Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq

Experts say there seems to be no limit to what militia fighters and Isis forces will do as an exchange of barbaric atrocities is played out online

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The Independent Online

Isis has released a graphic new execution video purporting to show four Shia “spies” being burned alive in Iraq.

Issued by the militant group’s media arm and claiming to be filmed in Anbar province, the footage shows four men apparently from Iraq’s popular resistance forces (militia), “confessing” individually to the camera.

The men are then strung up by their hands and feet to a wooden frame, before a fire is lit beneath them and they are burned to death.

Isis has entitled the video with a line from the Koran, roughly translated as “Punish them with the same harm they have caused you”, and experts said it came in direct response to videos showing similar atrocities circulated by Iraq’s Shia fighters.

Last week, a video circulated on social media showed the Shia militia leader Abu Azrael torturing and killing a Sunni fighter, accused of Isis allegiance, by burning him alive over an open pit.

In the early stages of Isis's new video, the four prisoners are shown as they are made to watch that footage.


While it was impossible to independently verify the authenticity of Monday’s video, experts said that in the Iraqi context it appeared to be “an act of vengeance”.

Dr Andreas Krieg, an expert on the Middle East from King’s College’s Department of Defence Studies, told The Independent that the new video was unlike previous Isis releases designed to “terrorise a global audience and attract fanatics”.

He said that Shia militias, often with the support of Iran and employed by the Iraqi government, have been committing atrocities “of the same scale as Isis” since 2003.

“Isis wants to show its most important military and ideological enemy, namely the Shia militias, that none of their atrocities will go unpunished,” Dr Krieg said.

“It wants to send the message that they are not impressed by Shia cruelties and that despite the Iraqi government’s determination, Isis can act with impunity.”

Charlie Winter, an expert at the anti-extremist think-tank Quilliam, said that when the video involving Abu Azrael emerged last week it was widely shared by Isis supporters online, who used it as “evidence of a war against them waged by Shia Muslims and Iran”.

He said: “These videos are rare, so of course Isis is going to seize it as an opportunity. They see it as a justification for their war, for the punishments they themselves use, and of course it gets publicity as well.”

Azrael himself had been hailed in the Western media as “Isis’s worst nightmare”, Mr Winter said, making it all the more important to the militant group to undermine his public image on a global stage.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve done it in this way,” Winter said. “But the video also demonstrates something more than that. It shows Isis’s reliance on exploiting the divide between Sunni and Shia.”

Kurdish activist and anthropologist Heval Soro said that in recent battles, both Shia fighters and Isis were increasingly violating human rights.

“They are taking revenge on each other,” he told the International Business Times’ India edition. “And both have no limits when it comes to torturing and executing their prisoners.”