by and for citizen investigative journalists

Gun Safety, Self Defense, and Road Marches – Finding an ISIS Training Camp

August 22, 2014

By Bellingcat

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go through training as an ISIS terrorist? Or better yet, where you would go to find such advanced training?  All you have to do to find the answer to these questions is turn to the nearest ISIS media twitter account and click on that bright blue link.  Let’s take a look at the photos posted in July showing one of the Islamic State’s training camps in Ninewa Province and see what we can learn.


If we examine the ISIS class of 2014 martial arts lesson, road march, and graduation photo, we can see several bridges in the background spanning over a large river.

2 3 4

After doing just a little bit of research we find this general area in Google Earth along Tigris River in Mosul that looks like it could be a fit based on the land marks available in the images.


In this graduation photograph we can see one of the bridges with a large building visible in the background, with the photograph taken on a tree lined road. In this case it was necessary to use the site Flash Earth with its more up to date imagery to find the building, which appears to have only been recently constructed


In the entire area there’s only one possible location that matches, on the north side of the river, with the camera pointing south.


It also appears the martial arts lessons were photographed in the same area, with the bridge running over the road visible, and the trees on the right

8 9 10 11

Next we can use Panoramio to investigate other image. Panoramio is a site which tags the location photographs where taken onto a map. In the below example we can find this photograph, which matches to what can be seen in one of the photographs we are examining


The logo on the bridge in both photographs are a match


In another Panoramio photo we have images of the street lights in the area, which also match.


You can see the same signs in the background when they stop to practice some drills towards the end of their road march.


Since the imagery is outdated it doesn’t show the recent construction seen in the ISIS photos as well as Panoramio:


One more photo for good measure.  In this Panoramio photo you can see the towers are identical.


Google Earth imagery shows the shadow of the tower, but there doesn’t seem to be any surrounding buildings that match the ISIS photo.  This indicates there must have been recent construction.


We can confirm by looking at imagery from FlashEarth imagery that shows the construction in progress.


This means they marched a whopping 2.9 km (1.8 mi)!





    • OhYeahGonnaTell ISIS that lol

      They are not ‘delusional’ that is giving them too much credit….They are opportunistic killers…give them an excuse….any excuse to go slaughter other humans and they will just leap at the chance to do so. To them it is a big rush to have live ammo and hear the crack of the weapon and see the blood…they are feeding this part of themselves to the point of addiction. WTB a 12step program for these fools….let’s see…Step One:Chill out with a cool beverage and a fishin pole on some deserted island somewhere….Step Two: build something beautiful with your own hands….and so on…..oh and somewhere in there GET OVER YOURSELF sheeze.

    • Boo-Boo

      “Who would fall for that ideological absurdity?”

      Well, they teach Creationism in Texas, don’t they?

      • Allen Fuller

        Travel much? Or do you only rely on dumb stereotypes? I live in Texas and have never heard they teach creationism in the schools.

          • Assistant Village Idiot

            Make clear distinctions, please. That is not teaching Creationism (though I think it is inaccurate teaching). It is teaching some of the arguments Creationists use to defend their ideas. Huge gap.

            To insert it in the discussion of this article as if there is some close similarity is not very art-smay, either. Sorry that actual precision in thinking is too much for you, but please don’t feel obligated to share your tribal regurgitations with the rest of us.

          • Kitty M.R.

            Links or no links I went to a number of schools in Texas and was never taught Creationism in and don’t know anyone who was. Creationism may be taught in some schools in Texas, but clearly it’s not a widespread thing, because I moved schools quite often and was never taught anything other than standard, non-religious science in any of the schools I was in.

        • Grumfan

          >I live in Texas and have never heard they teach creationism in the schools.

          Then you don’t travel much and don’t listen to the news about your own state.

          The Texas Board of Education has been in the news several times a year because they keep attempting to force Young Earth Creationism into the Texas Science Curriculum. Google for Texas textbook evolution and see what pops up.

          Stay thirsty my friend.

