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Iraqi troops torture and execute civilians

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Officers of an elite Iraqi special forces unit, praised by U.S. military commanders earlier this year for its role in fighting ISIS, directed the torture and execution of civilians in Mosul in at least six distinct incidents caught on tape, reported ABC News (US).

“That's a murder,” retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann told ABC News after reviewing the graphic footage. “There should be punishment for anyone doing it. It's reprehensible and it shouldn't be allowed on any modern battlefield."

The alarming footage was smuggled out of Iraq by a prize-winning Iraqi photojournalist, Ali Arkady, who spent months embedded in combat with the elite Iraqi troops leading the fight against ISIS late last year. Since turning over his cache of photos and videos to ABC News, he says he has received death threats from the soldiers he once considered friends and has now fled Iraq to seek asylum in Europe.

"This is happening all the time," Arkady said of the war crimes he documented, which he recounted in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Brian Ross to be broadcast tonight on ABC's World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline.

Iraqi officials are now launching an investigation into Arkady's allegations.

Arkady originally planned to produce a “positive story” about the Emergency Response Division (E.R.D.) of Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, documenting how soldiers from both the Shi'a and Sunni sects of Islam could work together in the fight against ISIS. But he says, as the soldiers began to trust him, they allowed him to record scenes in which they tortured their captives and later even sent him a video showing the shooting of a handcuffed prisoner.

In a remarkable phone interview last week, E.R.D. Capt. Omar Nazar did not dispute the authenticity of the footage Arkady documented but said the brutal tactics were justified because the men tortured and killed were linked to ISIS.

“We do not want war prisoners in our fight against ISIS,” said Capt. Nazar. “We don’t take prisoners.”

The incidents of torture captured by Arkady's lens appeared to have no military objective, showing the E.R.D. officers rarely collected actionable intelligence on ISIS fighters, leadership or operations. Instead, Arkady says, the unit often tortured civilians to provoke false confessions as justification for raids, arrests and what they called "field executions."

While no U.S. soldiers appear in any of Arkady’s footage, a man who claimed to be a contractor and interpreter for the U.S. military is shown conducting the brutal torture of two men Arkady identified as half-brothers.

"Frankly, there is not even a pretext here of torture in the name of obtaining intelligence,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, told ABC News after reviewing several of what she characterized as "sadistic" videos. “This is just torture for fun.”

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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