ISIS has released footage of its killings before, but latest video is different in key aspects
"It's a kind of atrocity pornography," says author Karima Bennoune
The video is beyond horrific.
Appearing online Tuesday, it seems to show a Jordanian military pilot being burned alive while confined in a cage.
ISIS has released footage of its killings before. But this latest video is different in key aspects, and ups the stakes in ways few could have imagined.
“It’s a kind of atrocity pornography,” Karima Bennoune tells CNN.
She is the author of “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”
“It’s truly horrifying when you watch the video and you see them really relishing in inflicting suffering deliberately on another human being, and in showing that suffering to the world,” Bennoune says.
CNN is not showing images of the pilot’s killing.
Here are ways in which the latest ISIS video marks a potential turning point:
High production value
The 22-minute video is highly orchestrated, shot from multiple camera angles. The pilot, Moath al-Kasasbeh, is forced to play a part in his own execution.
He’s seen walking and sitting at a table, speaking, before he appears inside the cage. A member of ISIS lights a long fuse that leads to al-Kasasbeh.
Fire engulfs the pilot and he eventually collapses. A bulldozer then comes to bury him, his hands sticking out from the debris.
“ISIS is in the business of propaganda and terrorism is the business of theater. And in many ways, I think they’re upping the ante in terms of the attention and the brutality that they’re engaged in,” says Juan Zarate, a former U.S. deputy national security adviser.
Who is killed?
Zarate adds that he thinks ISIS is trying to send a message to the Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“They’re going to be treated brutally, and in fact, maybe perhaps more brutally than other members of the coalition,” he says.
Previous ISIS videos have shown the killings of Western captives. One posted last week shows the death of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.
What makes the Jordanian pilot’s case different is that he hailed from a Middle Eastern nation taking part in the anti-ISIS coalition. Al-Kasasbeh was Muslim, as are the vast majority of those killed by ISIS.
Method of execution
The manner of execution also is different. In previous videos, hostages were beheaded.
A masked man with a British accent, dubbed “Jihadi John,” has appeared in at least six videos, standing near hostages. He does not make an appearance in footage of the pilot’s death.
Sometimes, ISIS has threatened who it will kill next.
At the end of its latest video, ISIS shows names and addresses of people it claims are Jordanian pilots. A reward is offered for their deaths.
Will it backfire?
Many analysts are predicting the video will backfire on ISIS, isolating anyone on the fence about its ideology and tactics.
But Maajid Nawaz, a former extremist and author of “Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism,” makes the point that ISIS is not speaking to those who oppose it.
It’s going after existing terrorists, competing with al Qaeda for foreign fighters.
He tells CNN: “This is a race to the bottom when it comes to the gruesome depictions that they’re showing.”