        • Jason Smith

          I live here and they do. There has been a concerted effort for years even going so far as to control the text book publishing in the state. That means that other states like KS,OK,NM,NE get them as well. I wonder why the middle if the country is so off track with the rest of the 21st century…hmm

      • Stephen

        You have the right to be ignorant, but allow me to point out the gaping contrast between those who adhere to creationism and those who adhere to terrorist ideologies. One might vote differently, the other might kill your children and impale their heads on sticks… sometimes I hate the Internet.

        • Maven

          They both have proben able to believe whatever is told to them. It’s just a question of what their religious leaders teach them.

          • Me

            What, just like you believe what you are told to believe? It’s just a question what your ideological leaders teach you.

            Apple, orange. One is red, one is orange. In the end, both are fruit. One might be sweeter than the other, one might be crunchy. But in the end, you believe what the leadership in whatever preset belief patterns you hold tell you to believe.

        • kalqlate

          Truly, the problem is with “belief”. “Belief” tells us nothing about reality. If belief is allowed to be whatever someone “chooses”, then you can expect that LARGE numbers will choose to believe in a vengeful god that will help them mete out “justice” as required. We as a species need to rid ourselves of irrationality without ridding ourselves of too much of our humanity.

      • Gadget Boy

        Uuuuuuuh Big difference between creationism and a “lets have jihad bbq”…. i cud suggest some reading that would clear it up for you.

      • Michael-D

        I love it when idiots try to compare something like teaching creationism in schools, or even those nutjobs from Westboro Babtist, to an terrorist army marauding through the middle-east while beheading women and children.

        Some of you seem to make it your mission to sidetrack every discsussion about Islamic Extremism, true terrorism, and murder with your little “Christians in America are just as bad” comments. It is absolutely sickening to think you can even try to make such a ridiculous comparison. Perspective, get some please.

    • Naser

      The same persons (or mentality) that falls for the white nationalism ideology in the US or Europe, they share the same narrow mindedness and justifying the killing of innocents.

      • J

        Well said. Though actually Americans and Europeans are much more narrow-minded than those guys. They aren’t really narrow-minded, they just want to live on, feed for themselves and probably a family. There’s nothing about narrow-mindedness or whatsoever in their acts. On the contrary many of the comments here show a degree of incredible brainwashing and tunnel-vision. I’m sick.

      • sam

        bingo my friend, it seems sharia law works on both sides Christians too, We are murdering innocent civilians in the name of justice, The beheadings were fakes and bin laden died just after twin towers was struck. Check it out our government lies through there teeth no one does research but sits there and believes the idiot box news shows, its sickening as both sides are murdering and both see it as justified. NATO is putrid, its all about drugs this war like the others

    • Grumfan

      Who would fall for that?

      Engineering intern Ben Madrid of Kenai, Alaska would.

      Ben has a mechanical Engineering degree but believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old and was made in just six days. (Ben went to a Bible “College”.)

      Ben thinks evolution is an Evil myth and he’s convinced that science is outright fraud.

      Ben doesn’t believe in Global warming so when the permafrost starts thawing where he lives, anything with a foundation that he designs for McLane Consulting will simply sink or fall over. Or both.

      “Who would fall for that ideological absurdity?”

      Ben would. and lots of other Americans would, if they had been, like Ben, steeped in brainwashing and idiocy from childhood on.

      You can convince anyone of anything if you can get to them while they are still children, American or not.

      • heligo

        I disagree. You can’t can’t convince anyone of anything. I use myself as an example. I was raised as a roman catholic but always had questions, because none of it made sense in the real world and if there was a “god” how come i never felt him. When i reached a certain age (8 or 9 i think) i realised that everything i was supposed to believe was word of mouth and i made a decision and stuck with it.

        My point is you are what you are. Either you are the type to be lead or you are the type to question.

    • Tom


      Americans don’t join the Armed Forces because of ideology. Neither do ISIS terrorists. They both join because we are promised a better life when we sign the paper. We trade our lives for the prospect of something better, and a sense of pride. Your gain is that you get to live safely without a care in the world.

      The US gets involved in a lot of foreign wars. That’s because we’re a fucking empire. Right now, Americans live in that empire, they behave in ways to perpetuate this status and reap all of its benefits. Americans elect politicians who pander to their ideologies. It’s actually not the military at all who is ideologically brainwashed. Most of my fellow soldiers are independents and hate politics. It’s the ignorant US voters who are to blame for our continuous foreign intervention, and congress.

      Now we’re at the point of no return and we’re going to have to keep filling our roll in the world, so just be grateful someone volunteers to do it so you don’t have to. Otherwise you might find yourself being castrated by an ISIS jihadi.

      • jeff

        The only American military action that has made Americans safer was ww2, and to a lesser extent, ww1.

        These wars were fought by conscripted civilians, not soldiers.

        Today’s military does not make Americans safe, it actually serves the opposite role. The foreign wars serve corporate interests period. People sign up because they want to hurt people. Today those people are primarily unarmed Iraqi civilians. Tomorrow it will primarily be Chinese civilians.

        Today’s soldiers are absolutely brainwashed, or willfully ignorant, if you prefer that term. Not to mention the obvious moral and ethical deficiencies that come with the job.

        But go ahead and think you’re keeping people safe, if that’s what you tell yourself to sleep at night. Just stop pretending anyone on the other side of the barbwire believes it.

        • Clayin

          Oh, nice. Let’s take your informed insight since you know how and why better than the people who actually joined the military. Thanks for telling me what I think and why I think it. LOL

        • David

          I was in the US Air Force, so I can’t speak for the reasons people sign up for the Army or Navy, but no, my fellow airmen weren’t particularly interested in “hurting people.”

          But thanks for letting me know that we all have “moral and ethical deficiencies.”

        • EnricM

          Your affirmation that they sign up because they want to hurt people is stupid.

          There will ALWAYS be an ISIS to protect our asses against, at least while Humanity doesn’t change a lot.

          You don’t even need ISIS, check out the current conflict in Ukrania… how much would you think it would take for a Russian army to retake the Baltic States or just any other country of Europe if there weren’t a NATO? Just imagine, our countries are filled with fat and unfit couchdwellers able only to pay attention to their smartphones. You think it’s not possible? Just think on a crisis in Russia, Putin would do just anything to remain in power, and his oligarchs would just love to be able to rape and loot their way through anything that has money.

          Or what about North Korea? What do you think they would do if South Korea did not have an army?

          I’m sorry mate. I myself are what you in the US love to call “a liberal”, I’m even vegan… but you have to be pragmatic. You can’t just pretend we live in Utopia.

          And thanks to the fact that there are a bunch of guys and girls with BALLS that keep our asses safe. I would rather see more like them. And yes, sometimes you have to hurt somebody, and the difference between the US Army and ISIS is that the ones have to consider all the moral implications of such an act, while the latter don’t give a fuck. It’s the very difference between being a person and being just a bunch of animated dung.

          I am an European and as such as critic against the USA as every average European is. But if there is one thing I respect and admire of your country, this is your Armed Forces.

          • sam

            to be defensive is to be aggressive a natural law. So what im saying is no one has landed on American English Australian soil so why over there on their soil, people have good reason to question natos true motives and propaganda. We have not been in anyway terrorised but by our own governments perverting. Instead of projecting onto other who we are take a look at ourselves we are war mongers who cherish and hold dear the killings we do memorialise our murderers throw parades in celebration of our activities and deny cover up and when found guilty still deny.

      • David

        “The US gets involved in a lot of foreign wars. That’s because we’re a fucking empire. Right now, Americans live in that empire, they behave in ways to perpetuate this status and reap all of its benefits.”


        First, the nature of an empire is, it exercises direct authority over the affairs of its subject territories. It derives direct economic benefits from those territories, and seeks to hold them indefinitely, if not to expand into additional territories.

        The US often gets involved with foreign wars out of altruism. We didn’t want people to have to live under the heel of Nazism. We didn’t want Koreans or Vietnamese to have to live under Communism.

        We succeeded wildly in WWII.

        We had a partial success in Korea. Go here to see how North Koreans live in an economic hellhole that, for the most part, can’t even afford to operate street lights:

        We lost the political will to succeed in Vietnam.

        There are U.S. bases in Japan and Germany to this day, but the U.S. no longer has any authority over the affairs of those countries.

        There are no economic benefits to occupying Afghanistan. The goal is to reform it into a place that will not harbor terrorists. Some Americans want to end our occupation as soon as that goal is met. Some want to end our occupation sooner than that. Nobody wants to extend the occupation indefinitely.

        In the long run, allowing Baghdad to fall to ISIS would probably cause big problems for the U.S. But in the short run, the only reason to intervene would be altruism toward the Iraqi people — not wanting them to have to live under the heel of the extreme Sharia freak, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

        So anyway Tom, wave you studied the behavior of actual empires, like the British Empire of the 19th century? Where exactly are the territories that comprise the mighty U.S. “empire”? What sort of propaganda have you been exposed to, that leads you to twist the definition of “empire” so cynically?

        • John

          The USA is able to control its empire primarily through economic means
          Our fiat money can be printed en mass and other countries accept it

          • Ryan

            That use of the word (“financial empire”) is only figurative. A real empire requires territory. The USA is simply not an empire, and the way it’s headed now, probably never will be.

          • Brian

            Ryan, your definition of empire is quite limited. Maybe you havn’t heard of the “Holy Roman Empire”. The Pope did not have an army, yet had control over kingdoms.

            Empire is about control & power. Military power is only one form of power.

        • Inti

          Calling the US an empire might come from propaganda, but “The US often gets involved with foreign wars out of altruism” is also pure propaganda. No superpower acts out of altruism. It’s all about geopolitics and strategic influence.

          • David

            Were Social Security and other programs of FDR’s New Deal created for altruistic reasons? Yes.

            But somehow that same leader is accused of being unaltruistic when he sent troops to liberate nearly the entire continent of Europe from Nazism.

          • Tim

            He. The “Holy Roman Empire” was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire by any definition. Nice propaganda dept, though. Know your history.

      • Ryan

        You are straight up delusional my friend. You’ve followed the standard US American path of doing whatever the fuck you feel like and then blindly rationalizing with extreme bias afterwards.

      • J

        Spot on Tom. Unfortunately too many Americans are way too brainwashed to realize true situations just as you do. What a pity.

    • General Lee. ButtSachs Ish-nisse Onamandee

      Because when a bank robber takes gets behind the bank counter, the police don’t blow up the bank. Even the hellbent war machine that is the US has some moral respect for civilian life unlike barbaric cult’s such as Zionist Israel.

      Basically, you can’t just kill women, children, newborns and innocent men to remove radicalists (but with the exception, Israel as always; they are allowed to butcher everything as they are brainwashed occultists).

    • David

      Celia, what was found was a road on which an ISIS formation marched. At any given time, there’s probably a 99.8% chance that no ISIS formation is marching on that particular road.

      • Celia

        Ok, thanks, I got carried away thinking someone had stumbled upon an actual training centre for isis recruits. I don’t usually think that the best idea is to bomb people, but if a training centre for murders had been found I would like to see it bombed to oblivion.

        • sam

          Nato country where there are camps then respectfully murdering and torture of people through bombings this war alone of Syria is barbaric and to make matters worse America supplied them with the tool including training them up. Check things out, brainwashed dumb as idiot box watchers the journos are not journalists who research they go with a great STORY to get ratings truth has nothing to do with this RIght ? Wrong. Bush and Cheney have been found guilty of war crimes in Kuala Lumpur High Court but guaranteed it didn’t fit the do gooder story so it didn’t make news. Check it out people its on the net. So over NATO

  1. Matt Flinn

    What’s really funny to me is that I used this exact methodology last night …The difference being that I was using it to determine which exact apartment complex was being re-listed on a realtor company’s website that aggregates rental units in an attempt to see if I could save some money by leasing through the complex directly… Teehee ;)

  2. Pigsy

    Just like the Al Qaeda group they are financed by the U.S., their weapons are provided by the U.S. the U.S. had been training them and U.S. special forces have been in Syria showing them what to do. The British government through the MI5 group and GCHQ have been using informers and agent provocateurs to encourage them to travel to Syria to fight.
    Remember hook hand remember his sidekick well his sidekick has a government-sponsored website and he even has a YouTube channel recruiting Muslims.

    This group was a nonexisting group until funding by the U.S. government when these people are long dead and buried and have been used you will be left with absolutely no rights whatsoever. You will have to ask the authorities for permission to scratch your arse and have a supervisor to monitor any international phone calls you make.

    The U.S. know exactly where they are so does the U.K., when the U.S. says jump the English politicians say how high!

  3. Simmo

    Why hasn’t it been bombed? Good question. Just like the Taliban, this is another example of Geo-political magic broomsticks

  4. erap

    Ahhh…anything or anybody who is against US interest is immediately labelled as terrorist. Don’t you think the US is the biggest terrorist since it is the biggest arm supplier and keep on meddling everybody’s internal problems ?

  5. Steve

    This is very interesting stuff, it is amazing to me that in just 10 or so years from the start of Google map till today what can be done with it. I really wonder with the new satellites how good it will get in the next 24 months.

    As to why people join things like this, unfortunately people are very programmable. Any person reading this could be programmed like these people if done at the right ages and with the right stimulus. I know people don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. If it wasn’t marketing, religion, advertising, 12 step programs. all would be a waste of time. But they all work at making people do things they would not rationally do, so for the majority of people in the right situations that could be any one of us.

    • George

      This was already proven by the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment. Anyone with authority directing them can commit atrocities.

      • Sue

        I’m glad that someone has mentioned the Milgram experiment. It takes guts to think as an individual – without being either too naive or too eager to kick-ass and take names afterwards. We all want to belong to something; but in the meantime, apparently it’s not enough to be mortals living on this extraordinary planet with a whole bunch of others for awhile.

  6. Samantha Sampson

    Why on earth did you reveal your sources and methods? This way you’ve tipped them off and they will take extra care to conceal their location next time. Hope your ego is stoked.

    • David

      Great point, Samantha. “Conceal your sources and methods” is a primary tenet of intelligence work.

    • Fnordius

      Well, in the open source, world, releasing this info makes it easer to crowdsource the next effort, and to improve upon them. This also exposes the results and the methods to peer review, to catch any flaws.

      As to why members within the intelligence community haven’t done this yet, well, there is a good chance that they have but the mentality of not sharing means that the information often does not get shared to those with the ability to act upon it.

    • David

      Pigsy, if you would, please tell us which countries have placed the U.S. on their official list of State Sponsors of Terror.

      And which countries, besides the U.S., appear on Pigsy’s list of State Sponsors of Terror?

      • Brian

        Well, if you put the US on your official list of State Sponsors of Terror, you will be bombed. Like Libya, Sudan, Iraq…

  7. jake

    I hope the three-letter agencies are as skilled as you are, and they have figured out how to apply tools such as Flash Earth and Panoramio. (But knowing the massive amount of inertia in the US government, it wouldn’t surprise me if they aren’t yet hip to these methods.)

  8. datak tarr

    Great job. I Hope this gets verified and turned into a parkinglot :)

    As to why these people join ISIS… Its the God Gene, some humans have it some don’t. Humans who have it a very prone to fall for religious ideology.

    I’m thinking Zeus prolly put it there to make humans subservient but over time its being breed out ;)

  9. The Future

    For such an interesting, informative and important article … the comments have been pathetic.

    Thanks for the article, though. Well done.

  10. alleycat

    I hope this info has been given to the right authorities who can eradicate those rats in their new built nest :)

    • Sam

      Terrifying people will make them hide and immigrate, empty city with supporters will mean good control over resources. Killing Shiaa was mainly because they are not Sunni! while killing Sunni treated as a result of not joining under ISIS and considered as a gov. supporter, killing Sunni kurds also started as a results of the air strikes of the US to ISIS.
      US had to open this war zone rather than having such people killing in US lands. Now Al Baghdadi did what they wish, calling for all Jihadist to join! and they did.. it’s easier to fight them outside but the metrics of the fast mutation of the way of their thinking and the amount of headless people who joined will remain unanswered!

  11. Jeff

    I’ve never killed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill me first, but I would just as soon live in harmony, but then when shot at you shoot back

  12. ondro

    hehe thanks for you detective work on the isis camps. it shows that common sense and natural & logic thinking can beat the agency guys! congratulations on finding the camp!

