Islamic State has sanctioned the harvesting of human organs in a previously undisclosed ruling by the group's Islamic scholars, raising concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts.
The ruling, contained in a January 31, 2015 document reviewed by Reuters, says taking organs from a living captive to save a Muslim's life, even if it is fatal for the captive, is permissible.
For a U.S. government translation of the document, click here here
Reuters couldn't independently confirm the authenticity of the document. U.S. officials say it was among a trove of data and other information obtained by U.S. special forces in a raid in eastern Syria in May.
"The apostate's life and organs don't have to be respected and may be taken with impunity," says the document, which is in the form of a fatwa, or religious ruling, from the Islamic State's Research and Fatwa Committee.
"Organs that end the captive's life if removed: The removal of that type is also not prohibited," Fatwa Number 68 says, according to a U.S. government translation.
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Exclusive: Islamic State sanctioned organ harvesting in document taken in US raid
FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley poses for a photo during an interview with The Associated Press in Boston. A memorial service is scheduled Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, in Foley's hometown of Rochester, N.H., on what would have been his 41st birthday. Foley was abducted in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012, and a video by Islamic State militants that purported to show his killing by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded.
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Execution of Steven Sotloff (1983 Â 2014) by Jihadi John of ISIS. In August 2013, Sotloff was kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria, and held captive by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi, born August 1988) a British man who is thought to be the person seen in several videos produced by the Islamic extremist group ISIL showing the beheadings of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
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The garden of the house where David Haines, the British hostage beheaded by extremists, lived with his wife and four-year-old daughter in Sisak, central Croatia, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Haines is the third Westerner beheaded in recent weeks by the Islamic State group, which has seized vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. The first two were U.S. journalists. (AP Photo/Eldar Emric)
British Aid Worker David Haines (Photo via YouTube)
Mike Haines, the brother of David Haines who was murdered by Islamic State terrorists, outside Westminster Abbey, London, after he said that his brother did not want the Government to pay a ransom for his release - even if the other likely option was death.
FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2014, file photo, a Kurdish peshmerga soldier prays at a battle field in Mahmoudiyah, Iraq, after Kurdish fighters took control of the northern village from the Islamic State group. The group has released videos or pictures of beheadings of Kurdish fighters, including nine this past week who were captured in clashes near the Syria-Turkey border. All the images came out after the Islamic State group was attacked or suffered setbacks in Kurdish areas in northern Iraq and Syria. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)
Screen shot from an Internet video released Friday that purports to show an ISIS militant beheading British aid worker Alan Henning, who had been taken hostage by the extremist group.
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 22: The order of service for the memorial service for murdered British aid worker Alan Henning at Eccles Parish Church on November 22, 2014 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The 47-year-old taxi driver was captured in December while delivering food and supplies to Syrian refugees and was murdered by Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. (Photo by Andy Kelvin - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Yellow ribbons for murdered British hostage Alan Henning, are attached to trees in the town centre of Eccles, north west England on October 4, 2014. Britain reacted with horror on Saturday to the beheading of hostage Alan Henning, who many had dared to hope might be spared after a cross-community appeal for his release. Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes to the 47-year-old taxi driver who went to the region as a volunteer to deliver aid and whose death was announced by Islamic State jihadists in a video released late Friday. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian refugee Amjad Moghrabi stands in front of a photograph of his colleague, American aid worker Peter Kassig, 26, who converted to Islam while in captivity and changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig, during an interview with The Associated Press in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. Kassig was helping victims of the Syrian civil war when he was captured in Syria last year and threatened with beheading by the Islamic State group. Arabic reads, "Justice for Abdul-Rahman." (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A passer-by watches a TV news program reporting two Japanese hostages, Kenji Goto, left, and Haruna Yukawa, held by the Islamic State group, in Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have posted an online warning that the "countdown has begun" for the group to kill a pair of Japanese hostages. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 2: Jordanian youth gather for a candle light vigil to condemn the killing of the two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, in a gesture showing solidairity with Japanese people, in front of the Japanese embassy on February 2, 2015 in Amman, Jordan. (Photo by Jordan Pix/Getty Images)
FILE - In this file image made from a video released Sunday Feb. 15, 2015 by militants in Libya claiming loyalty to the Islamic State group purportedly shows Egyptian Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, each accompanied by a masked militant. The mass beheadings of Egyptian Christians by militants in Libya linked to the Islamic State group have thrown a spotlight on the threat the extremists pose beyond their heartland in Syria and Iraq, where they have established a self-declared proto-state. (AP Photo, File)
This image made from a militant video posted on a social media website on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, purports to show a militant standing next to another man who identifies himself as 30-year-old Tomislav Salopek, kneeling down as he reads a message at an unknown location. The video purportedly released by the Islamic State group threatens to kill the Croatian hostage if Egyptian authorities do not release "Muslim women" held in prison within 48 hours. (Militant website via AP)
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The document does not offer any proof that Islamic State actually engages in organ harvesting or organ trafficking. But it does provide religious sanction for doing so under the group's harsh interpretation of Islam - which is rejected by most Muslims. Previously, Iraq has accused Islamic State of harvesting human organs and trafficking them for profit.
