The so-called Islamic State (IS) has released a six-minute video allegedly showing masked militants beheading three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on the eve of the Persian New Year.
The video is similar to the execution videos previously released by the group in style and substance. In it, militants wearing black balaclavas slit the throats of the Kurdish soldiers in orange jumpsuits, one by one. The IS executioners then threaten to kill "dozens" more prisoners in its captivity unless the Kurds stop shelling territory under its control.
The video, which VICE News was unable to independently verify, begins with images of civilians in IS areas allegedly wounded by Peshmerga shelling. They are shown being transferred to a hospital, allegedly in Nineveh province where the footage was shot, although it is unclear where exactly the video was filmed. The video then cuts to various bombed-out houses and buildings allegedly destroyed by Kurdish rockets.
Later, the three Kurdish fighters are shown kneeling, with hands bound, before each is decapitated in front of a crowd of onlookers, including children. The decapitated heads are then filmed alongside the bodies of the fighters. At least one of the men was decapitated next to what appears to be the impact site of a rocket.
"To the Muslim Kurdish people: Know that our war is not with you, rather it is with those who ventured into an alliance with the Safavids and crusaders to wage war on the Muslims," one of the militants says in the video according to a transcription by Arabic news channel Al-Alam News Network. The militant refers respectively to Iran and the the US-led coalition, both of which have aided the Kurds.
Another masked fighter then addresses Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, saying: "We warned you before that for every rocket you fire on those under the care of the Islamic State, you will kill one of your prisoners with your own hands."
There was no immediate confirmation by Kurdish authorities that the dead soldiers are Kurds. A senior Kurdish statesman reacted to the video Friday saying if the video is as it claims, "this terror will only strengthen our resolve," Kurdish media reported.
"This should turn people against Daesh," Barham Salih, a former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said, using an alternative name for IS. "Kurds should unite in support of Peshmerga martyr families and campaign for more effective international assistance to our people."
More than 1,000 Peshmerga from the Kurdish-controlled northern region in Iraq have been killed since IS began its campaign to dominate vast areas of territory and establish a self-proclaimed caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq. The militant group has seized roughly a third of Iraqi since it began its violent assault last summer.
Peshmerga troops and Kurdish YPG forces in Syria have been principal actors in the fight against IS, and have been trained and given weapons by the US-led coalition, which has also supported Kurdish troops on the ground with airstrikes against militant targets in the region. But up to 300 Kurds have also crossed over to fight with IS since the battle began.
The militants have also targeted ethnic Yazidi minority in Iraq, as well as Shiite Muslims and Christians, foreign journalists, fighters, and aid workers. Yesterday, the UN released a damning report saying that IS likely committed genocide against the Yazidis and has urged the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation.