News / Middle East

    ISIL Militants’ Photos of Iraqi Executions Expand Warfare

    This image appears to show ISIL militants taking aim at captured Iraqi soldiers. It was posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    This image appears to show ISIL militants taking aim at captured Iraqi soldiers. It was posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    In releasing photos linked to an apparent massacre, the Islamic militants powering through northern Iraq have broadened their aggressions to another battlefield: social media.
     
    “It’s an expansion of terrorism,” said Susan Moeller, an expert on the use of photography in conflict.

     
    ISIL Attacks in Iraq
     
    • June 10: Mosul captured
    • June 11: Tikrit and parts of Beiji captured
    • June 12: Samarra and Dhuluiya captured
    • June 13: Jalawla and Saadiyah captured
    • June 14: Clashes in Ishaki and Dujail
    • June 16: Tal Afar captured
    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) last week seized several key cities in the Tigris valley, routing soldiers and civilians alike. This weekend, via Twitter, the al-Qaida splinter group distributed a series of photos showing the capture and execution of troops stationed at an air base near the city of Tikrit.
     
    ISIL claimed to have killed 1,700 men out of 2,500 taken at Speicher air base, a former post for U.S. troops. Iraqi officials confirmed the photos’ authenticity but said the death toll was greatly inflated and instead probably is in the hundreds.
     
    “False news has been circulated about an exaggerated number of soldiers and volunteers killed by ISIL gangs. This news item is baseless,” Brigadier General Fadhil Abdul-Sahib told the Associated Press on Monday.
     
    According to Reuters, a former Tikrit official in Tikrit said ISIL had captured 450 to 500 troops at Speicher and another 100 elsewhere in Tikrit. The news agency reported Monday that another 200 government troops were believed to be “holding out” at Speicher.
     
    This image appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leading captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base near Tikrit, Iraq. The photo was posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.This image appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leading captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base near Tikrit, Iraq. The photo was posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    x
    This image appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leading captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base near Tikrit, Iraq. The photo was posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    This image appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leading captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base near Tikrit, Iraq. The photo was posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    The U.S. State Department could not verify the number of people killed. But spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Sunday called the claim “a true depiction of the bloodlust that those terrorists represent.”
     
    Grim depictions

    One of the ISIL photo shows barefoot men in plain clothes hunched over – heads down, hands resting on the person ahead – moving single file before a masked man with a raised assault weapon.
     
    Another shows an armed, masked man presiding over captives huddled face down in a truck bed. Still another photo shows captives sitting on the ground, their faces visible and fearful, beneath ISIL’s black banner.
     
    A chilling photo shows dozens of men lying in a row, face down on sandy ground, while men in a row behind them point guns. Near the prone men, plumes of sand and dust rise, probably stirred by bullets.   

     
    This image apparently shows captured Iraqi soldiers, in plain clothes, guarded by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. The image first appeared on a militant website June 14, 2014.This image apparently shows captured Iraqi soldiers, in plain clothes, guarded by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. The image first appeared on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    x
    This image apparently shows captured Iraqi soldiers, in plain clothes, guarded by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. The image first appeared on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    This image apparently shows captured Iraqi soldiers, in plain clothes, guarded by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. The image first appeared on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    “This is the fate of the Shiites which Nouri brought to fight the Sunnis,” one photo was captioned, Reuters reported.
     
    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has been criticized by the U.S. government and others for failing to unify the country’s sectarian factions, which include Sunnis and, in the north, Kurds.  
     
    Graphic power play

    The photos represent a graphic display of ferocity and strength, said Moeller, author of the 2009 book, “Packaging Terrorism: Co-opting the News for Politics and Profit.”
     
    An Islamic fighter guards alleged Iraqi soldiers lying in a truck bed in this photo posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.An Islamic fighter guards alleged Iraqi soldiers lying in a truck bed in this photo posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    x
    An Islamic fighter guards alleged Iraqi soldiers lying in a truck bed in this photo posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    An Islamic fighter guards alleged Iraqi soldiers lying in a truck bed in this photo posted on a militant website June 14, 2014.
    “They’ve taken the pictures as a further terrorist tool,” said Moeller, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, where she also directs the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda.
     
