Did ISIS really kill 1,700 prisoners in Iraq?

The World
How It Works
June 16 2014 12:34 PM

Just How Bad Are the Atrocities Being Committed in Iraq Right Now?

A photo released by ISIS purportedly showing the moments before the execution of captured Iraqi soldiers.

An image originally released on the jihadist website Welayat.

ISIS, the extremist rebel group that continues to gain more territory in Iraq, released photos over the weekend thatappear to show the mass execution of captured Iraqi troops, and has boasted of killing as many as 1,700 soldiers in the captured city of Tikrit. The photos show men in plain clothes being led into a ditch and executed. "They're walking to death by their foot," read the caption on one.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

This would be the worst single mass atrocity committed in the region in recent years, including the 2013 chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces that nearly prompted an international intervention in Syria.


The Iraqi military says the photos are authentic and that mass executions have taken place. Not everyone is quite so sure about the specifics. The BBC points out that ISIS typically releases videos of its operations, rather than still images, which are more difficult to verify. A Human Rights Watch researcher who examined the photos told the New York Times, “I am not convinced they are authentic.”

The numbers and particular images aside, the reports of atrocities against both captured troops and civilians by ISIS are pretty widespread at this point. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said her office has received reports that militants “rounded up and killed Iraqi soldiers as well as 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul” as well as numerous of incidents of summary executions in cities captured by the group. Massacres by the groups are reportedly still taking place on the Syrian side of the border as well.

The U.S. is currently mulling airstrikes against ISIS as well as considering perhaps unprecedented cooperation with Iran, but in the meantime, it’s clear that the situation on the ground in areas captured by rebels is becoming extremely grim.

It’s also possible that foreign governments are avoiding playing up the reports of ISIS atrocities in order to avoid retaliatory violence against Sunni civilians by the Iraqi military or Shiite militias. ISIS is clearly the primary perpetrator of atrocities at the moment, but the human rights record of Maliki’s forces isn’t exactly spotless.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 20 2014 1:50 PM Why We Shouldn’t be Too Sure About the Supposed Deal to Return the Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls
Oct. 20 2014 2:16 PM Even When They Go to College, The Poor Sometimes Stay Poor
Oct. 20 2014 2:19 PM A Procedural Rule Could Keep Gay Marriage From Ever Reaching SCOTUS Again
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 2:39 PM Gwen Stefani Does Her Best Rihanna Impression on New Song
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 1:51 PM Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books? A Future Tense Event.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 10:23 AM Where I Was Wrong About the Royals I underestimated the value of building a team that’s just barely better than mediocre.