An anti-militant activist group in Syria says it has seen the Islamic State group film a beheading video in the militant group's stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. A spokesman from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently spoke to International Business Times just hours after the Sept. 20 beheading. An Islamic State miliant dressed in black and holding a knife took a man wearing an orange jumpsuit to the place “where they beheaded James Foley,” the first U.S. journalist to appear in the militants’ brutal beheading videos, the spokesman for the anti-militant group said. At the time he spoke to IBTimes, the spokesman could not confirm the victim's identity, saying only “now we wait for ISIS to publish the video.”
The militant Sunni group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), released a fourth video Friday purporting to show the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning.
IBTimes could not independently verify the activist group’s account of a Raqqa beheading. However, crowd-funded journalism site Bellingcat used satellite imagery to geolocate the Foley video and placed it on a hill in Raqqa, which is consistent with the activist group’s story.
Gauging the timing of the video-taped killing is difficult. The only indication of when it was filmed is a reference on the video to the British parliament approving airstrikes on Iraq. However, the U.K. approved airstrikes six days after the anti-militant activist group says it saw the beheading. One possible explanation for the time difference is that the militants could have filmed the beheading in anticipation of U.K. lawmakers voting to approve airstrikes. Alternatively, the sophisticated quality of the video means it is possible the speech of the apparent executioner was later dubbed over to reflect the vote by British lawmakers. Yet a third possibility is that the victim wasn't Henning, something that would mean ISIS has another beheading video waiting to be released.
After the militants' second beheading video there was speculation about whether the Sunni militant group had filmed all of its executions at the same time. However, at least one example proves that parts of the video were filmed separately: There were subtle differences in U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff’s facial hair between the footage of him in the first and second videos.
Spokesman Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi spoke to the IBTimes via Skype the day the video was alledgedly filmed. Raqqawi fled Raqqa three weeks ago because of repeated ISIS death threats, but maintains constant contact with at least 11 members of the group still in the city. The activists inside Raqqa record the “crimes of ISIS” and the spokesman publishes them on their website and through social media. For safety reasons those inside the city cannot speak to press.
A member of their group happened to see an ISIS convoy just before 8 a.m. local time on Sept. 20. ISIS had closed the desert streets on the north and south going from Syria’s Deir al-Zur to the militant stronghold of Raqqa. Although it would take around two hours to drive the length of that road, militants kept them closed before and during the execution to make sure no one saw the prisoners, Raqqawi said.
A 30-vehicle ISIS convoy stopped at the bottom of a hill, he said. A man clad in black and another in an orange jumpsuit walked toward the hill. The group claimed at least three cameras filmed the scene and described one as a “big TV camera” on a vehicle. The ISIS fighter then beheaded the man in orange.
“Around 30 cars surrounded the hill where this captive was beheaded, three cameras were rolling on the surrounding,” the group wrote in a statement posted to their website.
The convoy included a red Nissan station wagon and a black 4X4, according to the activist group. In the black 4x4, the witness claims to have seen at least one other man clad in orange, whom the group presumed was another ISIS hostage. They said the car was “protected by many ISIS troops.”
Two hostages are shown in each of the four videos that ISIS released: One who is killed, and a second, who never speaks, is threatened with being the next victim if his government doesn’t comply with ISIS demands.
On the video released Friday, Henning was the executed hostage and the executioner threatened to “strike the neck” of 26-year-old U.S. aid worker and former U.S. Army Ranger Peter Edward Kassig.