New Beheading Video Released by Iraqi Terrorists (Photos, Video)
Insurgents signaled the fight is still on after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s death, posting an Internet video Saturday showing the beheading of three alleged Shiite death squad members in revenge for killing Sunnis. The video — as grisly as any the al-Qaida in Iraq leader issued — was clearly designed to quash hopes that the Sunni-dominated insurgency might change tactics by ending attacks on Shiite civilians and institutions, especially the police.
The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was the defining face of Iraq’s insurgency. His tirades against the nation’s majority Shiites and calls on the once-dominant minority Sunni Arabs to rise up and kill them were matched by the killing of thousands of Shiites in attacks. In contrast, Ansar al-Sunnah has largely refrained from killing civilians. Made up mostly of homegrown Iraqi guerrillas, the group instead has mostly gone after American and Iraqi forces as well as Iraqis and foreigners employed by the U.S. military.
It was the first known footage of beheadings to be posted by any insurgent group in months, and possibly timed to make clear to the U.S. and Iraqi governments that there will be no change in tactics even though al-Zarqawi is gone. With its gruesome killings and militants chanting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is Great,” the 15-minute video illustrates the depth of Shiite-Sunni rivalries. It shows three men in military uniform, sitting on the ground with their hands bound behind their backs in a small concrete room with gunmen standing around them.
Under questioning, the men say they are members of the “Wolf Brigade,” a special Iraqi police commando unit that Sunnis accuse of being a front for Shiite militiamen who kill Sunni Arabs. Text in the video says the three were part of a “Shiite death squad” that kidnapped and killed Sunnis at checkpoints south of Baghdad in March and April. It says they were among 10 police commandos captured by Ansar al-Sunnah last month.
A militant off-camera asks them about the incident and other alleged slayings of Sunnis. The men reply in low voices, looking terrified. One mostly stares with his mouth hanging open. “They (the Sunnis) were beheaded by those who took and detained them,” one of the three says. Next the video shows the three captives lying on the ground outdoors. A militant sharpens a knife before he, with the help of others, beheads the men one by one.
At the end of the tape, the group warns Iraqis against joining the security forces: “Otherwise, you will live in terror until we eliminate you and your fate will be in hell.”
That the murders continue is hardly surprising. Still, the terrorists have to be more wary now that Zarqawi has been taken out, especially with news that it was an internal mole that provided the crucial tip-off.
As usual, Ogrish has video and screen capture photos. They are dated June 7, oddly, not “yesterday” (June 9, since the story was posted last night). The announcement Zarqawi was killed came June 8. [Update: Rusty Shackleford makes this point as well.]
Later in the story, we see that the Zarqawi strike has been followed by a massive intelligence collection effort:
The U.S. military has moved quickly to take advantage of the power vacuum left by al-Zarqawi’s death, carrying out at least 56 raids since Wednesday’s airstrike pulverized his hideout in a remote village northwest of Baghdad. A search of the destroyed safe house yielded documents and electronic storage devices, all being assessed for potential use against his followers, a U.S. military officer has said. Investigators also found documents and unspecified “media,” which the officer indicated usually means information storage devices such as computer hard drives and digital cameras. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because the search results have not been formally announced.
We’ll see if anything comes of this.
UPDATE: Rusty Shackleford thinks the AP story is deliberate spin noting that, “[T]he AP claims the video was posted today and uses the video as evidence that the insurgency will not be stopped because of Zarqawi’s death. However, I have personally known about the video for several days now, but due to time constraints, have not been able to post it.”
He also provides some interesting background:
The Army of Ansar al Sunna is linked to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, but declined to join the umbrella group known as the Shura Council of Iraq that al Qaeda was part of. Zarqawi and al Sunna collaborated on a number of ‘operations’ and even in the production of several videos in which civilians were murdered.
The Army of Ansar al Sunnah is a Salaafist organization with the goal of establlishing a Taliban-like government in Iraq. It branched off of the more well known, but now mostly defunct, Army of Ansar al Islam at the beginning of the U.S. invasion. Ansar al Islam was a Kurdish Salaafist group which fought against the secular Kurds running Northern Iraq. The Kurds have succeeded in nearly eradicating the group.
Obviously, the group’s political objectives are pure fantasy. That doesn’t mean they won’t be able to kill people, however, and get in the news.
UPDATE: In compiling my “Related Posts” list below, which represents only a fraction of OTB’s Hostage Beheadings category archives, I was struck again by how we went from each announcement and video release creating a massive surge of attention to the killings getting so routine that few much cared and, eventually, they ceased because it simply quit providing much propaganda value.