Prison Breaks Fueling Iraqi, Syrian Insurgencies

Attacks Aimed at Getting 'Experienced Fighters' Out of Detention

Al-Qaeda-based Islamist factions, particularly al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Jabhat al-Nusra, have been making it a point to hit prisons in recent months, staging several high profile prison breaks in Iraq and Syria.

It’s not just about showing up security forces and their inability to defend what are nominally some of the most secure sites in the nations, but rather aim at bolstering their own forces with hundreds of captured but experienced insurgent fighters.

In many ways the strategy lends itself to duplication, as the militants get stronger they are able to hit bigger and better defended prisoners, which get them even more fighters and in many cases some of the ones those nations had definitely wanted to keep behind bars the most.

This is a particularly important trend in recent months as Syria in particular has attracted thousands upon thousands of foreign recruits with little to no experience on the ground, and needs as many seasoned veterans around as possible to show them the ropes.

Though Syria has its share, in most cases Iraq is the gold standard for experienced fighters, as thousands of detainees from the US occupation era remain held, and are only too eager to return to the fight once released.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of