x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Syria rebels vow to punish atrocities after video outrage

Free Syrian Army pledges to 'severely punish' atrocities after a gruesome video of an alleged rebel fighter cutting out and apparently eating the heart and lungs of a regime soldier emerged online.

The mother of a Syrian rebel cleans a rifle in Aleppo.
The mother of a Syrian rebel cleans a rifle in Aleppo.

DAMASCUS // The rebel Free Syrian Army pledged yesterday to punish atrocities amid outrage over a video showing the mutilation of a corpse.

Syria's internet, meanwhile, was down for the second time in a week while on the ground rebels launched an attack on the central prison in Aleppo, sparking fierce fighting with regime forces, a watchdog said.

The mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) issued its statement after a gruesome video of an alleged rebel fighter cutting out and apparently eating the organs of a regime soldier emerged online.

"Any act contrary to the values that the Syrian people have paid their blood and lost their homes (for) will not be tolerated, the abuser will be punished severely even if they are associated with the Free Syrian Army," the group said.

It said field commanders had been instructed "to begin a prompt investigation into the matter in which the perpetrator will be brought to justice".

Investigations would also be held into whether the rebel in the video is a member of the FSA or not, it said.

The man in the video, identified as Khalid Al Hamad, defended his actions in an interview with Time, saying he was driven to them by footage on the dead soldier's phone showing him "humiliating" a naked women and her two daughters.

He expressed sectarian hatred of all members of the Alawite community, the religious minority to which Mr Al Assad belongs.

His actions were also condemned by Syria's opposition National Coalition, as well as the US State Department and the UN.

The gruesome incident raised new fears about the potential for grisly sectarian violence in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday that three captured army officers had been summarily executed in the northern city of Raqa by fighters belonging to the extremist Jabhat Al Nusra group.

The state news agency SANA said the internet blackout was caused by a fault with a fibre-optic cable.

The power cut was also reported by Google, which showed a drop-off in internet service that started yesterday morning, and by internet tracking firm Renesys.

Internet in the country has regularly been cut, most recently on May 7, with it being restored some 24 hours later.

On the ground, Syrian regime forces fought to repel the attack on the central prison in Aleppo after rebels blew up its walls in suicide car bombings, the Observatory said.

About 4,000 prisoners including Islamists and common law criminals are held in the prison on the outskirts of the northern city, which is largely under rebel control, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The Observatory said on Tuesday that at least 94,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, revising upwards a previous toll of 82,000.