Photos show gruesome Islamic State seizure of base

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Photos show gruesome Islamic State seizure of base
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 12 : A site of a car bomb attack is seen in the Shula neighbourhood of Baghdad, Iraq on October 12, 2014. A series of car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital killed and wounded dozens of people, authorities said. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 12 : A site of a car bomb attack is seen in the Shula neighbourhood of Baghdad, Iraq on October 12, 2014. A series of car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital killed and wounded dozens of people, authorities said. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 12 : A site of a car bomb attack is seen in the Shula neighbourhood of Baghdad, Iraq on October 12, 2014. A series of car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital killed and wounded dozens of people, authorities said. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Abu Moussa al-Ansari, a fighter from the Islamic State group, who they say was killed in the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
EDITORS NOTE IMAGES SHOWS GRAPHIC CONTENT - This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows masked gunmen of the Islamic State group shooting seven men kneeling on the ground in front of them, in the aftermath of the group's takeover of the Tabqa air base in Raqqa province, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
Friends and family members of victims in yesterday's suicide bombing grieve as they carry the coffins near the site of the attack during the funeral procession, in the Shula neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. A series of car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital killed and wounded dozens of people in Shiite areas Saturday, authorities said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Friends and relatives take the body for burial of Hussein Ali, a victim of a car bomb yesterday, in the Shula neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. A series of car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital killed and wounded dozens of people in Shiite areas Saturday, authorities said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a fighter from the Islamic State group, armed with a knife and an automatic weapon, next to captured Syrian army soldiers and officers, following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. As the U.S. strikes Islamic State militant targets in Iraq, extremists of the same group are unhindered in their growth across the border in Syria, capturing new territory and becoming bolder by the day. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State group that captured the Tabqa air base from the Syrian government on Sunday, praying inside the air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters of the Islamic State waving the group's flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a munitions warehouse that was captured by the Islamic State group in the battle for the Tabqa air base in Raqqa, Syria on Sunday. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a fighter of the Islamic State group waving their flag from inside a captured government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria on Sunday. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State group that captured the Tabqa air base from the Syrian government on Sunday, praying inside the air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State group that captured the Tabqa air base from the Syrian government on Sunday, firing a captured tank, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows munitions that were captured by the Islamic State group in the battle for the Tabqa air base in Raqqa, Syria on Sunday. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State group that captured the Tabqa air base from the Syrian government on Sunday, and dead Syrian government forces on the ground, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley responds to questions during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., who was last seen on Nov. 22 2012 in northwest Syria, poses for a photo in Boston. Foley's family plans to mark his 40th birthday with a plea for his safe return. His parents, John and Diane Foley, will lead a prayer vigil Friday evening, Oct. 17, 2013 at a church in Rochester. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
This image provided by the U.S. Defense Department shows pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Aug. 8, 2014. Airmen with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron airdropped 40 bundles of water for displaced citizens in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. American planes conducted a second airdrop of food and water early Saturday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains, said Pentagon chief spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
DIYALA, IRAQ - AUGUST 22: Iranian soldiers hit army groups led by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to give support to peshmergas who fights with ISIL in Diyala, Iraq on 22 August, 2014. Peshmergas struggle to recapture Diyala from army groups led by ISIL. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 26: August 25, 2014 dated pictures show Peshmerga forces' ongoing progression to fight against army forces led by Islamic State (IS) and seize to regain areas in Mosul. Peshmerga forces write on the walls their names and phone numbers in Al-Bakir neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq on August 25, 2014. (Photo by Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 26: August 25, 2014 dated pictures show Peshmerga forces' ongoing progression to fight against army forces led by Islamic State (IS) and seize to regain areas in Mosul. A Peshmerga targeting a point by a M16 in Al-Bakir neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq on August 25, 2014. (Photo by Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 26: August 25, 2014 dated pictures show Peshmerga forces' ongoing progression to fight against army forces led by Islamic State (IS) and seize to regain areas in Mosul. A Peshmerga takes position to fight against IS in Al-Bakir neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq on August 25, 2014. (Photo by Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Graphic shows recent events in Northern Iraq involving ISIL Kurdish forces and U.S. airstrikes; 3c x 5 1/4 inches; 146 mm x 133 mm;
A woman weeps during a demonstration in Hannover, Germany, Saturday Aug. 16, 2014. Thousands of people in Germany have protested against the persecution of the Yazidi minority in Iraq. Police say at least 10,000 people attended the biggest demonstration in the north German city of Hannover on Saturday. Protesters carried banners demanding that the international community protect the Yazidi people and other minorities from the Islamist State extremist group. (AP Photo/dpa,Swen Pfoertner)
A woman shouts during a demonstration in Hannover, Germany, Saturday Aug. 16, 2014. Thousands of people in Germany have protested against the persecution of the Yazidi minority in Iraq. Police say at least 10,000 people attended the biggest demonstration in the north German city of Hannover on Saturday. Protesters carried banners demanding that the international community protect the Yazidi people and other minorities from the Islamist State extremist group. (AP Photo/dpa,Swen Pfoertner)
SIRNAK, TURKEY - AUGUST 20: Iraqi Yazidis, fled from the attacks of army groups led by Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIL, take shelter to schools in Sirnak, Turkey on 20 August, 2014. (Photo by Huseyin Bagis/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
FILE- This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State during a parade with a missile in Raqqa, Syria. The Gulf nation of Qatar is hitting back at suggestions that it supports the Islamic State extremist group, saying that “determined, collective action” is needed to end sectarian violence gripping Iraq and Syria. Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah unequivocally denied funding the extremist group. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)
FILE - This undated file photo posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from extremist Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. Activists have reported two cases of stoning this month in the Syrian northern province of Raqqa. The first case of stoning occurred in the town of Tabqa. A day after the July 17, 2014, stoning of Shamseh Mohammed Abdullah, 26, Faddah al-Sayed Ahmad was stoned to death in the provincial capital of Raqqa. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center, File)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, August 21, 2014. Hagel warned that the Islamic State is more than a traditional 'terrorist group' and better armed, trained and funded than any recent threat. 'They marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen,' Hagel told reporters. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel holds a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, August 21, 2014. Hagel warned that the Islamic State is more than a traditional 'terrorist group' and better armed, trained and funded than any recent threat. 'They marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen,' Hagel told reporters. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on August 20, 2014. The United States has carried out more air strikes in Iraq, a senior US defense official said, as Islamic militants threaten to execute a second US journalist. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
John and Diane Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Parents of kidnapped journalist James Foley, Diane Foley and John Foley appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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By DIAA HADID and JOHN HEILPRIN

BEIRUT (AP) - The mother of a hostage American journalist pleaded for his release Wednesday in a video directed at the Islamic State group, while new images emerged of mass killings, including masked militants shooting kneeling men after the capture of a strategic air base in Syria.

Shirley Sotloff's plea came as a U.N. commission accused the group, which dominates a broad swath of territory spanning the Syria-Iraq border, of committing crimes against humanity and President Barack Obama weighs options for targeting the extremists' stronghold in Syria.

The Islamic State militants have threatened to kill 31-year-old Steven Sotloff unless the U.S. halts its airstrikes against it.

Sotloff, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, had last been seen in Syria in August 2013 until he appeared in a video released online last week by the Islamic State group showing the beheading of fellow American journalist, James Foley. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against the backdrop of an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened with death unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the group in Iraq.

Addressing the leader of the Islamic State group by name, Shirley Sotloff said her son was "an innocent journalist" who shouldn't pay for U.S. government actions in the Middle East over which he has no control.

Appealing directly to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who describes himself as a caliph, or Islamic leader intending to lead the Muslim world, she implored him to show mercy and follow the example of the prophet Muhammad.

"You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you, please, to release my child. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life," Shirley Sotloff said on the video, which was first aired on the Al-Arabiya television network. It was widely retweeted by Islamic State supporters later Wednesday with her face blurred because their ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam prohibits showing a woman's face.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters he did not know whether Obama had seen Shirley Sotloff's video appeal, but he said the administration was "deeply engaged" in trying to gain release of all Americans held hostage in the Middle East.

