On Tuesday, ISIS militants burned 45 people alive in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi. ISIS fighters captured Al-Baghdadi last week. The attack occurred only five miles away from military base housing 320 United States Marines. BBC News reports that the victims’ identities have not been confirmed but are believed to be part of the security forces that have been fighting with ISIS for control of the city. This latest act by ISIS extremists follows a video showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, creating an international outcry including Pope Francis calling the murders barbaric.
Al-Baghdadi had been besieged for months by Islamic State fighters before its fall. It had been one of the few towns to still be controlled by the Iraqi government in Anbar province, where IS and allied Sunni Arab tribesmen launched an offensive in January 2014. It remains unclear what the motive was behind ISIS’s killing of the 45 Iraqi individuals. Colonel Qasim al-Obeidi told the BBC that some may have been members of Iraq’s military. al-Obeidi also said that a building which provides housing for families of security forces is currently under attack. He asked for immediate intervention from the Iraqi government and international community, according to the report.
Early February, ISIS released a video showing a convoy of trucks flying the black ISIS flag driving through the streets of Benghazi, Libya. ISIS affiliated media group released a video showing Kurdish prisoners imprisoned in cages, being driven around on trucks in Iraq. Al-Baghdadi, which is about 50 miles northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, is located about five miles from Ain al-Asad air base, where 400 U.S. military personnel are training Iraqi soldiers and Sunni tribesmen to take on ISIS. The base was raided last week by a small band of fighters, in what some experts believe may have been a probe in preparation for a full-scale attack.
The base has received mortar attacks for the last few weeks, ISIS has continued to move forces from its Syria strongholds to Anbar Province, setting the stage for a major fight on the last remaining spot separating ISIS from Baghdad. There are nearly 2,600 American military forces in Iraq including 400 who are in training positions at three different bases across the country. Forces from other coalition countries conduct training near the city of Irbil. Military experts believe it will take a large ISIS force to attack the base, which would create a large target for airstrikes. There are a suspected 35 more Egyptian Christians being held by ISIS militants. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters that the capture of al-Baghdadi is the first in last few months that ISIS has taken ground.