The defiant expression of Iraqi Army officer Abu Bakr al-Samaraei facing execution at the hands of Isis has become a source of pride for Iraqi social media users.

Pictures showing the execution of three men, identified by social media users as Sunni officer Samaraei and two Shia border patrol officers, were released by an Isis-linked channel on 21 February.

In what appear to be stills from a video, Samaraei is pictured kneeling on the ground, looking upwards, while his executioner stands behind him. In one image, the executioner holds a knife to his neck.

Samaraei was a first lieutenant in the Iraqi army and was reportedly involved in the fight to liberate Mosul, Iraq's second largest city that was captured by Isis in 2014. A hashtag praising "the martyr Abu Bakr al-Samaraei" quickly spread on social media.

IBTimes UK could not independently verify the images.

Former diplomat Lukman Faily, who served as the Iraqi ambassador to Japan and the US, was one of the many who admired the soldier's steadfastness in the face of death.

"It is said that a picture reflects more than a thousand words, I say that this image reflects the entire history of standing against terrorism and keeping your head high" he wrote on Twitter in Arabic. He then posted the photo with an English caption: "The pride and defiance of an Iraqi officer while he is being martyred via beheading."

Faily also shared a video of Samaraei interviewed by Iraqi media. "Dignity will always triumph over love. Love without dignity is not worth a thing," Samaraei said in the undated video.

Other social media users doctored Samaraei's image to show him hugging the country of Iraq.

Iraqi analyst Hayder al-Khoei wrote: "A country with heroes like him cannot die. Rather than instil fear in Iraqis, Isis have made his martyrdom a source of pride for all Iraqis."

Twitter user Bin Maymun agreed, referring to Isis by its Arabic acronym: "Daesh may have killed one Bakr, but Iraq will give birth to 1,000 Bakrs."