US torture radicalized my husband, descended into extremism: Al-Baghdadi’s widow


Published: 2024-06-12 15:13

Last Updated: 2024-07-14 10:38

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq. (July, 2014)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq. (July, 2014)

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Umm Hudaifa, the widow of the deceased former Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, alleged that he was subjected to sexual torture while in American custody in an Iraqi prison.

Umm Hudaifa claimed that her husband's ordeal in detention played a significant role in his radicalization and eventual leadership of the extremist group.

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Al-Baghdadi was initially "religious but not extremist" before his arrest in 2004 for founding a militant group to fight Western forces in Iraq, according to the widow. She described him as "conservative but open-minded" until his year-long detention in Camp Bucca, where he allegedly faced severe mistreatment.

"He was exposed to something that you cannot understand," Umm Hudaifa stated, implying that he endured sexual torture during his time in custody, which led to psychological trauma and changed his demeanor.

 - Camp Bucca’s reputation - 

Camp Bucca, once a prominent detention facility operated by the US military during the Iraq War, is associated with numerous abuse scandals and controversies regarding the treatment of detainees throughout its operation from 2003 to 2009.

The camp, located near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq, housed thousands of individuals suspected of involvement in militant activities, including members of insurgent groups like Al-Qaeda.

According to a 2003 report by Amnesty International, detainees at Camp Bucca endured punishment under the scorching sun, attacks by dogs, deprivation of water, prolonged hooding, inadequate washing facilities, and degrading conditions, including the use of open trenches for toilets and lack of clean clothes.

A US Army investigation in 2004 revealed "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law" at Camp Bucca. Similarly, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross described violations of the Geneva Conventions, detailing routine mistreatment by guards, including physical violence and hooding during interrogation.

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Now held in an Iraqi prison herself, Umm Hudaifa faces investigation for suspected involvement in crimes committed by Daesh, including sexual enslavement.