"She obviously, as is evident from the video, feels desperate about the safety and well-being of her son, and understandably so, and that is why our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff's family at this very difficult and trying time," Earnest said.

ISIS Uses Trending Twitter Hashtags To Send Threats


Meanwhile, new images emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of an air base in northeastern Syria.

In one photo posted on the militant group's website, masked gunmen were seen shooting seven men kneeling on the ground, some dressed in what appeared to be Syrian military uniforms, after the seizure of the Tabqa air base in the province of Raqqa earlier this week.

The photos underscored how the group uses violence, and images of violence to terrorize its opponents, as it sweeps further into Syria and Iraq, where it has imposed an Islamic state, or caliphate, governed by its harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

Some photos showed captured Syrian soldiers, many with bloodied and swollen faces. In one, a masked Islamic State fighter stood behind a group of soldiers brandishing a knife of the type the militants have used is the past to behead victims, including Foley. In another, a militant grinned as he pressed a double-edged sword against the neck of a captured soldier inside a jeep.

One photograph showed a headless corpse, while another showed 10 slain men, sprawled in a pool of blood on a dirt road. It wasn't clear if they were killed during the clashes or after being captured.

Videos uploaded to social media networks also showed the aftermath of the battle, including footage of the charred bodies of Syrian soldiers. One video showed about 200 captured soldiers being marched through the desert in their underwear to an unknown fate as militants made the sounds of shepherds herding goats or sheep.

The 36 photos and video images corresponded to reporting by The Associated Press of the Islamic State militants' seizure Sunday of the air base, which had been the last government-held outpost in Raqqa, a province now dominated by the jihadi group. Militants also captured the bases' weaponry, including artillery and mounted machine guns.

The images emerged as a U.N. commission accused the group of committing crimes against humanity in Syria. The U.N. had earlier accused the group of similar crimes in Iraq.

"This is a continuation - and a geographic expansion - of the widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population" by the Islamic State group, said the four-member commission chaired by Brazilian diplomat Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

Pinheiro told reporters one of the most disturbing findings was the existence of large training camps where boys, some as young as 14, are recruited and trained to fight alongside adult Islamic State fighters.

The report, based on 480 interviews and documentary material, cited dozens of public executions in Aleppo and Raqqa during the bloody Syrian civil war that activists say has killed more than 190,000 people since 2011.

The report cited how the group's fighters have beheaded or shot civilians, mostly adult men, accused of violating their harsh interpretation of religious law, as crowds of people, including children, have looked on. The purpose, according to the commission, is "to instill terror among the population, ensuring submission to its authority."

On Monday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Islamic State fighters had likely killed up to 670 prisoners in Mosul. Pillay described other crimes that she said amounted to "grave, horrific human rights violations."

In its push to seize parts of northern Iraq, Islamic State fighters most recently caused the expulsion of tens of thousands of civilians who scrambled for safety on a desolate mountain top, where some died of exposure and thirst. The civilians, who belong to Iraq's ancient Yazidi minority, also reported that dozens of women were seized by the fighters and were being kept in schools in Islamic State strongholds. Their fate is unknown.

The U.N. commission report, which is investigating potential war crimes in Syria, also said Wednesday that the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad likely used chlorine gas to attack civilians.

It was the first time the U.N. assigned blame for the use of the chemical agent.

The report cited victims and medical workers who described symptoms caused by exposure to chemicals, and witnesses who reported chlorine-like smells immediately after government helicopters dropped explosive-filled canisters from helicopters in the provinces of Idlib and Hama eight times from April 11-29.

Chlorine is not banned under the chemical weapons convention, but the use of any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

"In Syria, it is total impunity," said commission member Carla del Ponte, a Swiss former war crimes prosecutor. "Crimes are committed each day, from all parties, and nobody's dealing with the criminal responsibility for those crimes."

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