‘A message from ISIS to the US’: Islamist militants tweet gruesome images of dead American soldiers and vow to blow up embassies as terrorist convoy is wiped out in SECOND round of airstrikes
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT: Militants who support the terror group ISIS tweeted threats to America on Friday after Barack Obama began airstrikes in Iraq
- Some warn of car bombs at embassies while others taunt US military personnel with death threats
- A handful of biting retorts have mocked the ham-fisted attempt to use social media as a tool of war
- Tweets coincided with first U.S. airstrikes authorized by Obama to protect American staff and relief efforts
- Food and water supplies have been airdropped to 50,000 refugees trapped on mountain
- ISIS have been accused of taking hundreds of women hostage
Supporters of the ISIS terror group tweeted thousands of messages on Friday bearing the hashtag #AmessagefromISIStoUS featuring gruesome photos and threats to U.S. soldiers and citizens after American airstrikes took out terrorist targets in Iraq for the first time.
Some tweeted photos depict dead U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. marines hung from bridges in Fallujah, decapitated men, human heads on spikes, and the twin towers in flames on September 11, 2001.
‘This is a message for every American citizen,’ read one message sent with the hashtag. ‘You are the target of every Muslim in the world wherever you are.’
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Obama’s decision Friday morning to launch strikes against ISIS artillery positions set off ISIS backers and triggered online propaganda
‘We will make a barbecue party on you’: Some of the threats came in broken English from accounts that mostly tweet in Arabic
‘US citizens will be a target for ISIS,’ another reads, ‘because of American airstrike[s] on Iraq.’
Another warned that ISIS is ‘ready to cut your heads Dear Americans O sons of bitches. Come quickly.’
That tweet also carried a second hashtag: #WarOnWhites. Others featured taunting captions to pictures of soldiers previously wounded or killed in Iraq, reminding Us commanders what happened last time there was a full scale invasion.
The tweets came on the day the U.S. unleashed its first airstrikes in northern Iraq against ISIS, amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Two airdrops of food and water supplies were also flown in to about 50,000 refugees who took shelter on a barren mountain after being ordered by ISIS to convert or face death.
The extremists have taken hundreds of women from a religious minority captive, according to an Iraqi official, and thousands of other civilians have in fear.
The latest Twitter blitz in an extension of ISIS’s propaganda push on social media that the terror group has used throughout their campaign to spread fear and intimidate the world.
Over the last few months the medium has been used to post graphic pictures of beheadings, mass killings and boastful messages from fighters who have come from Western countries.
Holy war: ‘You are the target of every Muslim in the world wherever you are’
Casualties memorialized online: ISIS has turned to Twitter as a propaganda tool
Embassy threats: A State Department official told MailOnline that a single bombing could change global perceptions and win President Obama new levels of scorn for launching airstrikes
The new messages highlight the possible consequences of President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize military airstrikes against the Islamist group, which are partially armed with munitions left behind when he pulled American troops out of Iraq at the end of 2011.
‘All it would take is one attack on a diplomatic facility to rally more online strutting,’ a State Department official told MailOnline on condition of anonymity, ‘and lots of people will blame the president for antagonizing people who already want to kill Americans.’
But it is yet to be seen how powerful ISIS is to carry out terror outrages beyond the territories under its control.
Obama ran for office in part on a platform of ending America’s armed conflicts in the Middle East; Friday morning’s airstrikes marked his first openly declared hostilities in the region – in this case, against a self-declared but unrecognized ‘Islamic state.’
Gone in a cloud of smoke: A dust cloud rises where the first U.S. bomb struck ISIS artillery being towed by a truck outside Erbil
The U.S. government will likely brush off the tweeted messages even though they could prove embarrassing to the Obama administration.
The official said: ‘No one in the U.S. with any social media savvy takes this kind of posturing seriously, but in some parts of the world it will have an effect.’
Indeed, a relative handful of Americans fired back online at the Islamist tweeters, mocking them for turning a life-or-death fight into a matter of bits and bytes.
‘All the bloody images, tough words and pics of knuckle draggers with bushy beards are not scary,’ one California man tweeted. ‘Just pitiful.’
