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The Coming Emergency in Iraq

Neglected Prison Camps Are Incubating a New Extremist Threat

Displaced Iraqis at a camp south of Mosul, April 2017 Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi marked the end of one destructive phase of the Islamic State, the extremist group also known as ISIS. Baghdadi was the self-proclaimed caliph of a Great Britain-sized swath of Iraq and Syria, the last remains of which a U.S.-led coalition removed from his control in March. The ISIS leader ordered the murder of thousands and terrorized millions during his short reign. But his targeted assassination has done little to halt a gathering crisis that is at least as serious a threat to Iraq’s stability.

Following the collapse of the ISIS caliphate, half a million or more men, women, and children were left stranded in displacement camps in Iraq. Iraqi officials refer to them now as “ISIS families,” even though these same officials freely admit that most of the displaced probably have little or no connection to ISIS. Until those in the

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