A rumor circulating on the Internet this week claims that ISIS put 16 fighters on the fast-track to heaven for contracting HIV from a Moroccan sex slave. The men were reportedly “sentenced” to death by suicide bombing, according to the ARA news agency, which relied on anonymous sources in the city.
“Most of those infected are foreign militants who had sexual intercourse with two Moroccan women. The women passed on the disease to the militants before their infection was revealed. We were ordered by the group’s local leadership to transfer the infected militants to a quarantine center in the city,” a Syrian doctor in the town of al-Mayadeen allegedly told ARA News, a news agency that covers northern Syria. The city is a 2.5-hour drive southeast of the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa.
It almost seems too crazy to be true and The Daily Beast could not independently confirm it. But ISIS has proven in the past to exceed our worst imaginations.
Last summer, experts worried about a surge in gruesome killings and attacks stemming from what they call “outbidding”—attempts to differentiate themselves from other organizations. “The more groups you have competing for everyone's attention and loyalties, the more dangerous things tend to become,” said terrorism expert Mia Bloom at the time.
But that fear never materialized: Instead, ISIS seems to have begun outbidding itself.
Beheadings of American and British civilians morphed into a slow, burning death for a Jordanian pilot shot down over Syria. The executions became more brutal later: Men were drowned in a cage, while others had their heads blown off by an explosive cord that connected them to each other.
Reports of widespread sexual slavery in the “caliphate”—in some cases, militants literally bookend brutal sexual assaults with prayer—were so outrageous that supporters even denied them before the group confirmed the allegations in its trademark publication. Many of their victims have barely hit puberty. To cap it all off, latest reports suggest that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “wed” and repeatedly raped American hostage Kayla Mueller.
A year ago, children posing with severed heads triggered international outrage. Then, the group released its first video featuring a child executioner, followed by several showing training camps for “cubs of the caliphate”—the next generation of jihadis.
In February, the United Nations announced a new investigation into other claims that at first glance seemed too gory to be true: That the terror group was harvesting organs from the dead and selling them for profit. The investigation was prompted by the murders of 12 doctors in Mosul, allegedly because they refused to perform the procedure.
Compared to what has already been done, claims that it’s forcing HIV-infected fighters into suicide missions don’t seem that far-fetched.
The group has long been believed to use non-Arabic-speaking fighters for suicide bombers, but details about the method of transmission (the disease is twice as likely to be spread from men to women than the other way around) and claims that the Moroccan women have escaped to Syria—even as the fighters have reportedly been quarantined—raise doubts.
True, ISIS is now in control of hospitals in the cities and towns it controls, so it’s not implausible that they have forced doctors to screen would-be “martyrs” for STDs.
Reports of this latest rumor reference a little-publicized alleged beheading of an Indonesian jihadi in June, for infecting a sex slave who was later resold and for donating blood at an ISIS hospital. The man allegedly set of a panic among other fighters who feared they might have been exposed.
Indonesian officials said at the time that they were unable to verify reports of such an execution.