The so-called Islamic State publicly beheaded two men for sorcery in a new gruesome video published this week as the global terror group increasingly imposes its reign of terror Sirte
In the 8-minute clip IS fighters based in the central city stage a public beheading and lashing for residents accused of witchcraft, drinking alcohol and having sex outside of marriage.
The video opens with IS officials searching the flat of the alleged “magicians”, where they point to what they called spells against children written on pieces of paper and items of clothing belonging to their “victims”.
“She is young student and she did not escape him, she was cursed,” one of the fighters says, holding up a child’s jacket, before pointing to a tattoo the convicted was said to have.
The scene cuts to balaclava-clad militants wearing badges reading “Islamic State police”, who drag the men – one who is elderly – bound, blindfolded and dressed in orange jumpsuits into a main square.
“Thank God IS has been given this power on earth,” says one militant – dressed in a brown galabiya – before the executioner lands the deadly blows as children watch in the background. The headless corpses – gushing blood – are thrown into a waiting ambulance.
Sirte residents told Libya Channel the killings took place a month ago in the city’s main Green Square once a rallying point for supporters of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was born and was killed in the central city’. Sirte’s Green Book research centre – once a hub for pro-Gaddafi thinkers – lies in the background of some of the shots.
After an official announcement, citizens including their children were ordered to the area to witness the punishments. During the public punishment two other men are given between 80 and 100 lashes for drinking alcohol and having sex outside of marriage.
It marks a change for the bloodthirsty fighters who first appeared in Libya last September in the east of the country – when Libyan IS fighters who were veterans of the Syria and Iraq war convinced local jihadis to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
After briefly losing their stronghold in Derna to local residents and rival Al-Qaeda linked groups they shifted their attentions west, sweeping a 200km stretch of Mediterrean coastline around Sirte earlier this summer. Previously public executions had been reserved for anti-IS resistance fighters – like the Sirte’s District 3 inhabitants whose August uprising was brutally crushedand whose ringleaders were “crucified”. Now flouters of the group’s extreme interpretation of Sharia Law are put to the sword.
The town has seen an influx of foreign fighters from across Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East region, with rumours Europeans are also among their ranks. In Tuesday’s video three of the four bystanders interviewed by IS are not Libyan.
One man speaking in a Sub-Saharan African accent tells the IS cameraman that they will “behead cut off all thieves hands, behead all the sorcerers and kill the apostates.”
“We will install Sharia Law despite the americans and their allies. despite the crusaders’ airstrikes despite their tanks and planes, despite everything,” the man adds forcibly.
Another, speaking in a Gulf accent, says the whole point of IS’s battle for territory across the world is to implement Sharia Law.
“We did jihad just to see this scene. What they have fought for across the world is to see this, to see the practicing of Hudud [strict Islamic punishments],” he added.
A third, also not Libya, adds that he has been “waiting for this event for ;24 years’”.
There are thought to be a total of 3,000 Isis fighters across the country, with 1,200 in Sirte alone. They have exploited the breakdown in security as the country slipped back into civil war, when armed coalition Libya Dawn seized the capital Tripoli last summer creating a rival government and effectively diving the country in two.
As US-led airstrikes against positions in Syria and Iraq have intensified, IS has eyed up Libya as a “back up” caliphate, sending in senior clerics to structure their new foothold.
“Before they largely left us alone but now they are trying to make Sirte like Raqqa – so now we have to follow strict dress and behavioral codes or suffer the consequences,” said a Sirte resident.