Video: Is the Iraqi army executing IS fighters?


Videos on the Iranian version of YouTube, “Aparat”, claim to show the darker side of how the Iraqi army carries out its war against the Islamic State (IS) group.

The conflict engulfing Iraq is undeniably bloody. There are numerous, well-documented cases of atrocities carried out by the Islamic State group — and the group itself flaunts the carnage it carries out by publishing videos. Human rights groups like Amnesty International have also documented alleged war crimes carried out by both Iraqi Shiite militias and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. But these new videos allegedly show footage of atrocities carried out by the Iraqi army itself.

These videos are so grisly that we decided not to publish them and instead use screengrabs.

The first video apparently shows a prisoner, lying motionless on the ground with his hands tied. According to the caption, the man is a captured IS militant and the film was shot on a battlefield near Mosul.

Screengrab from video. 

At 0’33”, the man filming turns the camera on himself and you can see an Iraqi army patch on his arms.

Screengrab. The shoulder patch this man is wearing is a symbol of the Iraqi army. 


At about 0’44”, one of the captors stands over the prisoner and fires point blank at his head. He continues to shoot, again and again and again.


Screengrab. The prisoner on the ground is shot at close range.

The second video captures a horrifying series of events unfold. It starts with the close-up image of a man identified as a Qatari member of the Islamic State group, who has been captured on the battlefield by the Iraqi army. The prisoner looks extremely young — an open shirt shows his thin, child-like chest. He seems to be smiling as Iraqi soldiers crowd around to ask him questions and take selfies and videos with him.

Screengrab. The Observers blurred these images.

At 0’18”, you can see an Iraqi army patch on the arms of one of the onlookers.

Screengrab: You can see a patch worn by the Iraqi Army on this man's arm. 

The situation doesn’t seem volatile until 0’39” when someone seems to grab the young man by his collar and drag him forward. Shortly thereafter, you see a man wearing a red beret—worn by officers in the Iraqi army.

Screengrab. This man wears a red beret, which are worn by officers in the Iraqi army.

The video then jumps to a new cut showing the young prisoner being dragged outside by a crowd. There’s another cut and you see the young man splayed out on the ground. An Iraqi soldier takes aim and shoots him from a few feet away, firing many times. The next sickening shots show the young man’s lifeless body and exploded head.


Under international law, the execution of a hostage or war prisoner is considered a “war crime”.

Some countries, like the United States, have decided to disregard these international laws governing war in combat with terrorist organisations.

Screengrab: The prisoner is executed at close range.

Screengrab: Another shot shows, again, soldiers wearing red berets (which are worn by officers in the Iraqi army). 

Voting to kill or not to kill the prisoners… on Instagram


Wasim Nasr is FRANCE 24’s resident specialist on jihadist groups.

The kind of violence that you see in these videos is, unfortunately, not rare.

We don’t know if the extrajudicial killings of captured IS fighters is sanctioned within the Iraqi Army.

But we do know that the people carrying out these killings don’t fear of any kind of legal reprisals because they film these executions and post them online. I have actually seen Iraqi soldiers post photos of captured IS militants on Instagram and ask people to vote on whether or not they should kill them.

The Iraqi army has been fighting the IS group for over a year. The army and the militias that it works with are responsible for arbitrary executions of Sunni men in towns that they have taken, that is clear. However, we have no idea how many of those people executed were actually IS group jihadists. 

Ultimately, very few IS members are actually captured. Their policy is to wear suicide vests and blow themselves instead of allowing themselves to be arrested. Most of those who are captured are likely very quickly executed on the battlefield.


Previously, Washington said those responsible must be held accountable

These reports are worrying for the United States, which has been training and arming the Iraqi Army for a decade now. Moreover, the Iraqi Army is a key part of the US’s anti-IS strategy.

However, this isn’t the first time that potentially damning photos and videos of the Iraqi Army have emerged on social media, sparking allegations of “war crimes”. In 2015, the US launched investigations into these allegations and cut off assistance to units under suspicion.

In a statement made in response to ABC News’ questions about alleged human rights violations carried out by the Iraqi Army, the US government said:

“As the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and militias reclaim territory, their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL [ISIS] fighters. If these allegations are confirmed, those found responsible must be held accountable."