In late October 2016 a number of tabloids and bloggers published a tale that was as harrowing as it was improbable and thinly-sourced, asserting that ISIS operatives had murdered 250 children (largely toddlers) by placing them into a dough kneader:
Various versions of the story were published by multiple news outlets, but none of them provided verification of the extraordinary claim:
A distraught mother has relived the horrors of the brutal rule of ISIS and revealed how the extremist group would 'knead children to death in bakery machines'.
Alice Assaf said her son was killed 'because he was called George' and refused to identify himself by a Muslim name.
Ms Assaf claims ISIS slaughtered Christians in Syria, kneading children to death in bread machines and 'baking men in ovens'.
Ms Assaf said during the massacre she and her son had sought refuge in the home of a Muslim neighbour, who betrayed them ... 'Later on, we heard that the militants grabbed six strong men working at the bakery and burned them inside the oven,' she said.
'After that, they caught some 250 kids and kneaded them like dough in the bakery dough machine.'
A popular version of the rumor remained in circulation on Facebook as of 9 February 2017, along with an unrelated image that was previously used to accompany claims that ISIS was placing children into cages and burning them alive:
The horrifying and frequently repeated story appeared to originate with a single source, Alice Assaf and the organization "Roads of Success." "Roads of Success" has a web page devoted to Assaf[f], but it comprises only links to media coverage about a video of Assaf's making the claims, not any independent documentation of her claims.
Each of the linked news items references a 14 September 2016 YouTube video in which Assaf repeated secondhand accounts of the rumor that ISIS operatives were placing children into dough kneading machines and asserted that her son George was murdered by the same militants for reasons related to his religion and his use of an English name:
We were unable to locate any other reports from persons who claimed to have knowledge of the claimed atrocity, which resembled an earlier questionable tale that ISIS had murdered a young man and fed his remains to his unwitting mother.