BAGHDAD (AFP, REUTERS) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group has in recent days executed 322 members of an Iraqi tribe that fought against it, officials and a tribal leader said on Sunday.
Accounts varied as to the exact period in which the Sunni Albu Nimr tribesmen were killed in various areas of Iraq's Anbar province, but the executions were all said to have been carried out within the last 10 days.
“The number of people killed by Islamic State from Albu Nimr tribe is 322. The bodies of 50 women and children have also been discovered dumped in a well,” the country’s Human Rights Ministry said on Sunday.
"Anyone who carries the Nimrawi family name on his personal ID" is targeted and killed by ISIS, asource said, referring to the name carried by members of the tribe.
Sheikh Naim al-Kuoud al-Nimrawi, a leader of the tribe, said that 381 of its members were killed "from the 24th of last month until today". ISIS has overrun large areas of Anbar, and the killings are likely aimed at discouraging resistance from powerful local tribes, who will be key to any successful bid to retake the province.
Pro-government forces have suffered a string of setbacks in Anbar in recent weeks. That has prompted warnings that the province, which stretches from the borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad, could fall entirely.
Images said to show the aftermath of some of the killings circulated on Twitter, but their authenticity could not be independently confirmed.
One picture that has been circulating in the last week shows a line of more than 30 men in civilian clothes lying in the middle of a street with streams of blood running over the dusty ground, as young men and children look on.
The victims are barefoot and many are blindfolded, their hands bound behind their backs.
ISIS did not immediately claim responsibility for the killings, but has executed hundreds of people in areas of Iraq and Syria that it controls.
Human Rights Watch says there is evidence the group executed between 560 and 770 men - mostly captured soldiers - earlier in the year.
ISIS also executed hundreds of members of a Syrian tribe that fought against them, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
ISIS already controls most of the vast desert province of Anbar which includes towns in the Euphrates River valley dominated by Sunni tribes, running from the Syrian border to the western outskirts of Baghdad.
The militants are now encircling a large air base and the vital Haditha dam on the Euphrates. Fighters control towns from the Syrian border to parts of provincial capital Ramadi and into the lush irrigated areas near Baghdad.
If the province falls, it could give Islamic State a better chance to make good on its threat to march on the capital.