ISIS Beheads 15 Syrians for 'Apostasy' in Front of Hundreds Forced to Watch

(Screengrab: Heavy.com)Islamic State militants stand in a line in the Syrian desert while the lead executioner speaks before the men behead five accused spies in a publicized execution video that was posted to pro-IS media outlets on June 28, 2016.

As the Islamic State continues to spread fear into the hearts of residents in Iraq and Syria, the group recently forced hundreds of civilians to watch the decapitations of 15 people accused of apostasy.

As apostasy is a crime punishable by death in about 13 fundamentalist Muslim-controlled countries around the world, the so-called caliphate of IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) is no exception. However, IS has been known to accuse people of apostasy just because they oppose the brutal and torturous militant regime.

According to the Kurdish news site ARA News, IS executed 15 civilians in its Syrian stronghold of Deir ez-Zor on Thursday after an IS-run Sharia court convicted the individuals of renouncing Islam because they violated the group's strict brand of Sharia law.

"The Sharia court charged the victims with apostasy and ordered ISIS executioners to behead them in public," a local media activist named Dahham al-Ali told ARA News.

According to an eyewitness, the 15 men were beheaded in the Sabhiya district of Deir ez-Zor as hundreds of people watched in horror.

"It was a horrible thing to see," the unnamed eyewitness told ARA News. "People were terrified and everyone remained silent while these brutal executions were taking place."

IS is known for publicly executing its victims using various brutal methods so that the organization can intimidate those living within its strongholds and discourage dissent or rebellion against its laws.

"The group hasn't even explained what those people have done to deserve this," the witness added. "ISIS just accused them of being apostates and beheaded them."

(Photo: Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the video but the killings resemble past violence carried out by Islamic State, an ultra-hardline group which has expanded its reach from strongholds in Iraq and Syria to conflict-ridden Libya. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment. Ethiopia said it had not been able to verify whether the people shown in the video were its citizens.

The beheading of the 15 "apostates" in Deir ez-Zor comes after it was reported by ARA News that IS executed as many as 75 prisoners in the group's largest Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. The prisoners were charged with treason against the terrorist group.

"At least 75 prisoners were executed by ISIS in the Mosul Central Prison," local media activist Abdullah al-Malla said, citing an unnamed official within IS' ranks.

According to ARA News, at least 25 media activists were among the 75 Iraqis executed for treason.

Although IS wants people within its strongholds to witness the brutal murders of those deemed to have violated the laws of the caliphate, the group doesn't want the news of the executions leaked in the media for people around the world to learn about them.

IS has made concentrated efforts to execute and even assassinate journalists and media activists in the region who report on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the militant group.

"Daesh [ISIS] wants all their violations and atrocities against the Iraqi people to go unnoticed," Iraqi security officer Zanoun Sabaawi told ARA News. "That's why they try to prevent reporters from covering local news in places like Mosul."

(Screengrab: YouTube / Mary Betts)Eight dead bodies dangle at the entrance to the Iraqi city of Hawija.

IS continues to suffer military setbacks in Iraq. As the United States claims that IS has lost about half of the territory it once held in Iraq, it was announced this week that Iraqi forces liberated two more areas once controlled by IS.

According to Iraqi News, the Al-Hashd al-Shaabi Command announced on Wednesday that IS militants have been forced out of two areas in Heet Island, which is to the west of the town of Ramadi. Additionally, 33 IS militants were killed in the exchange.

Earlier in September, a Christian militia called the Nineveh Plain Protection Unit declared to have liberated the village of Badanah, which lies in the southern countryside of Mosul.

As Iraqi forces, aided by the U.S.-led coalition, are preparing to launch a military offensive on Mosul by the end of the year, IS militants are now getting concerned.

The concern of the militant leaders can be found in the fact that residents are tortured for simply talking about the advances of the Iraqi army during political discussions.

On Wednesday, Iraqi media outlets reported that IS flogged one man in Iraq simply because had a song on his mobile phone called "We Are All Iraq," which advocates for unification.

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