x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Islamist militants admit to beheading the wrong person

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ask the dead man for forgiveness and say the mistake occurred after the man utter the names of Shiite figures.

BEIRUT // Al Qaeda-linked militants in Syria have admitted beheading a fellow rebel by mistake after believing him to be an Iraqi Shiite fighting alongside regime forces.

An online video posted on Wednesday showed two members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant holding up a bearded man’s head before a crowd in Aleppo in northern Syria.

They said he was an Iraqi Shiite who had been fighting among the ranks of Bashar Al Assad’s forces.

“Some minutes after the video was posted, the man was identified as Mohammed Marroush, a fighter with rebel group Ahrar Al Sham,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said yesterday.

The Islamist Ahrar Al Sham is an ally of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant “later admitted the rebel had been killed by mistake and said it had arrested one of its men, a Tunisian, for decapitating him. He was referred to their Islamic court.”

The second man, also a foreign fighter and from the Gulf, has not been detained.

Marroush had been wounded in fighting at a regime military base east of Aleppo, Syria’s second city and former commercial hub.

In the battle, rebel and Islamist militant groups squared up against Syrian soldiers backed by members of Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbollah movement and Iraqi Shiites of the Abu Fadl Al Abbas group.

Marroush was taken to hospital outside Aleppo for treatment, and in his drugged state was heard to repeat the names Ali and Hussein, two venerated Shiite imams.

“This was the last thing he had heard from the Shiite fighters before being wounded,” an observatory statement said.

The two Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters “deduced he was a Shiite fighter and cut his head off,” it added, calling the decapitation “a war crime”.

An Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant leader, Omar Al Qahtani, said on Twitter that Marroush had thought he had been captured by the enemy and lied, saying he was a Shiite.

Extremist Sunnis deem Shiites to be apostates.

“He called out the name ‘Hussein’, and those present in the hospital thought he was a [pro-regime] prisoner,” Al Qahtani said.

“Under questioning, he claimed to be Shiite ... so the brothers killed him,” he said, asking the dead man for forgiveness.

“Mistakes happen on the battlefield all the time,” Al Qahtani said.

Meanwhile, the rebels suffered losses in the battlefield yesterday. A Syrian air strike killed a senior commander of the Islamist Liwa Al Tawhid rebel brigade in Aleppo and wounded its chief and another leader.

Four more rebel chiefs were killed in other incidents, three in the northern Aleppo province and the fourth in Homs to its south, the observatory said.

* Agence France-Presse