Reports that ISIS burned alive up to 40 people near the town of al-Baghdadi in Iraq’s Anbar province are true, an Iraqi official told CNN on Wednesday.
Anbar provincial council chairman Sabah Karkhout said he was advised by his field commanders near the al-Baghdadi front line that ISIS militants killed at least 40 police officers and tribesman, and that most of the victims were “burned to death.”
ISIS seized control of most of the town last week. It’s just nine miles north of the Ayn al-Asad airbase, where some 400 U.S. military personnel are stationed to train Iraqi pilots in the fight against ISIS.
CNN cannot independently confirm that the people were burned to death.
Iraqi Security Forces have given accounts in situation reports obtained by CNN that speak of Iraqi forces and tribesmen killed by ISIS, but it was not clear whether their bodies burned before or after their deaths.
ISIS has not published any images of the reported killings as they have frequently done in the past.
At a news briefing Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said he’d heard about the reported killings, adding that the United States had purported images of the incident that were being analyzed.
But on Thursday, U.S. officials said the United States doesn’t have any visual evidence of the report.
The jihadist group did release photographs via social media on Tuesday that purportedly show them in full control of al-Baghdadi township, including telltale images of recognizable al-Baghdadi government buildings, and corpses of Iraqi joint forces there.
Speaking about the reports of burned bodies at Wednesday’s Pentagon briefing, Kirby said, “Certainly (it) wouldn’t surprise any of us here if it turns out to be authentic and true, given the kinds of atrocities that this group continues to wage against innocent civilians. But we’re – we’re looking at it now, and just not in a position to confirm.”
CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.