(CNN) — Reports that ISIS burned alive up to 40 people near the town of al-Baghdadi in Iraq’s massive Anbar province are true, an Iraqi official told CNN on Wednesday.
Anbar provincial council chairman Sabah Karkhout said he was advised by his field commanders near the al-Baghdadi front line that ISIS militants killed at least 40 police officers and tribesman, and that most of the victims were “burned to death.”
ISIS seized control of most of the town last week. It’s located just nine miles north of the Ayn al-Asad airbase, where some 400 U.S. military personnel are stationed to train Iraqi pilots in the fight against ISIS.
CNN cannot independently confirm that the people were burned to death.
Iraqi Security Forces have given accounts in situation reports obtained by CNN that speak of Iraqi forces and tribesmen killed by ISIS, but it was not clear whether their bodies burned before or after their deaths.
ISIS has not published any images of the reported killings as they have frequently done in the past, but Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in response to a question at Wednesday’s Pentagon briefing that he had heard about it and had seen imagery.
“It’s being analyzed,” Kirby said. “I’m not in a position as we speak right now to confirm the authenticity of it.”
The jihadist group did release photographs via social media on Tuesday that purportedly show them in full control of al-Baghdadi township, including telltale images of recognizable al-Baghdadi government buildings, and corpses of Iraqi joint forces there.
Speaking about the reports of burned bodies at Wednesday’s Pentagon briefing, Kirby said, “Certainly (it) wouldn’t surprise any of us here if it turns out to be authentic and true, given the kinds of atrocities that this group continues to wage against innocent civilians. But we’re — we’re looking at it now, and just not in a position to confirm.”