The jihadist group the Islamic State has made mass abductions and murders a staple of their terrorist tactics in both Iraq and Syria. Last week, reports began to surface on social media of a massacre at Tabqa Airbase in northern Syria; this week, Twitter users affiliated with the Islamic State released a list of more than 150 men killed in the incident.
Mainstream media sources reported on August 24 that Tabqa Airbase had fallen in the hands of Islamic State jihadists, who kept Syrian Army soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad captive there for days. BBC notes that the airbase was the last stronghold of the Syrian government in Raqqa province; Islamic State fighters have designated Raqqa as the capital of their “Islamic State.”
The capture of the airbase, by all accounts, was a bloody affair. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 346 Islamic State jihadists and more than 170 Syrian Army soldiers died during the battle to take the airbase. Skirmishes continued for days until photos began to surface of the kidnapping and torture of surviving Syrian Army soldiers.
The men–estimates as to numbers range from 150 to 193–were apparently forced to strip to their underwear and parade around the desert in the scorching sun. The graphic images appeared on Twitter:
— Marwan-el-Tounisi (@Marwouantounsi) August 27, 2014
— Rami(?) (@RamiAlLolah) August 29, 2014
— Syricide (@Syricide) August 28, 2014
In addition to these images, videos surfaced from within the airbase of the men being held indoors, also in their underwear. The footage, as is much raw information from Syria, appeared on the website LiveLeak:
It was not until recently, however, that anything resembling a confirmation of the deaths of these men surfaced online. Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit reports that an Islamic State-affiliated account has published 193 names, allegedly of the soldiers captured and killed during the Tabqa siege:
— Mark (@markito0171) September 2, 2014
Islamic State leadership, to the extent that it exists, has not confirmed the list, nor the execution of these soldiers. However, mass executions–and the subsequent digging of mass graves–would align with commonly observed behavior by this violent jihadist group. The United Nations accused the Islamic State (then the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS) of massacres in Syria as early as January of this year. In Iraq, the Islamic State reportedly killed 500 Yazidi minority members by burying them alive, and search groups have continued to discover mass graves created by the Islamic State as territory returns to the control of governments.