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American Forces Press Service

Moderate Detainees Help to Identify Extremists in Iraq

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2007 – Moderate Muslims held in coalition detention centers in Iraq are turning in radical Muslim detainees on a daily basis, the deputy commanding general for Multinational Force Iraq detainee operations said yesterday.

Thousands of Muslim detainees identified to coalition forces as “extremists” have been siphoned from “moderate” populations and placed in separate confinement areas called modular detainee housing units, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone said during a conference call with Web journalists.

“What we had were moderates who said, ‘Listen, you know, we don't want that (extremist) direction,’” he said. “The moderates will turn in the extremists, … (and) now that we can physically do that, almost every day groups of 50 to 100 to 150 to 200 (detainees) will self-identify the guys, will pull them out.”

Describing what he called a “moderate revolt,” Stone described several instances where middle-of-the-road Muslims actively repudiated Islamic extremism inside the walls of coalition compounds.

“The fundamental messaging from the extremists outside who have been reporting about detention and inside is ‘We've lost control; we're losing control,’” he said. “I think they genuinely believed that they had ideological recruiting and training control over the compounds inside the theater internment facilities, and they have genuinely lost it.”

Helping to drive the shift away from extremist Islam are Iraq’s provincial and tribal leaders, who Stone said set “the tone and tenor” that radical Muslims should no longer be tolerated in their respective of Iraqi societies.

Stone expressed guarded optimism about recent detainee developments at Multinational Force Iraq, which currently holds 25,188 detainees, including 20,581 Sunnis and 4,562 Shiites.

Since July, coalition forces have released 3,305 detainees. None of those released have been re-detained, and only three have been recaptured for questioning unrelated to insurgent activity, Stone said.

“The command is encouraged by the low recapture and recidivist rate,” he said. “That's a combination of the situation on the ground and the great work of the coalition forces to provide the degree of security.”

Furthermore, compared to five weeks ago when troops averaged 61 detentions per day, today the average has dropped to around 40. Detainee releases have remained “very constant” for the better part of the last two months at 49 a day, Stone added.

The steady flow of releases is in part the result of a new curriculum offered to detainees at coalition compounds, Stone said. The courses include offerings that reinforce basic Islamic tenets such as the sanctity of life and property, loving humanity and avoiding hatred, earning a living, and practicing respect and tolerance for humanity.

“It's embedded in its religion, so it needs to put things in the context of the Muslim faith, and that's how they do it,” he said. “Each one includes in there a Quranic sort of reference to give these guys some reason why it has a lynchpin.”

More than 7,000 detainees are enrolled in basic education courses. Roughly 1,000 others are participating in mixed Sunni and Shiite religious discussions led by imams hired by coalition forces, a course that will become mandatory for detainees who have been deemed ready for release.

“They are genuinely engaged in a conversation -- a Socratic conversation -- without our presence in there, about the Quran,” Stone said of the religious course. “They come out understanding the difference between what the extremists have said, or what the extremists have made them memorize, vs. what's actually in the Quran.”

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