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Latest Islamic State Video Appears to Show Teenagers Involved In Beheadings of Eight Shiite Hostages

The gruesome video was released as Shiite militias and other Iraqi forces conduct a major offensive to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State.

by Gillian Mohney
Mar 29 2015, 5:50pm

Imagen vía al-Hayat Media Center

The Islamic State has released a new video that appears to show the beheading of eight Shiite Muslim men in the central Syrian province of Hama.

The video, first posted Saturday on Twitter, bears the watermark of the Islamic State's official media wing and shares similar stylistic elements to previous execution videos released by the militant group. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the video's authenticity.

The video begins with a bearded militant holding a Kalashnikov and speaking into the camera in a grassy field along a fence line with Islamic State flags fluttering in the wind. According to a translation by the Associated Press, the militant says that recent fighting in Syria will only make the Islamic State stronger as they attempt to expand their self-proclaimed caliphate.

"Our swords will soon, God willing, reach the Nuseiries and their allies like Bashar and his party," the fighter said, referring to Lebanon's Hezbollah and using the word "Nuseiry," a derogatory term for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The fighter also refers to the hostages as "Raafidis," a derogatory term often used by Sunni extremists to describe Shiites.

The speaker says the Islamic State will avenge actions against Sunnis in Hama in the 1980s, an apparent reference to former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad's 1982 order to quash an uprising in Hama that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Sunnis.

Related: Syrian activists decry US dropping grisly anti-Islamic State cartoon over Raqqa as 'stupid'

Young men, some apparently just teenagers, then lead eight captives in orange jumpsuits to an open field. A young child hands each of the men a knife, and the captives are shoved to the ground and decapitated simultaneously. At one point, a fighter speaks to the camera and calls the victims "impure infidels."

While the identities of those killed have not been confirmed, the Lebanon Government National News Agency said that the family of Younis al-Hujairi, a man kidnapped in January from a Lebanese border town, had seen him beheaded on social media. Hujairi is Sunni, while the other men killed in the video were Shiites, according to the AP. 

Hujairi was kidnapped from Arsal, a town in eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border. Last August, fighters from the Islamic State and al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, captured two dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen in a joint, cross-border raid. According to the AP, at least four of those hostages have been killed so far, including two who were beheaded by the Islamic State.

The latest video was released during a major offensive by a coalition of fighters to retake the Iraqi city of Tikrit from the Islamic State. The forces advancing on Tikrit include allied Shiite militias, Iraqi government forces, and a smaller number of Sunni tribesmen. Earlier this week, Iraqi forces announced the "final" push to retake the city, which is located about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

The US announced Wednesday that it would launch its first airstrikes on the city in support of the Iraqi offensive.

Related: Final phase of 'Tikrit assault' begins backed by US airstrikes

Follow Gillian Mohney on Twitter: @gillianmohney

VICE News' John Beck contributed to this article