Who Killed the Prisoners in the Military Convoy in Babil Province?

Bump and Update: We have the answer. As I suggested below on June 23, it was the police and army forces, not ISIS, who killed the inmates being transferred from one prison in Hillah to another. Will the Wall St. Journal and others issue a correction? As of now, the WSJ article still headlines "At Least 81 Iraqis Killed in Sunni Rebel Attack on Convoy" and begins:
Sunni militants brought their campaign against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki closer to Baghdad on Monday, attacking a police convoy just 20 miles from the center of the capital and triggering a shootout that left at least 81 people dead.

Original Post 6/23

Did major media, in a rush to get out breaking news, publish unreliable reports from one-sided sources and get it backwards? [More...]

The Wall St. Journal and several other media organizations reported this morning that ISIS attacked a convoy of prisoners being transported by Iraqi official forces from one prison in the Babil province (just south of Baghad) to another one further south in the province. The reports claim roughly 71 prisoners, 5 police and 5 insurgents were killed. From the WSJ:
Rebels of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham struck the convoy in Babil province on the main highway leading south from Baghdad. In the exchange of fire that followed, at least 71 prisoners in police custody, five policemen and five insurgents were killed, security officials said.

I've been following this story since this morning because it doesn't add up that ISIS, which is known for freeing scores of inmates -- who then join their cause -- would kill inmates held on terror charges in an Iraqi prison. That's like killing your own.

Another report says only 4 prisoners were killed and 10 ISIS members were killed.

On Twitter, the first reporter I saw writing about it says corpses were found, which suggests they weren't killed in live battle, but left for dead. ISIS supporters on Twitter say Malaki's army forces killed the prisoners. (Article in Arabic here, use Google Translate.) Another tweet here.

The BBC reported the prisoners were all accused of terrorism and being transferred for security reasons.

The prison from which they were being transferred, is reportedly known as the Scorpion prison (Rapid Reaction Brigade 3rd Division) and is one that detains alleged terrorists.

Sure enough, the New York Times now reports:

Shiite policemen were believed to have killed at least 69 Sunni insurgent prisoners on a highway....

The Telegraph was more cautious in reporting it wasn't clear who killed the prisoners or how they died. But it still reported "insurgent forces" attacked the Iraqi military convoy, as if it were uncontested.

Malaki's forces have made several sweeps against ISIS in Babil in recent months. In March, there was a suicide bombing near Hilla that killed 57. No one claimed credit, but the local police claimed al Qaeda/ISIS were responsible:

No one claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, but the deputy chairman of Hilla provincial council, Aqeel al-Rubaie, accused al Qaeda of being behind the bombing. Rubaie said the local government had received tips that al Qaeda-affiliates hiding in farmland north of Hilla were plotting a strike.

He said the violence was a spillover from fighting in neighboring Anbar, where the Shi'ite-led government has been battling the al Qaeda faction the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) around the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. "We have evidence that al Qaeda terrorists are standing behind the suicide attack today and since the breakout of fighting in Anbar, al Qaeda has stepped up attacks in Hilla," Rubaie told Reuters.

Another article this morning said an investigation is underway into who killed the Iraqi prisoners.

It occurred early in the day when gunmen attacked a convoy of buses carrying dozens of inmates, transferred from a prison by the army unit of al-Aqrab Brigade in the provincial capital of Hilla, some 100 km south of Baghdad, to the one in the town of al-Qasim, some 35 km south of Hilla, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity, adding that five gunmen were killed and five guards were wounded.

It was not immediately clear who killed these prisoners, the source said, adding an investigation was underway.

Al-Aqrab Brigade is a special force unit responsible for maintaining security in Babil province, particularly in the north of an area known as the Triangle of Death, a cluster of Sunni towns scattered north of the predominantly Shiite province of Babil.

Radio Free Iraq had this oblique tweet:

#Babil. Province Council decides June 23 to dry out northern lake & swamp landscape used as hideouts by militants (#ISIS #ISIL)

ISIS freed prisoners at the Baquba prison a few weeks ago, and the Tasfirat prison in Tikrit. Today they freed inmates at a prison in Hit.

One thing that really upset ISIS was when they went to free inmates at a prison (I think it was Tal a far) and when they got there, scores of them were dead in their cells, having been killed by the army or guards, before they fled. I'm not posting the link to the pictures, they are too graphic.

A similar incident occurred at Baquba prison.

At least 44 prisoners were killed during a militant assault on a prison in the city of Baquba last week.

Accounts differed as to who was responsible for the Baquba killings, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's security spokesman saying the prisoners were killed by insurgents carrying out the attack, and other officials saying they were killed by security forces as they tried to escape.

I don't know who killed the inmates, I suspect they were killed at the prison by the army and then being driven down the highway to the place their bodies were dumped. They were in several cars, and I doubt so many would die in shootout while they were in the cars. But its one thing to cite unconfirmed biased reports, and another to state them as fact.

ISIS needs to be stopped from taking over the the Middle East, but it doesn't help things when its enemies commit mass murder of prison inmates and then claim ISIS did it, and then use global media to spread the lie. Lazy or even over-worked media organizations that fail to fact check and spread the unconfirmed reports as fact need to be called out.

Another source to cross off your reading list: Press.TV which has been promoting this report on Twitter all day.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I read about the Baquba prison (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 11:43:18 PM EST
    Reports that the prisoners had all been killed by gunshots to the head there don't really add up to how the inmates could have would have died during an attack on the prison.  Seldom do all stray bullets magically become lethal head shots every time.

    Wow (none / 0) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 03:45:18 PM EST
    Who are we?  

    We? (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 04:29:35 PM EST
    The police and armed forces who did the executions were Iraqi, not US.

    Who are we supporting? (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 04:34:25 PM EST
    Yes (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 04:49:11 PM EST
    Not sure who we are supporting..  I do know that the US has strategic interests in the area..

    And, considering the atrocities that happened on our watch, I am not suggesting we have clean hands. Just was not sure you were clear on who did the shooting.

    And a Pentagon official in Washington said armed Predator drone patrols had started flying over Baghdad, an operation meant to offer added protection to the first American military assessment teams that are fanning out in and around Baghdad to help the Iraqi military combat the insurgents.

    The Predators, equipped with Hellfire missiles, will augment about 40 unarmed reconnaissance flights that a combination of manned and unmanned American aircraft are flying over Iraq each day. The armed drones departed from an air base in Kuwait, the Pentagon official said.....

    In Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry met on Thursday with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, all deeply suspicious of Mr. Maliki, whom they fear is too close to Iran, which is also funneling military aid to Iraq.


    Not so sure that the drones are only on the lookout for ISIS... and not so sure that we and the Iraqi government are working together..   at least at this point in time..


    Nowadays, it's best to operate ... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Robot Porter on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 05:28:18 PM EST
    from the principle that all media reports are lies until clearly demonstrated otherwise.

    Using this method, you only believe the most vigorously reported and well-sourced stories.

    You become a better judge of news and the truth.

    And you live a healthier happier life.

    The downside?  You might be wrong about a badly sourced, badly reported story, that happens to be true.


    You can live with that.

    I don't trust any of it (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mikado Cat on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 11:33:40 PM EST
    The Reuters piece referred to two people say this or that, which isn't what I would consider comprehensive. I'm not even sure I would go so far as to say one view or another is more likely, its still we don't really know.

    Over time, with more sources (none / 0) (#8)
    by MKS on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 11:40:03 PM EST
    the truth will out.  The track record of the source is helpful.....

    Oh, come on... (none / 0) (#9)
    by unitron on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 06:50:54 AM EST

    "Did major media, in a rush to get out breaking news, publish unreliable reports from one-sided sources and get it backwards?"

    That's unpossible, isn't it?

    But seriously

    #Babil. Province Council decides June 23 to dry out northern lake & swamp landscape used as hideouts by militants (#ISIS #ISIL)

    Didn't Saddam do something major environmentally to destroy a bunch of fishing communities for political reasons?  Any chance there's some connection?

    Yes he did. Saadam drained the salt marshes (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by caseyOR on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 09:16:13 AM EST
    of southern Iraq in retaliation for an uprising by the marsh Arabs against him.

    It is thought to be the original Garden of Eden.
    A place so beautiful, teeming with water and life, that according to the Christian faith it was the birthplace of mankind.
    That was until the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein drained these great wetlands of southern Iraq, destroying them, turning them to desert

    Efforts have been underway to attempt to restore the marshes. I have no idea what the current fighting means for that effort.


    Wouldn't it be nice... (none / 0) (#11)
    by unitron on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 07:16:36 AM EST
    ..if we'd invaded and hanged him for ecological crimes


    as they say.