  13. Boutrous

    Very interesting work, congrats and Alf Mabrouk
    The video texts BTW says Wilayat Niniwa, or Ninive Province, if you need help reading the Arabic texts just drop me a line
    Cheers Boutrous

  14. Wesley

    Ok so I’ve found the training camp, only one problem. I don’t think I could mark 2.9km in that environment. Better start training.

  15. CrisisMaven

    But you do realize that, like Edward Snowden, Greenwald and Manning, you are endangering the lives of some of the US’ closest allies???

  16. Don't call me Bush

    Well who is responsible for this big mess in Iraq ? In doubt ring a Texas phone number. This guy should be put to court in Den Haag (and some more of his gang).

  17. Camberwell Carrot

    All this analysis of public intelligence information is great to help fight radical jihadists. I suffer from the same investigative syndrome and so I admire such work. I have a few recommendations:

    1. Do not post full names. I understand the feeling coming from successfully concluded intelligence investigations and in most such cases it is good for you to show your name and get known for your work. However, with all the threats made from IS, this is a way to protect the some author commentator identities from possible threats. Such threat can never be eliminated, but they can be significantly minimized.

    2. Do not post addresses of individual and/or corporate investigators/journalists. Similarly, for the reasons described above, this is a good way to protect physical addresses.

    3. There has to be a way to hide such information from IS. Such information – especially geolocation analysis – should be “Open” with restricted membership (i.e only with proof of identity etc). What you are sharing in one page with those against the IS, you are also sharing it with the IS. The IS will then be more careful in their next online moves, now that they know about their “online sharing” mistakes, making some similar work of “our” intelligence services harder.

    Camberwell Carrot

  18. J

    With the whopping ignorance and lack of even the least bit of effort of understanding shown here, it’s totally no surprise US’s failure in international front. Why would people join them? Easy. Would you want to starve and probably get killed with nothing to protect you in a region at war or would you join a well-organized organization which is making a lot of progress and is giving their members a lot of benefits? Sometimes the tunnel-sight of Americans makes me sick.

  19. Mark Bajkowski

    Not surprisingly, much truth is in the saying “the terrorism is a war of the poor and the war is a terrorism of the rich”. It’s hard to deny that ISIS would not even exist in the heads of many of those disturbed people if the US would allow Sadam Hussein to live his delusions and, on the other end of a political spectrum, we would stop condonning injust policies only because they protects our “national interests”. Sadly, an excessive ideological actions and injustice of big pollitics always creates excessive injust reactions of individuals. As long some people are willing to kill for idealogy, other people will keep inventing idealogy to kill.

  20. Anonymous

    If the USA had a leader for a President instead of a socialist political piece of trash this would have been handled a year ago. He is sickening.

  21. Mark

    Congratulations for an excellent piece of work here.
    Just to say that we have been doing the same thing for the past 4 or 5 years when renting holiday lets abroad. Even without an exact address we use external views of the villa and gardens to pinpoint most places using Google Maps and/or Google Earth. Then we check out the surroundings for sewage works, pig farms, power lines, railway lines and any other inconveniences that the owners may have ‘neglected’ to mention in their description.

  22. thebronze

    Holy shit!! This probably more/better photo intelligence/interpretation than the whole US Government is doing!!!

  23. azy

    ISIL movements in day light;

    is there any body can explain to me how ISIS managed to move freely in day light?
    Recently , Nouri al-Maliki from the IRAQI government slammed the intelligence community for failing to know ISIS leader recent movement in Mosul which lasted 20 minutes with trailer of 10 Cars ? Also , frequently I saw live video of long trailers of ISIS cars traveling in several IRAQ areas.
    We all know how ISIS drove in Mosul , like they drove home with out any trace from the local intelligence set lite in the area ; USA , Israel , Turkey and may be IRAN?
    This question always bugging me , I would appreciate an answer , thanks. Azy

  24. Person

    Please turn the comments section off. In short order they are always filled with vitrolic xenophobic racist conspiracy theorist drivel that detracts from great pieces of investigative journalism. They make dedicated forums for the purpose of endless hate baiting and uninformed political “debates”.


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