Form of propaganda or snuff video

A beheading video is a form of propaganda or snuff video in which hostages are graphically decapitated.[1] It is often employed by groups seeking to instill shock or terror into a population, whilst beheading has been a widely employed public execution method since the ancient Greeks and Romans,[2] videos of this type only began to arise in 2002 with the beheading of Daniel Pearl and the growth of the Internet in the Information Age which allowed groups to anonymously publish these videos for public consumption. The beheadings shown in these videos are usually not performed in a “classical” method – decapitating a victim quickly with a blow from a sword or axe – but by the relatively slow and torturous process of slicing and sawing the victim’s neck, while still alive, with a knife.[3] Despite the number of groups and ideologies that employ this form of propaganda, the process is overwhelmingly associated with Islamist extremists.

The first beheading by the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty was of Daniel Pearl in 2002.[4] The videos were popularized in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a radical Islamic militant.[5]
The videos caused controversy among Islamic scholars, some of whom denounced them as against Islamic law; al-Qaeda did not approve and Osama bin Laden considered them poor public relations. Regardless, they became popular with certain Islamic terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[6]
Early videos were grainy and unsophisticated, but, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, had by 2004 been “growing in sophistication, using animated graphics and editing techniques apparently aimed at embellishing the audio to make a victim’s final moments seem more disturbing”.[7] These videos are often uploaded to the World Wide Web by terrorists, then discussed and distributed by web-based outlets,[8] such as blogs, shock sites, and traditional journalistic media. After a beheading video by a Mexican drug cartel spread virally on Facebook, the Family Online Safety Institute petitioned to have it removed.[9] Initially, Facebook refused to remove the video,[10] then did so,[11] and subsequently clarified their policies, stating that beheading videos would only be allowed if posted in a manner intended for its users to “condemn” the acts.[12]
Writing in The Atlantic, Simon Cottee drew a comparison between jihadist videos and gonzo pornography.[13]

Videos released[edit]


Nick Berg, U.S. citizen, beheaded May 7, 2004, in Iraq by Muntada al-Ansar jihadists[17]
Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr., U.S. citizen, beheaded in June 2004 in Saudi Arabia by al-Qaeda jihadists[18]
Kim Sun-il, South Korean citizen, beheaded in June 2004 in Iraq by jihadists of Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ)[19][20]
Georgi Lazov, Bulgarian citizen, beheaded in July 2004 in Iraq by JTJ jihadists[21][22]
Mohammed Mutawalli, Egyptian citizen, beheaded in August 2004 in Iraq by JTJ jihadists[23]
One Nepali citizen, beheaded in August 2004 in Iraq by JTJ jihadists[24]
Eugene Armstrong, U.S. citizen, beheaded in September 2004 in Iraq by JTJ jihadists[25][26]
Jack Hensley, U.S. citizen, beheaded in September 2004 in Iraq by JTJ jihadists[26][27]
Kenneth Bigley, British citizen, beheaded on October 7, 2004 in Iraq by JTJ jihadists[28]
Shosei Koda, Japanese citizen, beheaded on October 29, 2004, in Iraq by jihadists of al-Qaeda in Iraq[29][30]
Shamil Odamanov, Russian citizen of Dagestani descent. Odamanov was beheaded in 2007 by Russian neo-Nazis.[31]
Nikolay Melnik, Kazakhstani citizen, beheaded July 18, 2008, in Podyachevo, Russia by his fellow neo-Nazi Konstantin Nikiforenko of the NSO-North[32][33]
Piotr Stańczak, Polish citizen, beheaded on February 7, 2009, in Pakistan by Tehreek-e-Taliban jihadists[34]
A Tunisian man was beheaded for converting to Christianity[citation needed]
Aytemir Salimgereev, Russian citizen, beheaded in July 2014 in Russia by Vilayat Dagestan jihadists[citation needed]
James Foley, U.S. citizen, beheaded August 19, 2014, south of Raqqa, Syria by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)[35][36]
Four Egyptians, beheaded in August 2014 in Sheikh Zuweid, by Ansar Bait al-Maqdis jihadists
Steven Sotloff, U.S. citizen, beheaded in August 2014, south of Raqqa, Syria by ISIL jihadists[37]
David Cawthorne Haines, U.K. citizen, beheaded in September 2014 in Syria by ISIL jihadists[38]
Hervé Gourdel, French citizen, beheaded in September 2014, east of Algiers, Algeria by Jund al-Khilafah jihadists supporting ISIL[39]
Alan Henning, U.K. citizen, beheaded in October 2014, in Syria by ISIL jihadists[40]
Peter Kassig, U.S, citizen beheaded in November 2014, in Dabiq, Aleppo, Syria by ISIL jihadists[41]
Eighteen Syrian soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, beheaded in November 2014, in Dabiq, Aleppo, Syria by ISIL jihadists[42][43]
Haruna Yukawa, Japanese citizen, beheaded in January 2015 by ISIL jihadists.[44]
Kenji Goto, Japanese citizen, beheaded in January 2015 near Raqqa, Syria, by ISIL jihadists.[45]
Twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians, beheaded in February 2015 near Tripoli, Libya, by ISIL jihadists[46][47][48]
Twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians, beheaded in Libya in April 2015 by ISIL jihadists[49]
A video (article published July 2015) shows a boy executing a Syrian Arab Army soldier using a knife, while within Palmyra[50]
Four Kurdish Peshmerga members, beheaded in Iraq in October 2015 by ISIL jihadists[51]

