ISIS released a new video Friday showing children of its foreign soldiers shooting a group of prisoners. The terror group said the executed men were members of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish force that is supported by the United States and has been one of the most effective armies fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
ISIS is known for its grisly videos of beheadings and other sadistic killings. But the new video is particularly grisly and horrific even by ISIS’ cruel standards. It shows five boys, some of them visibly frightened, shoot kneeling prisoners in the backs of their heads. One boy speaks to the camera while the others look on silently.
The SITE intelligence group, which analyzes the terror group’s propaganda, said the boys are British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian, and Uzbek citizens. Their parents came to fight with ISIS and apparently brought their kids along.
It’s not clear when the video was made. However, it was released at a particularly important moment in the United States’ war against ISIS, which has been making progress as a combination of air and ground strikes takes back territory from the group.
This week, Turkish air and ground forces pounded ISIS positions in northern Syria along the Turkish border. U.S. officials have long been urging Turkey to get into the fight, and Turkish intervention helped to evict ISIS from the Syrian town of Jarabulus.
Vice President Joseph Biden visited Turkey this week and declared that the YPG fighters, who have proven so effective, must withdraw to a position east of the Euphrates River. That was seen as a move to placate Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group and an existential threat. Turkey worries that the Kurds could form an autonomous zone in northern Syria. Pulling back east of the river would help ensure that doesn’t happen. And Biden warned that if the Kurds didn’t withdraw, the U.S. would pull the plug on its support.
Against this political backdrop, the new ISIS video can be seen as a message to the Kurdish forces. It may also be an attempt to show that ISIS still enjoys support from a broad range of foreign fighters. The truth, though, is that officials say the flow of foreigners into ISIS-controlled areas has been dramatically reduced, thanks in part to Turkey cracking down on the flow of militants across its borders.