The document does not define "apostate," though the Islamic State has killed or imprisoned non-Muslims, such as Christians, and Shiite Muslims, as well as Sunni Muslims who don't follow its extremist views.
DOCUMENTS SHARED WITH ALLIES
U.S. officials say the records that were seized have given the U.S. government a deep look into how Islamic State organizes, raises funds and codifies laws for its followers.
Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told Reuters the documents should be examined by the U.N. Security Council as evidence that Islamic State could be trafficking in organs to raise cash.
The May raid in Syria, which resulted in the death of Islamic State top financial official Abu Sayyaf and the capture of his wife, netted seven terabytes of data in the form of computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers, said Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama's Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, in an interview. Abu Sayyaf was a Tunisian militant whose real name was Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi.
U.S. officials have previously described the Abu Sayyaf raid and some of the documentation seized. But until now, none of the actual documents have been released - aside from materials illustrating Islamic State's trafficking in antiquities, made public at an event at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in September.
The U.S. government has shared some of the documents from the Abu Sayyaf raid with allied governments in an effort to increase their understanding of Islamic State in recent weeks as Washington works to shore up support for countering the group.
The group of documents reviewed by entitled "Lessons Learned From the Abu Sayyaf Raid" - show how the Islamic State has provided a legal justification to its followers for a range of practices.
For instance, "Fatwa Number 64" dated January 29, 2015, provides detailed rules for rape, prescribing when Islamic State men can and cannot have sexual intercourse with female slaves.
The fatwa sanctioning organ harvesting justifies the practice in part by drawing an analogy to cannibalism in extreme circumstances, a practice it says earlier Islamic scholars had allowed. "A group of Islamic scholars have permitted, if necessary, one to kill the apostate in order to eat his flesh, which is part of benefiting from his body," it says.
McGurk said Islamic State's Research and Fatwa Committee reports directly to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
ORGANS OF 'INFIDELS'
The ruling on organ harvesting cites Islamic texts, principles and laws that it says support what it calls "the notion that transplanting healthy organs into a Muslim person's body in order to save the latter's life or replace a damaged organ with it is permissible."
Senior U.S. officials, including McGurk, said they have not been able to ascertain whether the Islamic State had followed through on the fatwa on organ harvesting.
The document provides "a religious justification for harnessing the organs of what they call infidels," he said.
William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar who is author of the book "The ISIS Apocalypse," said the group's ruling on slavery and human organs don't represent modern Islamic interpretations.
In February, Alhakim, had urged the U.N. Security Council to investigate the deaths of 12 doctors in the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. Alhakim said the doctors were killed after refusing to remove organs.
The U.N. special envoy for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said at the time that he could not confirm the claim, but it would be investigated. The U.N. has not provided an update on that investigation, which Alhakim said he would ask the Security Council to revisit.