Al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Iraq released a video in which its fighters purportedly abort a roadside bomb attack because a woman and child were passing by, an attempt by the militants to counter criticism that they target innocent civilians.
The group, Islamic State of Iraq — which is blamed for suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians — also issued a video Thursday showing the execution-style deaths of 14 Iraqi soldiers and policemen.
The Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella group of several insurgent groups including al-Qaida. Iraqi Sunnis — including some insurgents — have grown increasingly critical of the group, in part because of its attacks on civilians. The U.S. military has sought to exploit the differences by giving weapons and money to Sunnis to confront al-Qaida.
The video of the aborted bombing, posted on an Islamic militant Web site on Wednesday, appeared aimed to defend the Islamic State of Iraq from the accusations.
"Among our constant stances is that a Muslim who has committed no apostasy that would permit the shedding of his blood is forbidden, forbidden, forbidden (to be killed)," a written message with the video said.
"In view of that, any operation is postponed, canceled or amended" to prevent such killings, it said.
The video showed a woman and child walking hand in hand near the intersection of two dirt roads in what appeared to be a rural area, with several palm trees, wooden electricity poles and part of a mud brick house in the background.
As they approached the intersection, a beige armored vehicle, the apparent target, entered the picture, and a voice could be heard aborting the mission because it could endanger the lives of the woman and child.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified, and explosives were not visible in the footage.
Group blamed for deadliest bombings
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Qaida in Iraq have been blamed for some of the deadliest bombings in the country's conflict, including ones in civilian areas like markets. The group has targeted Shiites in particular, accusing them of apostasy for supporting the U.S.-backed government.
In the video released Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq showed the killing of 14 Iraqi police and soldiers, saying a 72-hour deadline had passed for their demands to be met. The group posted a video Tuesday showing the 14 and demanding the release of all female prisoners in Iraqi prisons.
In a statement that preceded the new video's footage, the group said its religious court "ruled that God's verdict should be implemented against the renegades."
The 14 hostages, wearing their uniforms, were shown kneeling on the ground in a single line, blindfolded, with their hands tied behind their backs.
An insurgent wearing a ski mask shot the men one by one in the back of the head from close range, causing them to tumble to the ground.
The killings took place in what looked like a rural area, with a grass field and several tall eucalyptus trees. A small wooden shack stood in the background.
The authenticity of the one and a half minute video could not be verified, but it appeared on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants and carried the logo of the Islamic State of Iraq's media production wing, al-Furqan.