    Moeller said the photos function as a form of advertising.
     
    “If you are an organization that is trying to show itself as powerful and … not just about rhetoric but about action, then posting these kinds of images gives the organization authority in a way that just posting your leadership speaking on a webcam does not.”
     
    Capturing a sequence of images – especially those that depict the insurgents exerting dominance over their subjects – demonstrates an exercise of power, she added.
     
    “Particularly in a social-media world, you post the photos that show your agency, your control,” she said. “… It’s going to make it clear to the audience of this horror-porn … that you’re doing it intentionally.”
     
    The goals can be to instill fear, to establish dominance, to recruit new members to the cause.  
     
    Propaganda history

    Images have long been used as tools of war, and they’ve been employed in social-media propaganda for years now, Moeller said.
     
    She noted the 2002 case in which Islamic terrorists in Pakistan made a grisly video of beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whom they’d accused of spying.     
     
    And in 2003, Moeller noted, the U.S. Defense Department released allied journalists’ photos of the bodies of the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, as evidence they’d been killed in a shootout with American forces in Mosul.
     
    Authenticating images can be challenging
     
    One way is to “get the raw data off the photo” – the date, GPS and other location recorded on many digital cameras, Moeller said.
     
    Another is to find clues within the visual information of the photo itself. Does it look like a desert or whatever the location is purported to be? Is there a sign or some other marker? Does the image suggest a time of day or a particular kind of weather?
     
    A third way is to release the information, eliciting a response. When the photos of the Hussein sons’ deaths first came out, “there were a lot of questions about whether the photos had been doctored,” said Moeller, who wrote about the case in her book. But she said their deaths were authenticated when “someone from their group posted a video saying, ‘We will avenge their deaths.’ “

    The ideal in authentication is to obtain evidence or, even better, confirmation using all three methods. "You want to try triangulation," Moeller said.
     
    As for the ISIL photos, Moeller said they should be understood “not only as documents of war crimes but as calculated tools in a power grab.
     
    “If you only see them as war crimes, then you think the people who committed these acts are not just evil but demented,” she explained. “But if you see these as tools in a calculated chess game, however perverted, then all of a sudden there’s an intellect at work – and that gives the outside world and other actors within Iraq insight into how to respond, how to react.”
     
    But, Moeller acknowledged, “it doesn’t change the horror of it.”
     
    Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Myra from: United States
    June 17, 2014 4:26 PM
    The killing of one is too many. All religious fanatics scream their way is the right way. Look at all baptist, pentacostal rave their way of religion is the only way. So whats tje differance musl, baptist, ect. There are fanitic in every religion its in the way they interpet the reading.
    In Response

    by: Joel from: New York
    June 18, 2014 8:38 AM
    The difference is baptists and Pentecostals don't go into cities who don't believe the same, and with assault weapons, execute them.

    by: murat from: istanbul
    June 17, 2014 2:48 AM
    They do not know the real islam, muslims are not terrorist, many muslim do not have correct ideas, if a muslim has not justification really, that muslim can not kill anybody. in islam, killing someone unfairly is very great sin. you can look Turkey. We are muslim also but we do not kill anyone unfairly.

    by: Not Again from: Canada
    June 16, 2014 8:56 PM
    The brutality of the ISIL has been reported by many other news orgs in the past. There is absolutely no real doubt that they are comitting war crimes, reports from their criminal work in Syria, against Sunni civilians and other Sunni figthers, against Kurds civilians and so on, leave very little doubt about their terrible crimes, much the same as the reports on the crimes of the Hezbollah organization.
    Given the rapidly evolving catastrophic situation, the way ahead, after the US consults with its long standing ME allies, is to destroy all the large weapons and arsenals that this very brutal terrorist organization has acquired from the Iraqi forces' retreat from the North. Other than destroying the US provided weapons, that the ISIL has acquired from the Iraqi marathon runners, re-engagement in the Iraqi civil war, with personnel on the ground or air, makes no sense. Un-manned systems should be able to do the required work, last thing one would want is to incurr more Western hostages.... in dealing with terrorists, especially the ISIL terrorists.

    by: Final Opinion from: Florida
    June 16, 2014 5:44 PM
    These pictures are suppose to be about atrocities, however, I think they are pictures of normal life in a very barbaric, and uncivilized part of the world.

