Executions of captives by the Sunni Muslim militants of the Islamic State have become grimly commonplace, but on Tuesday a newly-surfaced video featured a horrifying twist: the use of a child executioner.
The Maryland-based SITE group, which monitors jihadist activity, posted the video online. Lasting just over 7 1/2 minutes, it appears to show the shootings of two alleged Russian spies at the hands of a young boy dressed in a black sweater with camouflage trousers.
Pale, with long straight hair and doll-like features, he appears to be about 12.
The video, titled “Uncovering an Enemy Within,” purports to show confessions, with the men answering questions put to them in Russian. They give such information as their names and dates of birth – one says he was born in 1976 in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan -- speaking calmly while starkly lighted against a white background.
According to SITE’s transcription, the pair admit to working for Russian intelligence and say they were instructed to gather information and report back such details as where a particular Islamic State leader resided.
“Allah disgraced their efforts and thwarted their plans,” the video’s introduction notes in English.
Near the end of the footage, the child is seen firing a pistol at the accused men, who are bound and kneeling.
According to SITE’s transcript, an interviewer asks the boy, “Who will you be in the future, God willing?”
“I will be the one who slaughters you, oh disbelievers,” the child replies.
The existence of child fighters in the ranks of Islamic State has been well documented, but this was the first such explicit image of a young boy carrying out an execution.
Last year, Islamic State surged out of Syria, where it already held a substantial arc of territory, and seized areas of Iraq including Mosul, one of the country's largest cities. The group has enforced its rule with a reign of terror that has included beheadings and sexual slavery.
The United States is leading an international coalition staging airstrikes against the group and financing and training other Syrian rebel factions to confront it on the ground.
Times staff writer King reported from Cairo and special correspondent Bulos from Beirut.
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