08/01/2012 07:25 am ET Updated Oct 01, 2012

Syria Killings: Horrific Details Of Summary Executions Emerge

By Hadeel Al Shalchi and Erika Solomon

AZAZ/ALEPPO, Syria, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Rebel fighter Ahmed chuckles as he tells the story of the Syrian army sniper who was captured and executed by rebels, shot dead after a "trial" conducted at his own graveside.

He says Rami the sniper, firing from a high minaret at the local mosque, killed many rebels and civilians before he was seized by fighters from Ahmed's Amr bin al-Aas brigade which operates around the northern Syrian town of Azaz.

"We took him right to his grave and, after hearing the witnesses' statements, we shot him dead," said Ahmed, who has a rich, black beard and a broad, easy smile.

The rebels are waging a 17-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, during which government forces have frequently been accused of carrying out summary executions and other violations against fighters and civilians.

But video footage of a purported execution of pro-Assad militia and rebels making a gloating victory tour of an Aleppo police station still strewn with bodies, suggest both sides are capable of brutalities. And rebels themselves say they have no cause to show mercy to their opponents.

One of the witnesses at Rami's "trial" was a man who said he lost two sons to the sniper. But beyond a few witness statements, the justice dispensed appeared to be summary, at best.

Ahmed said his forces often capture a handful of soldiers in battle, and would know the names and faces of certain commanders or soldiers who were loyal to Assad. They would create courts for the captured men, and execute them.

"The culture of lawyers has long passed. I mean a guy like that," Ahmed said, referring to Rami the sniper. "What do you think his fate should be?"


Further south in Aleppo, a dozen prisoners stand against a wall with their hands above their heads, hours after surrendering to rebels who overran their police station on the southern fringes of the city, not the same building as the one shown in the video.

The former police officials face an uncertain fate at the hands of fighters who said they would be put on trial in front of a Sharia (religious) court. Sharia justice, implemented in its most literal form, can involve eye-for-an-eye retribution, up to and including the death penalty.

Others who chose to resist the rebel attack on the police station in Salheen district were overwhelmed and killed after a battle which activists said lasted several hours.

One of the policemen said he received a call from the rebels on Monday night, a few hours before the attack started, saying that if he wished to surrender he should bring his men out with their hands raised, chanting "God is Greater".

"I told my guys: 'Tomorrow when they come in, drop your weapons'. This morning we didn't fire a single bullet," he said, in a school building being used by the Aleppo rebels as a base and a prison for the captives.

"Of course at that moment we were very frightened, but they kept saying we would be safe so we went out and everything went as planned," he said.

None of the captives, wearing regular civilian trousers and shirts, showed signs of having been mistreated since they gave themselves up.

"Notice we haven't hit them in the face," said Abu Bakr, one of the rebel leaders at the school base. "Have we hit you once?" he asked, and was answered by a vigorous shaking of heads by his captives.

"These prisoners will be transferred to sharia courts to be tried by judges and clerics who have defected from the regime, and religious scholars," he said, adding their fate was in the hands of the rebel 'courts'.

"It depends on what the court decides and whether they have blood on their hands. Whatever they decide we will commit to that. For now they are going to prison."

As he spoke, a cleric in white turban and cloak entered and began talking to the captives.

Despite the reassurances, signs of growing brutality are present across Aleppo, Syria's biggest city and a possibly decisive prize in the 17-month struggle for power between Assad and the rebel forces.

Next to a nearby building two bodies lay on the ground - a police commander and his driver, according to the rebels - the last remaining corpses of the men killed at the police station.

Inside the school, an older man wearing a light blue robe appeared, his eyes puffy from beatings and blood dripping from his mouth. He was carried by apologetic men - interrogators who had mistaken him for a member of the pro-Assad shabbiha militia.

A rebel spoke of another captive, believed to be from the shabbiha. "Even I got to step on him," he said.

"He deserved to be killed. He has raped women and shot protesters. Everyone in Aleppo hated him and we've finally got our hands on him. For sure he is going to be killed"

Asked if he would be killed immediately, the rebel replied: "No, we will send him to be tried, but I can't imagine he won't get the death sentence".



09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT

Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air

09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT

Syrian City In Flames

08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT

Lebanese Pilgrim Freed


Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT

Daraya, Syria


This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)

08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT

Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months

Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.

The AP gives more context:

Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.

Read more on HuffPost World.

08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT

Tripoli, Lebanon


A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT

Refugee Numbers Soar

@ KenRoth :

UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted.

08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT

Azaz, Syria


Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT

Heaviest Bombardment This Month

Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.

"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.

Read more on HuffPost World.

08/23/2012 10:56 AM EDT

Al Aan-Reporter Jenan Moussa Tweets:

@ jenanmoussa :

Graphic. We saw in a mosque in #Syria these 4 children staring at dead body. Pic by @HaraldDoornbos: #warsucks @akhbar