    by: jim from: ny
    June 16, 2014 5:38 PM
    they are not killing them-that would go against everything the president believes

    by: Michael Guy from: Canonsburg, Pa. USA
    June 16, 2014 5:28 PM
    It is ironic that John Kerry and the Democrats tacitly support the destruction and conquest of Iraq with the same aplomb as when their Viet Cong friends overran South Vietnem in 1973. The wahabbi-Salafel, old men of the mountain assassin sects that have been killing Americans ever since Mogadishu and the USS Cole are sponsored by our perfidious allies, the roay families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The duplicitous Sunni oil sheiks of the Persian Gulf have been sponsoring terrorism in Africa, Asia, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. And with CAIR bribe money, they sponsor American traesonous politicians as well. If you want to stop this jihad terror at its source, it is time to realize the NATO, ASEAN and BRICS nations need the oil beneath the ground in the Persian Gulf, not the Sunni Arabs above it. Time to partition the Persian Gulf , (Metternick style) into Kurdish, NATO, BRICS-and ASEAN zones of Influence.
    The Democrats also want to foist another free trade debacle upon America; The trans Pacific Partnership. The primary purpose of the deleterious, Pyrrhic treaty is to entice companies and capital away from china, and thus cut of the funding of the Chinese military. The PLA is the frankenstein of free trade. But this treaty will exacerbate our problems , as compnies closeand relocate and investors turn to the ASEAN countries. Higher trade imbalances, taxres, inflation and unemployment, since American companies can not compete with countries with lower wages, taxes, bureaucratic infringement and costly regulations,( like the ones the EPA imposes ) But the EPA is achieving Karl Marx's goal of controlling the means of production by controlling the means of combustion. Most man made carbon dioxide is already produced in China, thank to free trade, and more will be produced in the asean Countries after the TPP is enacted or tacitly condedscended to by the Democrats. Even though this gaseous plant metabolite comprises 0.0038 of the atmosphere, the treasonous Democrats wish to isssue government ration cards for carbon in America, and then isssue licesnses to the "Too Big to Fail", TARP-recipient, plutocratic friends and campaign donors from Wall Street to sell these carbon permission slips at lucrative commissions.
    And for the final, Trogan Horse, policy, with all the economic ills and loss of industries, tax revenues, employmet opportunities and general prosperity, John Kerrry, Hillary clinton, Barrack Obama also want to flood America with jhordes of non-Caucasian , Aztec and Mayan descendats, to collapse our welfare stae and drive the cost f labor to the point of progressive poverty for all
    In Response

    by: TJF from: rhode Island
    June 17, 2014 1:47 AM
    Let us not forget that a REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION placed USA in the position from the onset,based on FAULTY Intelligence and a brilliant"MISSION ACCOMPLISHED". At the expense of countless lives and trillions of dollars,the writer may want to point his/her finger in the right direction toward the GOP,who lost power before O'bama and their minds as well. They still haven't recovered since and it seems to me that all they can do is try to take down the O'bama Administation. If you could place your efforts and money in positive direction and lean to your responsibilities to the American population,this entire USA would be back on its feet in a heartbeat. Think about that GOP and get to work instead of trying to disparage the President of the United States!!!

    by: Francis from: Banjul , The Gambia
    June 16, 2014 5:00 PM
    It's going dangerous in the worlds war in Iraq shouldn't be by the cause of population but rebels in Iraq

    by: Peter GC from: Gold Coast
    June 16, 2014 4:53 PM
    Has anyone ever counted the real cost to the world of Muslim extremists. The financial cost of 9/11, of Iraq of Afghanistan.

    It would be in the Trillions of dollars.

    All monmey that could have been used on the poor and to benefit all the peaceful people on this earth.

    Time to rid us of this scourge once and for all. Who will have the courage to eliminate it instead of dancing around it and losing our good people's and soldier's lives.?????

    No one

    by: Solovero
    June 16, 2014 4:48 PM
    So, the while world can see what these barbaric creatures are doing and here we are talking about the political science of using photos. Can some world leaders go in and clean our planet of this vermin please. If these atrocities were in one persons home they'd be encircled and arrested or killed. Why when on a larger scale are we not doing the same?

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