After ISIS cheerleaders sent a tweet threatening to take over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, another user likened the promise to a lockdown incident on Friday caused by a small child who wriggled through the White House’s outer perimeter fence.
‘Threatening to enter white house?’ he asked. ‘How? Like this toddler?’
The same man, pretending to be an ISIS radical, joked that ‘we will raise our hands when your unmanned drones come. Until then please bear with our threat tweets. Thank you.’
But ISIS’s taunting kept coming, hitting the 10,000-tweet mark by the time it was 5pm in Washington.
Some Americans pushed back on Friday
‘These people aer SCREAMING Please make an example of me,’ came a mocking reply to ISIS
Not likely: One joking observer mocked the ISIS hashtag as a subversive project of Israeli intelligence
One, which included a poignant photo of a soldier saluting a cargo plane full of American flag-draped caskets, said Obama’s military action would mean ‘more and more American widows and orphans.’
Another, paired with a photo montage of dead and maimed U.S. military personnel, said only: ‘We miss you in iraq US Troops :)’
American airstrikes began Friday, and many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people.
Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop crates of food and water to them.
The extremists’ ‘campaign of terror against the innocent, including the Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide,’ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. ‘For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it.’
Drama: The two American warplanes dropped 500lb laser-guided bombs on an Islamic State artillery position Near Irbil in a bid to halt the ISIS horde sweeping the country and save thousands of innocent lives
Split: There are three main religious groups in Iraq: Shia Arabs, the country’s majority, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, who are religiously Sunni but divided by their ethnicity. The is also a minority of Christians scattered across northern Iraq
A spokesman for Iraq’s human rights ministry said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants. Kamil Amin, citing reports from the victims’ families, said some of the women were being held in schools in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.
‘We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,’ Amin told The Associated Press.
‘We think that these women are going to be used in demeaning ways by those terrorists to satisfy their animalistic urges in a way that contradicts all the human and Islamic values.’
For the U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, the re-engagement began when two FA-18 jets dropped 500lb bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it.
The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, and home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.
Innocent: Yazidi Iraqis on Mount Sinjar carry the limp bodies of children as they flee ISIS. Up to 50,000 terrified Yazidis – half of them children – have sought refuge from the bloodshed in the barren mountain range
Fleeing: Officials said tens of thousands of Iraqis, mainly Yazidi and Christian families, living in Iraq’s Sinjar district bordering Syria were desperately trying to escape the country for fear of massacres by the militants
Safe for now: Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush, about 30km east of the northern province of Nineveh, rest after arriving at the Saint-Joseph church in Erbil
Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Erbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said unmanned aircraft hit a mortar and four Navy FA-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy.
The U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq, and said those in the country were at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence.
Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, the militants have captured a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled as their towns fell.
Aid: Pallets of bottled water are loaded into a USAF C-17 in readiness for an humanitarian airdrop in Iraq
Relief efforts: Members of the 5th Special Forces Group prepare the parachute rigging for the food and water supplies
Supplies: Bottles of water are loaded on to pallets as part of the humanitarian mission
Welcome: Water and food, pictured on board a C-17, are being delivered to refugees trapped on a mountain
Many had taken refuge in the Khazer Camp, set up near Erbil, but it was empty Friday as nearby fighting prompted families to flee once again.
Some made their way by car or on foot to Erbil; others were unaccounted for amid the sea of fleeing people. According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to more than one million.
In Erbil, hundreds of uprooted men crowded the streets of a Christian-dominated neighborhood, expressing relief at the news of U.S. airstrikes.
Not enough: Villagers say food delivered by the Iraqi army by helicopters is insufficient and people are beginning to die of starvation and thirst in the extreme heat
Safe for now: Displaced people, who fled from the violence in the province of Nineveh, arrive at Sulaimaniya province in Kurdistan
Long journey: Children sleep in the back of a truck which took them from the fighting to the safety of Kurdistan
Nazar, one man lingering outside a bare-bones building-turned-shelter, fled his mainly Christian town of Hamdaniya on Wednesday, when their home began to shudder from the blast of nearby mortar fire.
‘We want a solution,’ said Nazar, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his first name, fearing his family’s safety. ‘We don’t want to flee our homes and jobs like this. What is our future?’
