ISIL executes rivals in Syria: rights group

ISIL executed eight men in Deir Hafer in the east of Aleppo province' on Saturday because they belonged to a rival group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Powered by automated translation

BEIRUT // Islamist militants in Syria have publicly executed and crucified eight rebels fighting both president Bashar Al Assad’s regime and the extremist group they are loyal to, a monitor said on Sunday.

The report comes amid fierce clashes on the outskirts of Damascus between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is spearheading a major offensive in Iraq, and rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“ISIL executed eight men in Deir Hafer in the east of Aleppo province” on Saturday because they belonged to rebel groups that had fought against the militants as well as Mr Al Assad’s forces, it said.

ISIL then “crucified them in the main square of the village, where their bodies will remain for three days”, the Britain-based monitor said.

Also in Aleppo province, a ninth man was crucified for eight hours as a form of punishment in Al Bab town near the border with Turkey.

He survived the ordeal.

ISIL first emerged in Syria’s war in late spring last year and was initially welcomed by some Syrian rebels who believed its combat experience would help topple Mr Al Assad.

But subsequent abuses quickly turned the Syrian opposition, including Islamists, against the group.

Rebels launched a major anti-ISIL offensive in January 2014, and have pushed them out of large swathes of Aleppo province and all of Idlib in the north-west.

However, ISIL remains firmly rooted in Raqa, its northern Syrian headquarters, and wields significant power in Deir Ezzor in the east near the border with Iraq.

Activists say the group’s Iraq offensive and capture of heavy weapons — some of them US-made — appears to have boosted its confidence in Syria.

Until recently, the regime had rarely targeted ISIL bastions, but ever since the jihadists’ Iraq offensive, the air force has intensified its strikes against ISIL areas.

“On Sunday, there were intense air raids on Raqa and Buseira” in Deir Ezzor, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

“It appears Assad’s regime wants to make the United States, which fears ISIL’s advances, see it as a partner in the war on terror,” he said.

Nonetheless, most of the victims in the air strikes in recent days, “some 80 per cent”, have been civilians, Mr Abdel Rahman added.

East of Damascus, “fierce clashes broke out early Sunday between rebels from the Army of Islam and ISIL near the town of Hammuriyeh”, the Observatory said.

The Army of Islam is a major component of the Islamic Front, Syria’s largest rebel coalition which has been fighting ISIL for months, but such fighting in Damascus province is unprecedented.

Regime soldiers and warplanes backed by Hizbollah, meanwhile, pounded rebel positions near the capital, said the Local Coordination Committees activist network.

* Agence France-Presse