Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Perspective: From jihad to tortured prisoner, and back again

HALABJA, IRAQ — The young blacksmith with an easy laugh and the looks of a Kurdish Sean Penn wasn't particularly devout or angry at the West. He didn't aspire to "martyrdom." But five years ago, Karzan Rasool made a decision that haunts him still: He became a holy warrior in the army of Islam.

He joined Ansar al Islam, an extremist group with links to Al Qaeda, almost on a whim. Unlike true believers, he just wanted an escape from his desperate life.

"I didn't have any clear goal by going and joining them," the 24-year-old said during an afternoon of conversation and watermelon in this Kurdish border town, offering a rare peek into the capacities and organizational skills of one Sunni insurgent group operating in Iraq. "I wanted to go away from town and everybody there. I wanted to join a group from which there was no return."

Read the rest at the LA Times