In contrast to Washington’s decision to invade Iraq more than a decade ago, both the airdrop and the authorization of military action against the Islamic State group were widely welcomed by Iraqi and Kurdish officials fearful of the militants’ advance.
‘We thank Barack Obama,’ said Khalid Jamal Alber, from the Religious Affairs Ministry in the Kurdish government.
In his announcement Thursday night, Obama had identified protecting the Yazidis and defending Americans as the two objectives for the airstrikes.
But on Friday, his spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the U.S. was also prepared to use military force to assist Iraqi forces and the Kurds’ peshmerga militia.
While Iraq’s military has proven unable in many cases to thwart the Islamic State force’s capture of key cities, Earnest called the peshmerga a ‘capable fighting force’ that had shown an ability to regroup effectively.
At a checkpoint about 23 miles from Erbil, Kurdish militiamen vowed fierce resistance to any further Islamic State advances, but they also remarked on the ferocity of their foe.
Stretched: The Kurdish peshmerga fighters have fought tirelessly to defend their northern heartland, but are becoming stretched
Battle ready: Peshmerga Kurds show of their readiness to fight ISIS on streets of Kurdish capital Erbil
Captain Ziyran Mahmoud, 28, said Islamic State fighters wore suicide belts as they advanced in armored vehicles and would detonate them – killing soldiers from both sides – if Kurdish fighters came too close.
‘They are ready to blow themselves up and die,’ Mahmoud said. ‘But the peshmerga aren’t afraid. We are also ready to die for our homeland.’
The Islamic State group captured Mosul in June, and then launched a blitz toward the south, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to the capital, Baghdad. It already holds large parts of western Iraq, as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.
Iraqi government forces crumbled in the face of the assault but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense against the radicals, but their fighters are stretched over a long front trying to fend them off.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, traveling in India, said if Islamic militants threaten U.S. interests in Iraq or the thousands of refugees in the mountains, the U.S. military has enough intelligence to clearly single out the attackers and launch effective airstrikes.
He also said more than 60 of the 72 bundles of food and water airdropped on to the mountain reached the people stranded there.
A second airdrop of food supplies was made to the thousands of trapped refugees on Friday.
Two Navy jets accompanied three aircraft making the drop, as 72 bundles of supplies were flown in.
Scared: ISIS have been particularly ruthless in their treatment of Iraqi Christians. Thousands have fled since ISIS seized Qaraqush, Iraq’s largest Christian town
The chief spokesman for the Pentagon, Rear Admiral John Kirby, said the packages contained more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water.
At the White House, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes met members of the Iraqi Yazidi community and ‘noted that the United States will act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide,’ Deputy NSC spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.
Rhodes ’emphasized that the United States will continue to pursue a strategy that empowers Iraqis to confront this crisis, including by providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces,’ Meehan said.
The International Rescue Committee said it was providing emergency medical care for up to 4,000 dehydrated Yazidis, mostly women and children, who survived without food or water for up to six days hiding in the Sinjar mountains before fleeing to a refugee camp in Syria, where a civil war is raging.
Officials in Britain, Germany and elsewhere pledged financial aid to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, and several top European officials supported Obama’s decision to intervene with airstrikes.
British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed special concern for the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar.
‘They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain,’ Cameron said.
‘The world must help them in their hour of desperate need.’
One Yazidi man, who identified himself as Mikey Hassan, said he, his two brothers and their families fled into the Sinjar mountains and then escaped to the Kurdish city of Dohuk after two days by shooting their way past the militants.
Hassan, in a telephone interview with the AP, said he and his family went about 17 hours without food before getting some bread. Details of his account could not be independently corroborated.
Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The group also sees Shiite Muslims as apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.
Pope Francis also was engaged, sending an envoy to Iraq to show solidarity with Christians who have been forced from their homes. There also was a papal plea on Twitter: ‘Please take a moment to pray for all those who have been forced from their homes in Iraq.’
In response to the fighting, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and other carriers canceled flights to and from Erbil.
In the U.S., the FAA banned American carriers from flying over Iraq, saying hostilities there could threaten safety. British Airways also said it was temporarily suspending flights over Iraq