Jürgen Kantner, German citizen, beheaded in March 2017 in the Philippines by Abu Sayyaf jihadists.[54]
Muhammad “Hamadi” Abdullah al-Ismail, Syrian citizen who allegedly deserted the Syrian Arab Army, tortured with a sledgehammer and beheaded near the al-Shaer oil fields, Homs Governorate, Syria (the first footage appeared online in June 2017) by Russian mercenaries linked to the Wagner Group[55]

Ayafor Florence, Cameroonian citizen who worked as a wardress at the Bamenda Central Prison, beheaded on September 29, 2019 in Pinyin, Northwest Region, Cameroon by Ambazonian militants[58]
An Afghan soldier was killed by the Taliban before they filmed a video showing his severed head being held by his hair.[59]
An Egyptian man beheaded a victim and wandered in the street while holding up the severed head in broad daylight.[60][61]

A hoax beheading video filmed by Benjamin Vanderford, Robert Martin, and Laurie Kirchner in 2004 received wide attention by the American press.[63] The video used Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad’s logo, but not the group’s flag. It was originally filmed for Vanderford’s local election campaign.[64] He was seeking Matt Gonzalez’s seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.[65] Vanderford’s second intention was to point out how uncritically the mainstream media would accept an anonymous video.[66] The Islamic Global Media Center claimed to have made the video, but removed it from their website after the hoax was discovered.[67] The video also appeared on other militant websites and was broadcast on Arabic television.[68][69]

See also[edit]


^ Stannard, Matthew B. (May 13, 2004). “Beheading video seen as war tactic / Experts say terrorists employing grisly form of propaganda”. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 23, 2010.

^ Abbott, Geoffrey. “Beheading”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 14 August 2019.

^ Brecher, Gary (September 3, 2014). “The War Nerd: The long, twisted history of beheadings as propaganda”. PandoDaily. Retrieved 2019-12-09.

^ Miles, Steven H. (2009), Oath Betrayed: American’s Torture Doctures (2nd ed.), University of California Press, p. 162, ISBN 978-0-520-25968-3 Miles’ claim matches the list in this article if we ignore the beheading of Daniel Pearl almost 27 months earlier in Pakistan. From at last some perspectives, it seems reasonable to classify the Pearl beheading as separate from the 10 beheadings in the 6 months following Abu Ghraib abuses entered the international consciousness. The match isn’t perfect, because to get eleven beheadings after Abu Ghraib and before Miles’ book appeared, we would either need an event not included in this article or we would need to include the beheading of Piotr Stańczak in Pakistan just over 4 years later. Nevertheless, the record seems largely to confirm Miles’ suggestion of vengeance as a motive. He continues, “Pursuing justice differs from being consumed by revenge. The former proceeds from crime to investigation, to trial, to punishment, and then to closure. Vengeance is a whirlwind, where atrocity justifies revenge, and revenge becomes an atrocity.”

^ Rosen, Armin (15 July 2014). “The Most Extreme Faction Of Al Qaeda Is Winning, And It’s Leading To The Destruction Of Iraq”. Business Insider. Retrieved 10 October 2018.

^ Bloom, Mia (August 22, 2014). “Even al-Qaeda denounced beheading videos. Why the Islamic State brought them back”. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 23, 2014.

^ Shrader, Katherine Pfleger (September 29, 2004). “Terrorists sense power in beheading videos”. Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 21, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2014 – via HighBeam Research.

^ Palmer, Ewan (August 20, 2014). “James Foley: Police Warn Watching Beheading Video Is A ‘Terrorist Offence'”. International Business Times. Retrieved 23 August 2014.

^ Karis, Hustad (October 31, 2013). “Facebook graphic content woes: When are beheading videos okay?”. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved August 23, 2014.

