The Islamic State released several photographs of what it said are its training camps in Iraq’s Ninewa province. The images are the latest in a propaganda effort by various terror groups in both Iraq and Syria to promote their training camp infrastructure.
The 22 photographs of what the SITE Intelligence Group described as “scenes from its training camps ” were published on the Ninewa Division’s Twitter feed [view all 22 photographs here]. The Islamic State did not name the camps.
One of the photographs showed what appears to be eight squads of Islamic State fighters consisting of 11 to 13 men each sitting in formation on the floor while receiving instructions.
Other photographs showed fighters receiving martial arts instructions, marching through the streets in formation both in daylight and at night, and training on a machine gun. Young boys are shown training with the men in several of the photographs.
The Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda, took control of Ninewa province as well as much of Salahaddin and Diyala provinces after launching an offensive along with its allies that began on June 10. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is firmly under the control of the Islamic State.
Most of Anbar as well as northern Babil province is also under the Islamic State’s control. Fallujah and other cities and towns fell after the Islamic State went on the offensive in Anbar at the beginning of January.
Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria are promoting training camps
Jihadist groups in both Iraq and Syria have promoted the existence of at least five training camps this year.
In mid-March, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria and a rival of the Islamic State, announced that it is running two training camps in Syria. Its Ayman al Zawahiri Camp was located in the city of Deir al Zour and is named after al Qaeda’s current emir (the Islamic State currently controls the city). The other camp, whose location was not disclosed, is called the Abu Ghadiya Camp and is named after the leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq facilitation network that was based in eastern Syria. Abu Ghadiya was killed in a US special operations raid in eastern Syria in the fall of 2008.
In the beginning of April, the Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army), a group of foreign fighters led by commanders from the Caucasus, released video of its training camp in Aleppo province. The video included footage of a bomb-making class.
In early May, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham announced the existence of the Zarqawi Camp, which is named after the slain founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
And in June, an Uzbek jihadist group known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released a video of its training camp in Syria. The camp is thought to be located in Aleppo province.
The videos from ISIS, Al Nusrah Front, Muhajireen Army, and Imam Bukhari Jamaat training camps are reminiscent of others released by al Qaeda from the network of camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s. Al Qaeda used camps such as Khalden and Al Farouq to churn out thousands of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Taliban in the 55th Arab Brigade. But al Qaeda also selected graduates of the camps to conduct attacks in the West, including the Sept. 11, 2001 operation against the US.