ISIS's brutal beheading video: Search for clues

By Atika Shubert, CNN Published Monday, December 8, 2014

It was a killing choreographed for maximum brutality: The simultaneous beheading of 22 Syrian captives held by ISIS.

In November, ISIS released a propaganda video titled "Though the Unbelievers Despise It." It featured the apparent murder of an American hostage, Peter Kassig (known as Abdul Rahman Kassig after his conversion to Islam), and the mass killing of what appear to be nearly two dozen Syrian soldiers.

The US-based terrorism research organization TRAC (Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium) and UK-based counter-extremism think tank Quilliam have analyzed the footage frame-by-frame to understand the video's production techniques, the identity of the hostages and their killers, and the visual significance of such calculated brutality.

Here are some of their findings:

Click on the numbers on the photo below for more analysis:

ISIS video still
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"Jihadi John" — Masked militant with a British accent dubbed "Jihadi John" by UK tabloids. Responsible for the killing several Western hostages in a number of videos. He delivers ISIS propaganda messages.

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22 ISIS fighters of different ethnicities and nationalities that include Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, UK, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany.

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Maxime Hauchard — Identified French fighter. Muslim convert travelled to Syria in August 2013 to join ISIS.

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"Hidden" fighters — 3 fighters only visible in flash frames. Analysts are looking into the possibility this fighter in a balaclava is a body double for "Jihadi John."

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Mic'd fighters — 2 of the fighters are wearing clip-on microphones, suggesting that they recorded statements. But that audio is not included in the video. What did they say?

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4 to 6 hours — Analysis of light and shadows shows the video took several hours to produce with a number of retakes that culminate in the final killing.

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Syrian hostages — All 22 hostages are believed to be Syrian military members, many of them kidnapped in the ISIS takeover of Syria‚Äôs Tabqa airbase.

Sources: Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium; Quilliam