The small Kurdish girl pictured firing a huge machine gun

Various copies of a video of a Kurdish girl firing a gun has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube Image copyright Youtube / Kurdish YPG
Image caption Various copies of a video of a Kurdish girl firing a gun has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube

Does a video of a Kurdish girl firing a machine gun mean that those fighting Islamic State are now mimicking their propaganda techniques?

The girl looks about six or seven years old. She chats away with an off-camera adult, possibly her father, who asks her how many Islamic State fighters she has killed. "Four hundred!" she says, speaking in a Kurdish dialect local to Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq.

Then the little girl leans over a machine gun bigger than she is, and using both hands, she fires away into the distance. As the shots echo across the desert, the man behind the camera eggs her on: "Kill! Kill!"

The striking footage appears to have first surfaced in mid-January on a Facebook page devoted to pro-Kurdish videos, and shortly thereafter it cropped up on a YouTube channel called "Kurdish YPG". The YPG, or People's Protection Units, are the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syria.

The Kurdish YPG channel includes several other films glorifying the famous female Kurdish fighting battalions, alongside films about cooking potatoes and other random subjects. The channel also includes reports ripped straight from news organisations - here's a link to the original version of one of the news reports featured on the channel, a BBC video about Kurdish female warriors.

It's unclear how popular the video of the girl was until the social news site Vocativ reported on it a week ago - but since then other news outlets have picked up the story and various versions have clocked up hundreds of thousands of views in total.

The Islamic State militants who control huge areas in Syria and Iraq have increasingly been using children in propaganda videos. So does the video of the girl herald a new propaganda tactic on the part of Kurdish militias who are fighting IS?

It's unlikely, according to media analyst Hiwa Osman. "I think this is an isolated incident," he told BBC Trending via phone from the Iraqi city of Irbil. "I haven't seen other videos such as this - the most militarised pictures I've seen are of children dressing in the clothes of the Peshmerga [Iraqi Kurdistan fighters] for celebrations."

Osman added that Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq have gone out of their way to avoid mimicking the techniques of Islamic State. "After a failed [IS] attack in Kirkuk, one of the militants fell into the hands of the public, and the people who captured him were angry, and they beheaded him. The military leaders and the political leaders in the area came out strongly against the beheading. They don't want to be seen to be using the tactics of ISIS."

It's also clear that the girl isn't actually shooting at IS troops, says British-Kurdish blogger Ruwayda Mustafah. There are no other fighters or any other people pictured in the video, and the girl and the man behind the camera don't appear to be in any danger.

"I've seen the footage on several Facebook pages in Kurdish. Most people are outraged at the prospect of a young girl 'shooting'" Mustafah says. "But it's obvious from the video that this is just sensationalist and not factual ... the girl in the video hasn't really killed 400 ISIS terrorists."

Messages to the Facebook account that initially posted the video went unanswered, but Trending did manage to speak to the man behind the YouTube channel. The man, who (somewhat oddly) lives in Gaza, says he has no Kurdish family connection - he says he simply admires the Kurdish fighters and also runs websites and blogs devoted to the Russian Army and other fighting forces.

Blog by Mike Wendling

Reporting by Jihan Alfarra, Mustafa Hamo, Mai Noman

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