|Non Graphic Still Shot From Purported Video|
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet purporting to show Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy.
While not yet independently confirmed, the brutal killing already has gotten the attention of Islamic State followers on social media. It threatens to worsen a sectarian divide that already has enabled IS to spread across large swaths of Iraq.
U.S. officials say the video and others like it are "obviously very concerning" and worry it could allow the terror group to cement its hold on some predominantly Sunni areas.
Oren Adaki, an analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who viewed the video, said there is not much identifying information or clues as to when the event took place, but that some things are clear.
“Whether these are Iraqi soldiers or Shiite militiamen, they are definitely Shiite,” Adaki said. “After the execution, the group of fighters chant “Labayki ya Zaynab” or “At your service, O Zaynab,” referring to Shiite saint Zaynab - daughter of Imam Ali and sister of Imam Hussein. This is a common battle cry of Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.”
The video, just over a minute long, shows what appears to be Iraqi troops or Shi'ite militiamen, some with the Iraqi flag on their sleeves, gathered around the boy, who is kneeling on the ground with his hands bound behind his back.
One of the soldiers then slaps the boy in the face. There is a lot of cursing, and some of the soldiers yell “they spilled their blood.” What appear to be gunshots can be heard nearby. The soldiers then form a semi-circle around the boy, raise their machine guns and shoot him in the head.
The video first appears to have been posted to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook Tuesday, although it has since been taken down.
Arab media reports say the victim was an 11-year-old boy and that the shooting took place either in the eastern part of Diyala province or in the Ishaaqi section of Salah al Deen province.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said Friday the U.S. has "encouraged the Iraqi government to fully investigate any allegation of abuse," adding that such abuses by Iraqi forces or Shia militias, if confirmed, are "not what should be happening."
Islamic State followers have quickly picked up on the video, promoting it on social media, like Twitter, in what Adaki called “starkly sectarian terms.”
One account, belonging to someone who calls himself Abu Nimr Al-Deeghmi, tweeted “the Iraqi Shiite militias loyal to terrorist Iran kill a Sunni child who had not reached the age of puberty.”