The Islamic State — formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) — released on Wednesday another shocking video depicting what it claims is the mass execution of more than 1,500 Iraqi soldiers to mark the last day of Eid celebrations.
Initially connected to Al-Qaeda and designated as a terrorist group by several countries and the United Nations, the Islamic State originally emerged in strife-ridden Iraq to establish a Sunni Muslim caliphate, then expanded its operations into Syria. The group has achieved notoriety for its violent atrocities, which are often sectarian in nature. After gaining control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS rebranded itself as the Islamic State and appointed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph.
The latest in a series of lurid videos depicting executions, the 30-minute clip posted online on Wednesday showed masked militia forces killing mainly plain-clothed young men, purportedly in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.
Starting with voiceover threatening with revenge, “even if it takes time,” the video shows groups of Iraqi youth handcuffed and crammed into moving trucks, presumably being taken to the execution site.
More footage shows the men forced to lie face-down on the ground with their hands tied behind their back. Armed men walk around the prisoners chanting, “God is great.” At one point, the camera zooms in on a prisoner with a civilian pair of trousers pulled halfway down his legs to reveal his army uniform. The commentator screams in joy that the militia forces have caught “this infidel who tried to disguise himself in civilian clothes to escape.”
The same commentator appears to be coercing some of the prisoners to say Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the cause of their current situation. A young man cries into the camera repeating, “May God never bless you, Maliki.”
“Thank you God, thanks to you they are led to death in groups,” the voice continues as armed men beat groups of prisoners walking in lines toward an empty desert patch where the black flag of the Islamic State flutters in the foreground.
Prisoners are forced back in a row on the ground, and a group of masked men shoots them multiple times in the back of the head.
More brutal footage shows other prisoners led to a body of water, presumably the Tigris River, where they are shot one by one then shoved into the water.
The caption, “By God we will avenge the honor of Muslim women,” accompanies the footage.
The video ends with another armed masked man carrying the Islamic State’s flag while the voice over celebrates the “igniting spark in Iraq which will keep growing until it burns all crusader armies.”
The origin and shooting location of the video could not be verified by Mada Masr. However, the professionally-shot video is tagged in small writing as a product of “Al-Forqan for Media Production,” a group that links itself to the Islamic State according to its purported Twitter account and a number of Internet forums.
This is not the first incident where Islamic State militiamen commit brutal crimes against humanity under Baghdadi’s leadership. The group is responsible for expelling thousands of Iraqi Christians from the city of Mosul after giving them an ultimatum to either stay and pay a tax, convert to Islam or be killed. The city had been inhabited by a strong Christian community for almost 2,000 years.
The group has also incurred international condemnation for destroying and vandalizing historical cultural and religious sites throughout Iraq, which they deemed to be heretical. On July 26, Islamic State forces destroyed the shrine of Prophet Jersis (St. George) in Nineveh Province, and later bombed the burial site of Prophet Seth — believed to be the third son of Adam and Eve — demolished Prophet Yunus’s tomb, and destroyed the historical Great Mosque of al-Nuri with its famous leaning minaret, Al-Habda (the hunchback) that was built in 1172.