DIWANIYAH, Iraq, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Iraqi soldier Ali Hussein Kadhim, who was captured by the Islamic State (IS) in June, was one of the few survivors of a massacre of Shiites.
When IS took the control of Tikrit Palace and captured hundreds of soldiers surrounding it, the group separated the men by sect: Sunnis were allowed to disavow the government and Shiites were grouped for execution. The Shiites were piled into trucks where many of them suffocated before reaching various execution sites.
Kadhim, a Shiite, watched as three men were lined up and shot in the head before he felt a bullet narrowly miss his own skull. He pretended to be shot and collapsed into a trench dug by the militants. One of the militants stopped and noticed he was still breathing.
"Just let him suffer," said another jihadist. "He's an infidel Shia. Let him suffer. Let him bleed."
After four hours, he crawled to a riverbank where he saw an injured man named Abbas who was also shot before being shoved in the river. The two stayed there for three days, eating insects and plants.
"It was three days of hell," Kadhim told the New York Times.
He left the bank and Abbas behind as his companion was too injured to move. Kadhim, 23, was sheltered by various strangers until he was reunited with his family -- his wife and two children -- three weeks later.
Approximately 1,700 Shiite soldiers have been killed by IS. Amnesty International released a report Tuesday accusing the group of ethnic cleansing. The advance and violence of IS in Iraq and Syria has received global attention with world leaders calling for the destruction of the radical militant group.