Wednesday 21 February 2018

Has Islamic State recruited a disabled executioner to boost its 'equal opportunities credentials' in Libya?

A man in a wheelchair sits beside one of Isil's victims. who is not shown in this photo
A man in a wheelchair sits beside one of Isil's victims. who is not shown in this photo

Colin Freeman

Islamic State has employed a wheelchair-bound executioner to terrorise residents in its new stronghold in Libya, a human rights report revealed.

The executioner, who appears in propaganda photos showing the shooting of an alleged spy, may have been chosen by Isis as part of a crude attempt to show it is an "equal opportunities" organisation.

An account of how he executed a man in a public square in the Libyan city of Sirte is given in a new report by Human Rights Watch, which says the group has executed up to 49 people since seizing control of Sirte in February 2015.

The executions are part of a brutal regime imposed by the group that has also included public floggings and crucifixions, carried out on the orders of Isil's religious courts.

One former resident of Sirte, identified only as "Ali" for his own safety, told Human Rights Watch how how a relative named Milad Ahmed Abourgheba was killed by the disabled executioner in January. He had been found guilty by an Isil court of spying.

"Milad disappeared for three months, then on January 16, they shot him dead," Ali said. "The man who shot him was Tunisian and was in a wheelchair. They shot him in public and then they crucified him for three days in Zaafran Square."

Photos of the execution show the wheelchair-bound man sporting military fatigues and a black balaclava, with a black Isil flag in the background.

He is positioned right next to Mr Abourgheba, who is clad in an orange Guantanamo Bay-style jumpsuit and trussed with a rope.

The other end of the rope is attached to a gantry from which he is later crucified, along with a handwritten sign branding him a spy.

Human Rights Watch said it was not clear why Isil had chosen to use a disabled man in the picture.

But they did not rule out the possibility of "equal opportunities" messaging.

Isil has previously issued statements claiming that it represents Muslims of all creeds and races, despite its sectarian hatred of Muslims of the Shia faith.  

It is possible the man could have been pursuing a personal grudge for an injury sustained in battle, or could even have been put there under duress.

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