Crowd-Funded Journalists Geo-Locate ISIS Training Camp Using the Militants’ Own Photos


Using photographs released by the militant group ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and satellite imagery openly available to everybody, a group of crowd-funded citizen journalists believe they have pinned down the location of an ISIS training camp.

The group is Bellingcat, whose founder Eliot Higgins made a name for himself by proving chemical weapons were being using in Syria using only images and videos available online, made the discovery a couple of days ago and have posted a detailed explanation of their process here.


Basically, using video and photos of an ISIS ‘graduation’ and martial arts lessons coupled with satellite imagery from Google Earth and Flash Earth, as well as geolocation data from Panoramio, were able to pinpoint what they believe is the exact location of this training camp in Mosul, Iraq based on bridges and other landmarks pictured.

“In the entire area there’s only one possible location that matches,” writes Higgins, “on the north side of the [Tigris] river, with the camera pointing south.”


This is a big find for the group, which raised some £51,000 (~$85,000 USD) earlier this month to pursue this particular brand of citizen journalism.

According to The Telegraph, they are currently using the same methodology applied here to try and pinpoint the location of photojournalist James Foley’s murder.

(via Defense One)

  • OtterMatt

    Awesome. When do we carpet-bomb it?

  • SwedishKiwi

    Carpet-bombing? What kind of comment is that?

    It’s obvious that a nuke will do the job better.

  • pgb0517

    And now, some well-meaning “CJs” having tipped them off, they will be able to hide their location better in the future.


    like the governments didn’t know about these locations now these idiots will be even more careful or who knows with them.

  • Ren Arrieta

    In this day and age the saying that you can run but you can’t hide rings true…….

  • Al Borrelli

    It’s cool and all, but WHY brag about it??!! Just help the authorities
    find and stop these bastards, but don’t brag about HOW you did it. Now
    ISIS will change how they do things knowing HOW we got the info.
    Stupid.. really stupid. So desperate for news and attention we blow a
    chance on actionable intelligence. Stupid.

  • niXerKG

    I think you’re getting worked up over nothing. I am pretty sure the NSA/NGO have whole groups of people who do the same thing and probably have been for years. How exactly do you think they verify images/videos terrorist post online. Not to mention, all the spy satellites, drones, intelligence networks and agents that we employ to do the same thing.

  • kso721

    And now they know we know… but that’s pretty dope!

  • videoflyer

    It’s the only way to be sure.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Nuke’em till they glow?

  • OtterMatt

    Go look up the VFYW contest and see how comfortable you feel about your vacation photos after that, lol. The internet is a wild place, man.

  • William Lanteigne

    Cluster bomb.

  • judesrphotography

    Well, you better believe that if they WERE there, now they’re gone and they won’t let it happen again probably. Sheesh. For all the intelligence the approach showed, the ‘letting it out of the bag’ showed some idiotic stupidity. Yes, not just stupidity, IDIOTIC stupidity.

    So, thanks for nuthing group that COULD have made a difference had you kept your mouth shut.

  • DarwXn

    What exactly are they supposed to do? Call 911 and tell them they know where an ISIS training camp is? It is not as easy to get a meeting with top military officials as I think you believe.

  • Chang 场河

    Now for a few targeted air strikes.

  • John Adkins

    If I had to guess, I’d say the members of ISIS aren’t reading PetaPixel or the other blogs where this info has been presented. I could be wrong though.

  • Keyser Soze

    Just an FYI to anyone reading this: “Journalist” is officially government code-speak for “CIA operative”

  • Phase19

    It’s not a journalist’s job to help the authorities…

  • Al Borrelli

    It’s also irresponsible to help ISIS.

  • Al Borrelli

    You’d be surprised how up to speed these groups are in regards to online media/news.

  • Al Borrelli

    Yes. It’s incredibly easy to contact FBI/DHS. They have phone numbers right on their homepages for exactly this sort of purpose.

  • Al Borrelli

    Yes, perhaps. But the point being is the the NSA/other agencies aren’t announcing to the world that they’re doing this for exactly the reasons I mention. They’re acting on it (if possible). They’re not announcing to the world/ISIS, “hey guys, this is how we found out information which led to us striking you”.. in fact, they try to keep their ‘source’ hidden so it cannot be compromised and so that it continues to be a source of information. This way they can use it again in the future. I guarantee that any videos/photos posted by ISIS in the future will be much more sanitized for exactly these reasons.

  • Al Borrelli

    On what? Strike empty streets bridges that no longer have these guys on them because they know we know they’re there?

  • Chang 场河

    Dude, calm down. I completely support crushing these guys.

  • Al Borrelli

    Haha, i didn’t realize I was being excitable.. ;) I just thought some airstrikes now would be kind of pointless. Now, put a few thousand boots on the ground and truly crush these guys. Yep, let’s roll.

  • Joseph Guilbert

    Exactly. Ego…look what I did. It s better to talk about news than make things happen that are news worthy.

  • ajfudge

    After this article was posted, ISIS started photoshopping their press releases and Petapixel will compile their photoshop fails.
    But seriously, shouldn’t this information be classified?