Iraq's army unraveled when the Sunni insurgents staged a lightning
advance through northern towns and cities, building on territory
their comrades captured earlier in the west of the country, a major
OPEC oil producer.
Thousands of soldiers fled, prompting Iraq's top cleric to call on
compatriots to take up arms against the radical faction that has
declared a mediaeval-style caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria and
aims to march on the capital Baghdad.
The 30-minute video clip, circulated during the holiday that marks
the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, sheds light on what tactics
the Islamic State is likely to employ as it presses ahead with its
After sweeping through a town with quick-hit raids, the militants
are filmed standing over dozens of terrified, handcuffed Iraqi
One fighter mocks a soldier for wearing civilian clothes over his
uniform out of fear of being identified and killed. He pleads for
mercy, to no avail.
Then dozens of soldiers are led to a sandy desert pit. They are
executed one by one - bullets from AK-47 assault rifles pumped into
Not satisfied that all are dead, an Islamic State fighter makes one
last round, opening fire again, one by one.
Others are led to the edge of a river. Each one is shot in the head
with a pistol and then shoved in, the executioner standing in a
large pool of blood.
PROMISES OF PARADISE
The mission begins with an Islamic State commander firing up
militants with promises that paradise in heaven awaits them if they
take the city of Samarra, which is 100 km (62 miles) north of
Baghdad and would be their next target in a southward push.
He tells them that God "made us proud when he permitted us to go to
It was not clear where or when the video was filmed.
The footage features night-vision sequences, then shows fighters
moving into a city in flat-bed trucks, and U.S-made Humvees seized
during their surge through the north last month.
The Islamic State convoys filmed include small tanks and heavy
machine guns transported on trailers.
[to top of second column]
Some fighters are on foot, darting towards government buildings on
sandy roads. As the Islamic State gains ground small units in trucks
pull up beside vehicles during daytime and open fire on passengers
who lose control of their vehicles.
Several militants walk up to a van and empty their AK-47s through
the windows, to make sure the job is done.
Then the camera focuses
on Iraqi security forces in watchtowers. One by one they are picked
off by Islamic State snipers, who seem to avoid heavy clashes and
rely instead on quick, small operations combined with psychological
An insurgent can be heard weeping in joy as he declares that Samarra
now belongs to the group.
Residents and security sources say Baghdad Shi'ite Muslim-led
government remains in control of Samarra so this footage may have
come from another city or town seized by the Islamic State.
Nevertheless, it illustrates the thinking of the Islamic State,
which aims to redraw the Middle East map although it appears to have
paused its territorial thrust for now in favour of consolidating
recent gains north of Samarra.
Its sudden rise has deepened Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian tensions in
Iraq, raising fears that the country will relapse into the dark days
of civil war that peaked in 2006-2007.
Shi'ite militias now rival the government army in their ability to
confront the Sunni insurgents.
After the soldiers are executed, the Islamic State video shows
fighters blowing up Shi'ite shrines or bulldozing mosques, as well
as residents of the town welcoming fighters.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.