Middle East

Islamist rebels execute Alawite men in Raqqa

The Raqqa Media Center released a video of the execution.

BEIRUT: Al-Qaeda-linked gunmen with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) executed two men they said were members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa Monday, according to activists and witnesses.

An activist with the Raqqa Media Center, Mohammad Raqqawi, who attended the execution, told The Daily Star that the men were Alawite members of Assad’s security forces who were detained during the “liberation” of the city, when rebels aligned with the ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham jihadist brigades expelled Assad forces in March.

“They were Alawite soldiers working in some of the security branches in Raqqa governorate,” he said, without further elaboration on the charges against the men.

In a video released by the Raqqa Media Center, the two men were shown bound and blindfolded, kneeling in the central Naim Square as a large crowd gathered.

Two masked men armed with handguns then approach them from behind, shooting each twice – once in the upper back and once in the back of the head.

The crowd then charges forward, cheering while gunmen fire automatic weapons in the air.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group confirmed the account, also adding that a woman who questioned the executions was told the men were “Nusayri [Alawite] apostates who have raped our women.” According to the Observatory, the woman responded: “You are the apostates and we are all Syrians.” The Daily Star could not confirm that account.

ISIS executed three men in one of Raqqa’s squares on May 14, accusing them of being regime soldiers and officers. It later turned out that two of the men were civilian Alawites from Aleppo, a doctor and his nephew, a school teacher, according to the Observatory.

The footage emerged Monday as Islamist fighters from the Nusra Front announced they had killed at least 30 Alawites during an attack on three villages in central Syria last week.

In a statement posted online, the Nusra Front said that its fighters attacked the predominantly Alawite villages of Maksar al-Hasan, Jab al-Jarrah and Al-Massoudiyeh in Homs province Tuesday. It said they seized Maksar al-Hasan for 10 hours before being forced to withdraw, while the group’s artillery destroyed the other two villages.

The group, which is among the most effective rebel outfits and designated a terrorist organization by the United States, said it killed more than 30 Alawites and seized 10 Russian-made weapons as well as ammunition, cars and other equipment in the assault.

It added that the attack was aimed at avenging “the lives of Muslim sons and women who were killed in eastern Ghouta,” a reference to the suspected chemical attack last month on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus that both the rebels and the U.S. blame on the Assad regime.

The Observatory said Sunday that activists had confirmed the deaths of 22 villagers in Maksar al-Hasan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 17, 2013, on page 8.




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