A soldier from the Iraqi Security Forces ran out of ammunition in the midst of a firefight with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces in Fallujah, Iraq in May of last year. After being wounded the soldier was captured by ISIL, paraded around as a prize, and—in a scene reminiscent of the four U.S. contractors killed in 2004—was hung from Employees’ Bridge in Fallujah.

On November 13, 2014, 16 members of the Sunni Arab Albu Nimr tribe were abducted from their homes by ISIL near Tharthar Lake in Anbar province. With one woman and two children among them, the tribal members were driven to Shtyah area and all were summarily executed by ISIL fighters. Their crime: being related to Sahwa militia fighting ISIL near Hit.

The level of brutality exhibited by these executions is unlikely to shock many. Similar stories of ISIL’s atrocities have been widely reported for over two years now. However, there is a surprising difference between the two events described above. While the execution of the Iraqi soldier was proudly posted to social media by ISIL, the executions of the  family members of Sahwa militia fighters was hidden. The only reason I can report the atrocity is because of a United Nations mission to investigate human rights violations in Iraq. What also may come as a surprise is that this pattern of disclosure and non-disclosure of executions follows a distinct pattern by ISIL in Iraq. The reasons for the pattern may point to an effective way to dissuade people from joining ISIL.

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Image courtesy of War on the Rocks