in order to release members of the Daesh group detained during the ongoing campaign to defeat the extremists in Iraq.
Aliya Nassif said on Monday that corrupt military and police officers have been letting Daesh fighters go free in exchange for cash, as US and Iran-backed forces attempt to retake the city of Mosul, Daesh's last major urban stronghold in Iraq, from the extremist group.
"Some weak souls in the security forces are selling [freedom to] detained Daesh members in exchange for money," Nassif said in a statement, according to local media outlets.
"This is a result of there being no accurate data about the number, nationalities and crimes committed by Daesh members arrested in Mosul. The numbers released by the Police Affairs Agency are fake because the number of detainees in Qayyarah alone is only 1,315," she said.
The lawmaker added that the Daesh fighters who buy their freedom then return to the battlefield to continue "murdering and destroying".
Walid Al-Qaisi, a member of the Mosul Bar Association, told The New Arab that an investigation must be conducted into Nassif's accusations.
"I have heard about some cases of Daesh fighters being released for money, but I didn't realise that it had reached the proportions that a member of parliament has spoken out about it," Al-Qaisi said.
"The outbreak of this phenomenon will lead to terrorism returning to Mosul in different clothes because it gives Daesh members the chance to reorganise themselves," he added.
Iraqi forces have been engaged in a grinding battle for west Mosul since last month, prompting more than 200,000 civilians to flee the northern city, Iraq's second largest. The Iraqi and US-led coalition's operations have also led to hundreds of Iraqi civilians being killed, mostly women and children.
Mass arrests of civilians
Groups within the Iraqi military and the Iran-backed Shia jihadist paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) have been detaining men fleeing Mosul in unidentified detention centres where they are cut off from contact with the outside world, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned.
According to the Iraqi military and the Shia jihadists, the men are suspected Daesh members. However, HRW warns that they are not being screened correctly and that the rights of innocents caught up in these indiscriminate sweeps are being violated.
"In case after case, relatives are telling us that their male family members are being stopped by [pro-government Shia jihadist] fighters and disappearing," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
While we cannot know exactly what has happened to the men detained, the lack of transparency, particularly for their families as to their whereabouts, is cause for real concern.
International human rights organisations and analysts have also highlighted the previous track records of the ISF and PMF in dealing with detainees, including enforced disappearances, torture and field executions, all violations of international law.
The operation to retake Mosul was launched last October, with Iraqi forces recapturing its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely-populated and more built-up western half.
Iraqi and US-led coalition officials have repeatedly warned that after Mosul, Daesh will likely return to its insurgent roots as it loses more territory in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria.