Hundreds of Sunni tribesmen gunned down by Isis

Islamic State insurgents, shown here on the move in June in Mosul, have been systematically killing captured Sunni tribal fighters in Anbar province, Iraqi authorities say. Associated Press

Islamic State militants have massacred up to 220 Sunni tribesmen in Iraq after promising the men safe passage if they gave themselves up.

The men from the Albu Nimr tribe surrendered in the town of Hit, which fell to Islamic State (Isis) this month. Members of the tribe had previously supported the Iraqi government and US forces as part of the Sunni Awakening movement against Isis’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006.

Tribal leaders reported that Isis said that it would not harm the men after ordering them to travel to Hit, 80 miles west of Baghdad.

Sheikh Ghazi al-Ghaoud, the Baghdad-based head of the tribe, said that his forces had been under siege for a month and had received no response to their pleas for help. He told Iraqi television that they would even have accepted assistance from Israel.

America’s top general last night urged Baghdad to arm Sunni tribes who were willing to fight Isis. General Martin Dempsey also called for the US to expand its involvement in Iraq by deploying military advisers to Anbar. None of the 600 US advisers already deployed is with a combat unit.

Isis militants posted photographs of the bodies of 46 men who had been bound and shot in the head in Hit. Another 20 were reported to have been killed near by and a further 150 bodies were found in two mass graves near Ramadi yesterday.

Isis, an ultra-extremist Sunni group, has meted out savage punishment to fellow Sunnis who oppose it. In August as many as 700 members of the al-Sha’aitat tribe were reported killed near Deir Ezzor in Syria.

Yesterday’s massacre came as Human Rights Watch issued a report detailing the killing of more than 600 Shia prisoners after Isis stormed the Iraqi city of Mosul in June. Fifteen survivors described how the men were each given a number and forced to call it out as they knelt on the edge of a 4m-deep ravine. Survivors near the end of the line heard numbers as high as 680.

“Before they started shooting, I managed to kiss the men on each side of me because we knew we were going to die,” said one prisoner identified only as HK. “After we said goodbye to each other, I took my daughter’s picture and kissed it and I prayed to God to save me for her, because I have no one else [to take care of her].”

The men, who carried scars of bullet wounds and burns, had been identified as Shia Muslims and separated from other inmates in the Badoush prison. Before Isis fighters opened fire, they were robbed of valuables.

“They started by saying, ‘Each person raise his hand and say his number,’” said another survivor, AS. “I was number 43. I heard them say ‘615’.”

Prisoners toppled forward and rolled into the ravine as they were shot. Survivors described their desperate attempts to play dead.

“I heard the footsteps of the Isis guy, he was standing over me and he shot the man lying next to me in the head,” said one survivor, AO. “He shot me, too, but the bullet hit my forearm. I felt something coming under me. It was warm. It was the blood of my friend Haider. I took some of that blood and put it on my face and head so that if they came back they would think I am dead.”

Isis fighters then set fire to undergrowth around the bodies and used burning branches to see if any were still playing dead.

About 30 survivors later trekked through the desert towards Kurdish-held territory. Many died en route, while others drank their own urine to survive the desert heat.