The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has spent much of its time after gaining ground in Iraq promoting a softer, almost philanthropic image of their jihadist cause on the internet. Meanwhile, in Syria, video surfaces of the jihadists killing people and disposing of the bodies by throwing them over cliffs.
A video published by Argentine news agency Infobae surfaced online on Thursday of ISIS members allegedly executing Iranian citizens in Syria. The video, sourced to LiveLeak.com, shows three individuals with bags over their heads and on their knees; behind them, a number of individuals with face masks and guns. After some walking around, the jihadists get to work and execute the three, who are allegedly Iranian citizens.
In the video’s next scene, the jihadists dispose of the bodies. They stand over what appears to be a large rock formation in Syria and carry the bodies together, tossing them over a cliff one by one. The bodies leave a trail of blood as they are dragged to the edge of the cliff. Infobae reports that the event has been reported to have occurred in the town of Slouk, near the city of Raqqa, which ISIS considers something of a capital.
The images of the brutality of ISIS are now, more than ever, pivotal to disseminate internationally. Unlike its jihadist predecessors, ISIS appears to understand that it must make itself sympathetic to a Western audience in order to attract Muslims living in the Western world to its cause. ISIS launched an English and German-language news agency, Al-Hayat, to publish images of exuberant jihadists in English and promote their cause in places like Australia and the UK. It has widely disseminated apparently light-hearted mockery of First Lady Michelle Obama and photos of jihadists playing with small animals. These tactics work on Western minds already sympathetic to the idea of jihad, because it speaks their language and helps eliminate the image of jihadists as medieval or anti-technology.
Yet if ISIS jihadists are different from al Qaeda or al Shabaab or Boko Haram jihadists, it is in how footage showing the real situation on the ground shows ISIS members reveling in their own brutality, finding new and innovative ways to kill. The images surfacing from journalists on the ground in Iraq and Syria are as harrowing– if not more– than any destruction caused by jihadists previously.
Watch the video (warning: not for sensitive viewers) here or below: