Video: Iraqi soldiers say officers were first to flee from insurgents
As the Iraqi army fights back against a rebel insurgency, questions remain over the lack of resistance met by insurgents who overran the country’s north last week. FRANCE 24 spoke to soldiers who fled to a refugee camp after abandoning their posts.
Around 1,000 Iraqis fled to the Ghazar refugee camp 20 kilometres north of Mosul after rebels led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Levant (ISIS) took control of the city last week.
In the wake of the jihadists' lightning advance across wide swaths of Iraqi territory, many people were surprised to learn that soldiers trained by military experts from the US dropped their guns and shed their uniforms to join fleeing civilians as the insurgents approached Iraq’s second-largest city.
“We saw the officers putting on civilian clothes,” one such soldier at the Ghazar camp told FRANCE 24. “When we asked what was happening we were told that all the senior officers had fled, not one left. We could have continued to fight and defeat the jihadists. But our commanders betrayed us.”
ISIS militants have since offered amnesty to members of security forces who lay down their arms and return to Mosul, but many don’t trust the jihadists who have posted gruesome pictures of soldiers' executions online.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened over the weekend to execute soldiers who were caught deserting.
Many former soldiers no longer know who to turn to, and are choosing to keep a low profile among other refugees until the violence subsides.
To watch FRANCE 24’s full video report with Iraqi army deserters click on the player above.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe