Children execute 25 soldiers in macabre new Isil video
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has released a video purportedly showing the execution of dozens of Syrian government soldiers by children in the famous ancient ruins of Palmyra.
The footage shows 25 men kneeling on the stage of the site's historic Roman theatre, their hands tied behind their backs.
With ritualistic precision, the same numbers of executioners then step out in unison, each taking up position behind one of the condemned.
A large black Isil flag is draped over the columns behind them.
Wearing matching long brown robes and brown bandanas, the executioners appear to be boys or young teenagers - few look old enough to grow a beard.
Footage filmed from cameras trained on the soldiers' faces show that the men have been beaten. Then the child jihadists transform the world-class tourist attraction into a killing ground.
Simultaneously raising their pistols, they spray bullets into the heads and backs of the men, leaving them lifeless and bloody on the ground.
An apparently unhappy crowd of onlookers, mostly dressed in civilian clothes, are gathered on the seats of the stadium watching the grisly show.
The video, circulated at the weekend on pro-Isil social media accounts, is believed to have been filmed in the days after Isil took control of Palmyra in May, when local activists reported that hundreds of captured soldiers were murdered by the jihadists.
At the time, residents of the city were rounded up and forced to watch the killings, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
The video also shows the soldiers being led out from Tadmur prison, one of Syria's most feared regime jails, which was largely destroyed by Isil in May.
The footage, filmed using professional techniques, appears designed to strike fear into Syrian regime supporters and counter accusations by Isil's detractors that, unlike other jihadist groups in Syria such as al-Qa'ida's Jabhat al-Nusra, Isil has not focused on fighting President Assad.
Syrian rebel groups have long accused Isil of colluding with Damascus, citing examples where the jihadists have sold oil to the regime.
Palmyra's ancient ruins are listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and there has been concern Isil might seek to destroy its heritage, as it has done elsewhere in Syria and Iraq.
The jihadists appear to have realised these fears. Extremists posted pictures last week of men smashing antiquities in Palmyra, including a 2,000-year-old lion statue originally unearthed from the temple of the pre-Islamic Arabian goddess al-Lat. (© Daily Telegraph, London)