IRBIL — On Thursday, Islamic State militants released another video of the purported beheading of one of their prisoners – this time an Iraqi Kurdish fighter for his government’s alliance with the United States.
The Kurds, whose regional authorities have sought U.S. help in their battle against the Sunni extremists in northern Iraq, should reject American interference in Iraqi affairs, the video says. Three masked gunmen are shown looming over the Kurdish fighter, a young man kneeling in a bright orange jumpsuit. Then one of the gunmen, who appear to be in the Iraqi city of Mosul, draws a blade and ends his life.
The six-minute video, posted to YouTube Thursday by the group’s network of online supporters, is similar to the one that grimly showed the execution of American journalist James Foley last week. The black-clad jihadists rail against the U.S. government before reaching for the Kurdish fighter's throat. As in the recording of Foley's murder, the video cuts away, only later showing the graphic evidence that a beheading did take place.
On the same day, Islamic State fighters also claimed to have beheaded a Lebanese soldier captured in clashes on Syria's western front. Another video showed Islamic State militia executing dozens of Syrian regime soldiers in the desert after the terrorist organization had captured the strategic Taqaba airbase.
The staged video from Iraq, though, is clearly directed at Iraqi Kurds. Kurdish troops, known as pesh merga, have been fighting on the front lines against the expansionist Islamic State since the group seized broad chunks of Iraqi territory starting in June.
Kurds inhabit a corner of northeastern Iraq that has come under threat from Islamic State militants in recent weeks. The jihadists now control the nearby city of Mosul, and moved to grab more turf that encroached on Kurdish land.
At the beginning of the video, it shows 15 alleged pesh merga fighters lined up in front of a black jihadist flag.
“I saw with my own eyes the soldiers of the Islamic State,” says a man who identifies himself in Kurdish as a pesh merga fighter, Hassan Mohammed Hashim. “They are well prepared […] they fear no one,” he says. “I demand from my family and people – I plead for you to end your alliance with the Americans.”
The video was released the same day pesh merga forces announced they had retaken two Iraqi towns near the Syrian border, Rabia and Zumar. Those gains are often tenuous and difficult to confirm.
Also Thursday, the Pentagon said it conducted five airstrikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, which had been in the hands of the militants earlier this month.
“I want the people to go down in the streets until the American-Kurdish alliance is canceled,” Hashim says in the video. If you do not, “it will end our lives,” he says.