Islamic State releases video of training camp in Ninewa

The Islamic State has released a new video, titled “Blood of Jihad,” which features new recruits undergoing training in Iraq’s Ninewa province. The total number of recruits shown in the video is more than 100.

US military tents as well as weapons are being used in the training camp, the video makes clear. Each recruit appears to be equipped with either an AK-47, an RPG, or a PK machine gun.

Throughout the video, the recruits undergo live-fire training, weapons training, hand-to-hand combat training, and instruction on how to extract a wounded or dead fighter from a firefight. Before the video ends, an Islamic State ideologue gives a fiery speech to the recruits.

The video is just the latest in many multimedia releases showing Islamic State training camps in Iraq and Syria. Last week, the jihadist group released photos showing the graduation of fighters from the “Shaykh Abu Omar al Baghdadi” training camp in Kirkuk.

The Islamic State has also released images of two other camps in Iraq and Syria. In July, it published photos of another training camp in Ninewa province. Before that, in May, the group 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.

Since Aug. 7, when the US air campaign against the Islamic State began, the US has targeted multiple Islamic State training centers in Iraq and Syria in 11 airstrikes. Islamic State training camps were hit in US airstrikes in Mosul on Sept. 18; Raqqah, Abu Kamal, Dier al Zour, and Hasakah on Sept. 22; Raqqah on Sept. 27; Manbij on Sept. 29; again in Raqqah on Oct. 3 and Oct. 8; and near Kobane on Oct. 10. This latest video serves to tout the Islamic State’s training infrastructure despite these airstrikes.

Training camps in Iraq and Syria

Jihadist groups in both Iraq and Syria have promoted the existence of various other 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 and it is likely this camp is now abandoned). 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. Two days ago, the Al Nusrah Front released pictures from another training camp in Syria, this one located in Idlib province. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front released photos of training camp in northwestern Syria.]

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.

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 group is allied with the Al Nusrah Front and Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar.

These photos and videos of 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.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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