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Since the imagery is outdated it doesn’t show the recent construction seen in the ISIS photos as well as Panoramio: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




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  1. 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).

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. thebronze

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


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