^ Su, Reissa (4 November 2013). “Beheaded Woman in Viral Video on Facebook ‘Unknown,’ Authorities Not Investigating (VIDEO)”. International Business Times. Archived from the original on 31 October 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.

^ Grant, Will (4 November 2013). “Facebook beheading video: Who was Mexico’s Jane Doe?”. BBC News. Retrieved 4 November 2014.

^ Oreskovic, Alexei (October 21, 2013). “Gory videos OK when posted for users to ‘condemn’: Facebook”. Reuters. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2014.

^ Cottee, Simon (September 12, 2014). “The Pornography of Jihadism”. The Atlantic. Retrieved June 12, 2015.

^ “Reporter Daniel Pearl Is Dead, Killed by His Captors in Pakistan”. The Wall Street Journal. February 24, 2002. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Ansari, Massoud (May 9, 2004). “Daniel Pearl ‘refused to be sedated before his throat was cut'”. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Fochkin, Oleg (25 October 2002). “Вампир с родословной”. Moskovskij Komsomolets (in Russian). Retrieved 24 December 2018.

^ Nichols, Bill (May 11, 2004). “Video shows beheading of American captive”. USA Today. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ “American hostage beheaded in Saudi Arabia”. USA Today. June 18, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Sohn, Jie-ae; Faraj, Caroline (June 23, 2004). “Pentagon: South Korean hostage beheaded”. CNN. Archived from the original on June 25, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Spinner, Jackie; Faiola, Anthony (June 23, 2004). “S. Korean Is Beheaded in Iraq”. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ “Video Shows Beheading of Iraq Hostage”. Associated Press. August 9, 2004. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2014 – via Fox News.

^ “Beheading of 2nd Bulgarian captive confirned”. Associated Press. August 11, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2014 – via NBC News.

^ “‘Egyptian spy’ beheaded in Iraq”. Daily Times. August 11, 2004. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2014.

^ Youssef, Nancy A. (September 1, 2004). “Extremists in Iraq execute 12 Nepalese workers One was beheaded; the others, shot. The group said they were killed for helping the U.S. against Islam”. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2014-12-18.

^ “American Hostage Beheaded in Iraq; Bush, Kerry Agree to Debate; Can Rather Survive Memogate?”. CNN. September 20, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ a b Faraj, Caroline; al-Hilli, Thaira; Muhy, Bassem; Qasira, Faris; Tawfeeq, Mohammed (September 22, 2004). “Report: Al-Zarqawi group kills American hostage”. CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Walker, Glen (August 19, 2014). “Video Claims to Show Terrorist Group ISIS Beheading U.S. Journalist James Foley”. KTLA. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ McCarthy, Rory (October 9, 2004). “Sad, bloody end to Bigley saga”. The Guardian. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Shubert, Atika (November 1, 2004). “Beheaded Japanese to be flown home”. CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ “Video shows beheading of Japanese hostage”. Associated Press. November 2, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2014 – via NBC News.

^ Schwirtz, Michael (9 June 2008). “Family identifies son in Russian beheading video”. The New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2018.

^ Aleksandrov, German (11 July 2011). “Наша совесть выше ваших законов”. (in Russian). Retrieved 24 December 2018.

^ Gerasimenko, Olesya; Shmarayeva, Elena (25 July 2011). “Дело тринадцати”. Kommersant Vlast (in Russian). No. 29. p. 20. Retrieved 24 December 2018.

^ Shah, Saeed (February 9, 2009). “Polish man beheaded in Pakistani militant video”. The Guardian. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Abdulrahim, Raja; Semuels, Alana (19 August 2014). “Militants blame U.S. for their apparent beheading of U.S. journalist”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2014.

^ Vincent, Michael (August 20, 2014). “IS releases journalist beheading video in a message to the US”. ABC Online. Retrieved August 23, 2014.

^ Carter, Chelsea J.; Ashley, Fantz (September 9, 2014). “ISIS video shows beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff”. CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Callimachi, Rukmini; De Freytas-Tamura, Kimiko (September 13, 2014). “ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker”. The New York Times. Retrieved September 19, 2014.

^ Almasy, Steve; Meilhan, Pierre; Vitagliano, Brian; Mazloumsaki, Sara; Lopez, Elwyn; Fantz, Ashley; Hanna, Jason (September 24, 2014). “French President: Islamic extremists beheaded French hostage”. CNN. Retrieved September 24, 2014.

^ Carter, Chelsea J.; Castillo, Mariano; Abdelaziz, Salma (October 4, 2014). “ISIS video claims to show beheading of Alan Henning; American threatened”. CNN. Retrieved October 4, 2014.

