Analysis: Islamic State advertises war crimes in video

The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls significant territory in both Iraq and Syria, has posted an extremely brutal video. While most Muslims were celebrating the end of Islam’s holy month, the Islamic State is celebrating mass executions.

Warning: Some of the images below are graphic.

The Long War Journal is posting these images because they highlight the depravity of the Islamic State and its followers. The Islamic State likely believes that these images will help intimidate its opposition into submission and earn new recruits, especially among young jihadists and sympathizers who are mesmerized by the orgy of killings. This will work with a certain segment of the jihadists’ recruiting pool.

But over-the-top violence of this sort can also have the opposite effect, as it turns some potential recruits and supporters into foes. In this regard, the Islamic State is repeating the same mistakes made by its predecessors, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), in the past. The indiscriminate violence carried out by these organizations alienated many Iraqis and sowed the seeds of their initial demise.

The military prowess of the Islamic State is formidable and the organization will not be easily defeated any time soon. The Islamic State has managed to achieve remarkable successes on the battlefields in both Iraq and Syria. Yet its brand of jihad creates an opportunity for its opponents to marshal forces against it. This was the linchpin of the strategy previously employed by American forces in Iraq during the height of the “surge.” Therefore, while these images will further the Islamic State’s cause in some circles, they can also help to discredit it in others.

Whether the Iraqi government, which is in disarray, or its allies can take advantage of this strategic liability in the Islamic State’s operations remains to be seen, however. Keep in mind that the United States military and government were crucial to organizing the Awakening, the tribal resistance to al Qaeda in Iraq, as well as bolstering the Iraqi military during the surge, which began in 2007. Additionally, more than 130,000 US troops, supported by American airpower, intelligence, and logistics, partnered with the Awakening and Iraqi security forces to conduct nearly two years of concurrent military operations throughout Iraq in order to beat back al Qaeda and its allies by the end of 2008.

Graphic images from Islamic State’s video celebrating end of Ramadan

The images below appear to cover incidents that have occurred since early June. Some of these events were previously promoted by the group.

A few of the Islamic State’s victims await their death after others perished in a mass killing:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.43.11 AM.png

The Islamic State’s victims are marched to their death:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.41.19 AM.png

The Islamic State’s executioners spray their captives with bullets:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.41.59 AM.png

A gunman makes sure the prisoners are dead by shooting them once again:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.44.45 AM.png

The Islamic State’s victims are carted to their death:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.49.42 AM.png

A line of victims is funneled to a killing spot on what appears to be a river:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.11.32 AM.png

One by one the victims are shot in the head at the killing spot, which is stained with blood, and their corpses are then dumped into the water:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.44.12 AM.png

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

Tags: , , , ,


  • Anthony Celso says:

    This is similar to Japanese military’s celebration of its mass atrocities at the Rape of Nanking or the orgy of violence associated with the Khmer Rouge. While I agree with your analysis, it has to be modified in light of (1) the caliphate’s proclamation and (2) the bulk of the deaths so far are Shi’ites or other religious minorities. In the mind of a young recruit steeped in both Sunni radicalism and video game violence this is a major attraction.
    What turned around the insurgency during the 2007-2010 period was that AQI was killing Sunnis. This will happen soon, so the dynamic will play out but without Western assistance a Sunni rebellion against IS may be crushed. I doubt the Administration the courage and foresight to assist them with special forces and airstrikes. They are caught in a Vietnam syndrome that has paralyzed them. Arrogantly asserting that their inaction is “realist” and smart. They are neither. Their pivot but contain policy has contributed to the unfolding disaster.

  • ECH says:

    When will the neo-isolationists figure out that the Islamic State isn’t a problem we can pawn off to Iraq or Iran or Syria to deal with?
    The montra that it is not our fight has allowed Zarqawi’s group to regrow bigger and far stronger then it ever was in the past while staying even a little bit involved in Iraq and supporting Sunni groups opposed to them in Eastern Syria could have kept them down.

  • Curtis says:

    Given that the Islamic State regularly kills POWs, one would expect that Syrian and Iraqi government soldiers and shia militamen would fight to the death instead of surrender.

  • Joey says:

    I don’t particular think there’s a case to be made about video game violence playing any sort of pivotal role in inciting this type of recruitment.
    I think at this point in time I think there needs to be some sort of military intervention from NATO/UN; not just to serve as a line of defense against ISIS but also the Gaza UN facilities which are being attacked by Israel.
    Why is it that when the people of the middle-east do not want us there we bomb them and take over but when it comes to them needing us there we’re more than happy to let them suffer?

  • look again says:

    The last picture is from the slaughter of a cow.
    The volume of blood on LHS confirms it, also no blood in water ?.
    In the third & fourth picture ? where is the blood ? 7.62 at close range would have meat not dust flying.
    In the fifth picture how did the mini jihadi get his flag there ? top LH corner.
    While I do not dispute the story I think the pictures let it down.
    just saying

  • Mr. Joaquin Armendariz says:

    The system of interacting problems in the Middle East needs to be solved by Turkey, Iran,Saudi Arabia,and other Arab States with assistance from Israel and others. Just looking at the map of IS control and you will see the need for a Gen. Douglas MacArthur type of operation involving Turkish paratroops,special forces and Air Force to launch initial severing of the jugular with simultaneous actions by other countries mentioned previously-your readers should Google to see real military genius in action against a foe without honor like IS. In the name of God please modify these thoughts and submit through your good offices to appropriate states-the alternative is no Islam and no Israel as our world morphs into the nightmare world of hyper-fascist blocks in perpetual war over the third world as George Orwell described in his book . Muslims and Jews -are you to survive?

  • owl says:

    In response to the comment by “look again”, the last picture has an accompanying video that shows the IS executing several men by one shot to the head with the victim pushed straight into the river. As for the mass executions on the ground, there are videos of those too, so “look again” will have to deal with the reality that this all really happened.
    The IS sat on the video of some of those executions for quite some time. Some of it goes back to when they captured huge numbers of soldiers around Tikrit. The IS initially only released photos of the executions, but now there are also videos showing the executioners leisurely walking up and down the rows of captives as they shoot them one by one while the captives lie face down on the ground.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram