In a newly released video entitled “Message from Baiji 2,” the Islamic State showcased a compilation of combat footage from the central Iraqi city. Some of the footage appears to be a couple of months old, while some could be more recent.
The video features heavy fighting between Islamic State fighters and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and their Shia militia and Sunni tribal allies. Several scenes show rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) and mortar rounds being fired at the ISF, while others display jihadists targeting the ISF with small arms fire. One scene shows a coalition aircraft launch an airstrike on Islamic State positions in support of the ISF. At least two suicide bombers, including one from Saudi Arabia, are featured in the video. The last few scenes include the beheading of an Iraqi Army soldier and the execution of several Shia militiamen.
In one scene, Islamic State militants force the ISF to retreat and leave several armored vehicles behind. In other scenes, burned out and overturned Humvees are shown. In another, the Islamic State showcases its fighters capturing a severely damaged M1 Abrams tank, only to blow it up a few seconds later. This scene, however, is from December when the Islamic State overran Baiji.
Not all of the events depicted appear to old. Joanna Paraszczuk of From Chechnya to Syria and Radio Free Liberty’s Under the Black Flag has identified one fighter in the video to be Salakhuddin Shishani. Shishani, which means “Chechen,” was known to have fought in Kobane, Syria with Umar Shishani’s Katibat al Aqsa. Umar Shishani is a top leader in the Islamic State and is an ethnic Chechen from Georgia. Katibat al Aqsa is the unit formed when Umar broke away from Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar with his men. The unit was first spotted fighting in Kobane back in October.
Toward the end of the video, an Islamic State fighter threatens the Iraqi government, saying that the fight will move to the south of the country, according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group. “I tell them that the battle is not limited to Beiji nor Salah al-Din,” the jihadist exclaims, “but with permission from Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, the battle will be in Karbala and Najaf.” So far, the Islamic State has not been able to conduct operations in southern Iraq.
Recent reporting suggests that the ISF have launched an operation to liberate Baiji from the Islamic State. The progress has been slow due to a large number of improvised explosive devices, according to Sky News Arabia. Other sources suggest that the ISF are attempting to surround the city; doing so would allow security forces to cut off the Islamic State’s supply lines. Further reporting states that the ISF have made significant gains near the Baiji refinery, but this claim has not been independently verified.
United States and coalition aircraft have supported the ISF near Baiji with several airstrikes in recent days. According to data compiled by Military Edge and The Long War Journal, 13 airstrikes have taken place in Baiji since Feb. 8. These airstrikes have targeted tactical units, fighting positions, rocket systems, vehicles, and occupied buildings. Despite these strikes, the Islamic State still currently controls the city.
Screenshots from the video can be seen below:
An Islamic State fighter fires an RPG at an ISF position:
An overturned ISF armored vehicle:
Coalition aircraft being shown in the video:
Showing a Saudi suicide bomber:
An unidentified second suicide bomber:
The next two photos show destroyed ISF, tribal and/or Shia militia vehicles:
The M1 Abrams being destroyed:
ISF personnel, Sunni tribesmen, and/or Shia militiamen being targeted by the Islamic State:
Abandoned ISF armored vehicles:
Shia militia position being overran:
Photo showing Salakhuddin Shishani (on the right):
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