^ Castillo, Mariano; Brumfield, Ben (November 16, 2014). “Obama calls hostage’s beheading by ISIS ‘pure evil'”. CNN. Retrieved November 16, 2014.

^ “Abdul-Rahman Kassig killing is pure evil, says Obama”. BBC News. November 16, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2014.

^ Wkye, Thomas (November 16, 2014). “Jihadi John Leads Systematic Beheading of Peter Kassig and 18 Syrian Pilots”. International Business Times. Retrieved November 16, 2014.

^ Yoshida, Reiji (25 January 2015). “Purported Islamic State video shows hostage Goto claiming Yukawa has been executed”. The Japan Times. Retrieved 2 February 2015.

^ Yoshida, Reiji; Kameda, Masaaki (February 1, 2015). “Goto beheaded by Islamic State militants”. The Japan Times. Retrieved February 2, 2015.

^ “ISIS video appears to show beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya”. CNN. February 16, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015.

^ Kirkpatrick, David D.; Callimachi, Rukmini (February 15, 2015). “Islamic State Video Shows Beheadings of Egyptian Christians in Libya”. The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2015.

^ Gittens, Hasani; Johnson, M. Alex (February 15, 2015). “U.S. Condemns ‘Heinous’ Beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS”. NBC News. Retrieved February 16, 2015.

^ Tait, Robert (21 April 2015). “Three Christians beheaded by Isil were Eritreans who were ‘encouraged to leave Israel'”. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 May 2015.

^ Webb, Sam (17 July 2015). “Did ISIS give child executioner drugs before forcing him to behead a soldier?”. Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2015-11-27.

^ Almasy, Steve (31 October 2015). “ISIS video purportedly shows beheadings of Kurdish fighters in Iraq”. CNN. Retrieved 31 October 2015.

^ Thomson, Sylvia; Arsenault, Adrienne (31 March 2017). “Few signs of Canadian investigation into Abu Sayyaf beheadings in Philippines”. CBC News. Retrieved 1 July 2017.

^ “Boy beheaded by Syrian rebels was ’19-year-old regime fighter'”. The New Arab. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2018.

^ “Philippine army finds body of beheaded German hostage Jurgen Kantner”. BBC News. 5 March 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2019.

^ Cole, Brendan (21 November 2019). “Russian Mercenaries Torture, Behead and Set Alight Syrian Man Who Fled Assad’s Army, Says Newspaper”. Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-12-09.

^ “Decapitan a joven por intentar robar una finca [Video fuerte]”. A Todo Momento (in Spanish). 11 January 2018. Archived from the original on 2019-01-25. Retrieved 1 October 2018.

^ “Murder video of female Scandinavian tourist in Morocco ‘likely authentic'”. Stuff. 22 December 2018. Retrieved 24 December 2018.

^ Azohnwi, Atia T. (4 October 2019). “Cameroon – Anglophone Crisis: Video Of Separatist Fighters Slaughtering Wardress Ayafor Florence Stuns The World”. Cameroon-Info.Net. Retrieved 2019-12-09.

^ King, Lorraine (11 September 2021). “Taliban celebrate executing Afghan soldier by chanting and holding severed head”. Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2021-11-03.

^ Tabikha, Kamal (1 November 2021). “Video of beheading in Egyptian city sparks nationwide horror”. The National (Abu Dhabi). Retrieved 2021-11-11.

^ “Man arrested after beheading victim in Egypt street”. Arab News. 2 November 2021. Retrieved 2021-11-11.

^ “Udaipur Tailor’s Killers Attacked At Court, How It Happened: 10 Latest Facts”. NDTV. 1 July 2022. Retrieved 2 July 2022.

^ Guthrie, Julian; Wallace, Bill (August 8, 2004). “Web hoax fools news services”. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 3, 2014.

^ “Man fakes own decapitation in video”. The Age. August 8, 2004. Retrieved October 3, 2014.

^ DiMassa, Cara Mia; Hollis, Robert (August 8, 2004). “Region & State Man Fakes Own Beheading Video”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 3, 2014.

^ “American fakes own decapitation in tape”. Associated Press. August 7, 2004. Retrieved November 23, 2010 – via NBC News.

^ “American’s Iraq ‘Beheading’ a Hoax”. Associated Press. August 8, 2004. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2014 – via Fox News.

^ “US man made hoax execution video”. BBC News. August 7, 2004. Retrieved October 3, 2014.

^ “Iraq Beheading Video Of US Man A Hoax”. Sky News. August 9, 2004. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved October 3, 2014.

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