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

August 22, 2014

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

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 Justpaste.it 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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

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The logo on the bridge in both photographs are a match

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

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

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Since the imagery is outdated it doesn’t show the recent construction seen in the ISIS photos as well as Panoramio:

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

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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.

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

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

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116 Comments

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • George

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

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
    • David

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

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
      • Brian

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

        Reply
  3. 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.)

    Reply
  4. 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 😉

    Reply

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