Captive Islamic State militant says mass rapes were 'normal'

SULAIYMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State militant Amar Hussein says he reads the Koran all day in his tiny jail cell to become a better person. He also says he raped more than 200 women from Iraqi minorities, and shows few regrets.

Kurdish intelligence authorities gave Reuters rare access to Hussein and another Islamic State militant who were both captured during an assault on the city of Kirkuk in October that killed 99 civilians and members of the security forces. Sixty-three Islamic State militants died.

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Hussein said his emirs, or local Islamic State commanders, gave him and others a green light to rape as many Yazidi and other women as they wanted.

"Young men need this," Hussein told Reuters in an interview after a Kurdish counter-terrorism agent removed a black hood from his head. "This is normal."

Hussein said he moved from house to house in several Iraqi cities raping women from the Yazidi sect and other minorities at a time when Islamic State was grabbing more and more territory from Iraqi security forces.

Kurdish security officials say they have evidence of Hussein raping and killing but they don't know what the scale is.

Reuters could not independently verify Hussein's account.

Witnesses and Iraqi officials say Islamic State fighters raped many Yazidi women after the group rampaged through northern Iraq in 2014. It also abducted many Yazidi women as sex slaves and killed some of their male relatives, they said.

Human rights groups have chronicled widespread abuses by Islamic State against the Yazidis.

Hussein said he also killed about 500 people since joining Islamic State in 2013.

"We shot whoever we needed to shoot and beheaded whoever we needed to beheaded," said Hussein.

He recalled how emirs trained him to kill, which was difficult at first when one person was brought for a practice kill. It became easier day by day.

"Seven, eight, ten at a time. Thirty or 40 people. We would take them in desert and kill them," said Hussein, an imposing, well-built figure, who was wearing metal handcuffs.

Eventually, he became highly efficient, never hesitating to kill.

"I would sit them down, put a blindfold on them and fire a bullet into their heads," he said. "It was normal."

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The life of Islamic State militants behind bars
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The life of Islamic State militants behind bars
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member listens to a counter-terrorism agent in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member speaks during his meeting with Reuters journalists in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member, has his cuff removed by a counter-terrorism agent inside his prison cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, speaks during his meeting with Reuters journalists in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Islamic religious praises are pictured on the wall of a prison cell of Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member, in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member look out from a prison cell in Sulaimaniya , Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member, has his cuff removed by a counter-terrorism agent inside his prison cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member, stands as his head is covered with a black hood while he waits to be escorted to his cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member, sits during an interview with Reuters journalists in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, stands at an interrogation room in Sulaimaniya , Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Amar Hussein, 22, an Islamic State member sits at his prison cell in Sulaimaniya , Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
The hand of Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, is seen from a cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017.R EUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, is escorted by a counter-terrorism agent as his head is covered with a black hood in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, sits at his prison cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, looks out from a prison cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, sits at his prison cell in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, 31, an Islamic State member, is escorted by a counter-terrorism agent as his head is covered with a black hood in Sulaimaniya, Iraq February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
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TROUBLE

Counter-terrorism agents said Hussein was trouble when he first arrived. "He was so strong he snapped the plastic handcuffs off his wrists," said one.

Hussein sees himself as a victim of hardship, a product of a broken home and poverty in his hometown of Mosul, where Iraqi forces have launched an offensive against Islamic State to dislodge them from their last stronghold in Iraq.

"I had no money. No one to say 'This is wrong, this is right.' No jobs. I had friends but no one to give me advice," said Hussein, who has been held in the cell with a barred window since his capture in October.

Religious slogans are scratched on its cement walls by previous jihadist prisoners. His only possessions are a thick blanket and a Koran. On the floor is a polystyrene plate with broth and some rice.

Thick, metal handcuffs hang on a nearby wall.

Hussein, now 21, began his career as an Islamic militant began when he was just 14, he said. He was drawn to jihad by his local mosque preacher, then he joined al Qaeda and now awaits legal proceedings as a member of Islamic State, the successor of al Qaeda's Iraq branch.

18 PHOTOS
What's left behind in Islamic State abandoned strongholds
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What's left behind in Islamic State abandoned strongholds
Blindfolds are pictured inside a prison, which according to Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters belonged to Islamic State militants, in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
A view shows part of a media centre that belonged to Islamic State militants inside an ancient Hammam in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
Explosives left behind by Islamic State militants are seen at a school, following clashes in Falluja, Iraq, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Burnt out prison cells belonging to Islamic State militants are seen in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Islamic State flag hangs on the wall of an abandoned building in Tel Hamis in Hasaka countryside after the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) took control of the area March 1, 2015. Kurdish forces dealt a blow to Islamic State by capturing Tel Hamis, an important town, on Friday in the latest stage of a powerful offensive in northeast Syria, a Kurdish militia spokesman said. The capture of Tel Hamis was announced by the Kurdish YPG militia and confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country's civil war. REUTERS/Rodi Said (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT)
A book belonging to Islamic State militants is seen in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A view shows containers, which according to Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters were used for making explosives by Islamic State militants, in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
Handcuffs are pictured inside a prison, which according to Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters belonged to Islamic State militants, in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters inspect bags of niqabs at a centre that was used by Islamic State religious police (al-Hisbah) in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
Tripods and a projector are pictured inside an ancient Hammam that was used by Islamic State militants as a media centre in Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
A view shows car parts, which according to Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters were used by Islamic State militants to prepare car bombs, at a workshop in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
A factory abandoned by Islamic State militants is seen in Falluja, Iraq, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A billboard (L) with Koranic verses is seen in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Rocket-propelled grenades left behind by Islamic State militants are seen at a school, following clashes in Falluja, Iraq, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter inspects a room, which according to the SDF was used by Islamic State militants to prepare explosives, in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
A tunnel used by Islamic State militants is seen in the town of Sinjar, Iraq December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
A member of the Iraqi counterterrorism forces stands by an Islamic State militants weapons factory in Falluja, Iraq, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Counter-terrorism agents described a second prisoner, Ghaffar Abdel Rahman, as less forthcoming, and said he had revealed little during questioning about his experiences as a checkpoint and logistics man for Islamic State.

Abdel Rahman, 31, with long hair and beard and a blank stare, gave little away in a separate interview with Reuters.

He admitted to opening fire on security forces in the raid on Kirkuk but says he never killed anyone. He said he and his brother joined Islamic State because otherwise, as state employees, they would have been killed by the group.

His Kurdish captors did not comment on his story, but Iraqi authorities are generally skeptical of fighters who say they had no choice.

Abdel Rahman's only hint of anger came when he was asked his view of Shi'ite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and he suggested Iraq would always be plagued by instability because many sects live in the country.

"He (Abadi) does not provide people with justice," said Abdel Rahman.

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