ISIS warning to Erdogan shows soldiers burned alive

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Islamic State released a video showing two Turkish soldiers chained and then burned to death by Turkish-speaking jihadists, prompting Turkey’s government to block access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

The video was released by news websites close to IS, and the two victims identify themselves as Turkish soldiers taken hostage. One of them had been reported kidnapped by Islamic State in Syria last year, and had been held in a prison in Raqqa, according to local media reports.

Turkish officials didn’t immediately comment on the video or respond to requests seeking verification of its content. The state-run news agency Anadolu reported that 31 suspected Islamic State members were detained in raids in Istanbul on Friday. Another 10 suspected members of the group couldn’t be located, it said.

The release of the footage comes amid a rising casualty count in Syria for Turkey, which has had 35 soldiers killed since the military started a cross-border operation in August. The country is at war with militants on multiple fronts, fighting separatist Kurdish groups and Islamic State in Syria and facing attacks in its major cities and rural areas since last year.

The latest footage marks the first killings of Turkish citizens in a propaganda video filmed by Islamic State. The 19-minute production opens with an Arabic narrator talking over shots of soldiers walking past a podium flanked by Turkish and U.S. flags. It then shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, and then with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Gruesome footage starts later in the video, with images of people killed and maimed, before it switches to Turkish. The two Turkish soldiers are first shown standing in uniform in a cage, chained back-to-back as two other armed men in Islamic State garb stand outside. The soldiers are then forced to walk on all fours to an open field, still chained, and are then burned alive via a fire that starts at the end of their chains.

What follows is a direct warning to the Turkish president, saying that such images will proliferate unless Erdogan removes the Turkish military from Syria. It also calls on members of the group to sow death and destruction inside Turkey.

The video was shared by SITE Intel Group on its Twitter account, which monitors jihadist social media. Turkish authorities blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube immediately after the video became public. Access to social media websites was restored Friday morning, with noticeable slowing.

(c) 2016, Bloomberg

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