Al-Qaeda 'war crimes': execution of civilians and opponents in Syria

Reports have emerged of a rash of mass executions in north Syria, where armed extremist groups have jockeyed for control.

Special to Khabar by Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

March 05, 2014
Reset Text smaller larger

Armed extremist groups in Syria such as the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) have been using murder and executions to intimidate people and impose their control in opposition-held areas, analysts said.

  • Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) members fight government forces on the outskirts of Aleppo. JAN members have also battled other al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria. [Baraa al-Halabi/AFP]

    Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) members fight government forces on the outskirts of Aleppo. JAN members have also battled other al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria. [Baraa al-Halabi/AFP]

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in January said it received reports of a series of mass executions of civilians and fighters who were no longer participating in hostilities by hard-line armed opposition groups in Syria, in particular the ISIL.

"While exact numbers are difficult to verify, reliable eyewitness testimony that we have gathered suggests that many civilians and fighters in the custody of extremist armed opposition groups have been executed since the beginning of this year," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

"The execution of civilians and individuals no longer participating in hostilities is a clear violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes."

Reports suggest that in the first week of January, numerous individuals were executed in Idlib by armed opposition groups.

"Execution, per se, if carried out by a party that does not have the capacity to do so by law, amounts to a crime," said Cairo University international criminal law professor Wael al-Sharimi. "This applies to the case in Syria, wherein the warring parties, particularly ISIL and JAN, are carrying out physical elimination without any legal cover.

"It is also very clear that execution and murder in this manner cannot be classified as killing in the course of battle since many of the executions were carried out against unarmed civilians, and many others against fighters who had surrendered."

Al-Qaeda's MO

The modus operandi of al-Qaeda and its affiliates is murder, whether by public executions or suicide bombings, said military analyst and al-Qaeda affairs specialist Abdul Karim Ahmed.

"Therefore, it is not surprising that militants from such organisations execute in cold blood, anyone who opposes their views," he said.

In December 2013, ISIL fighters executed a mentally disabled Syrian fuel vendor in Saraqeb, sparking criticism of the group's misappropriation of Islam as a pretext for their crimes.

"What helps them implement this modus operandi is the militants' weak religious knowledge and their delusion of the need to carry out orders under the pretext of 'real' fatwas, i.e. fatwas issued in response to a specific and emergent event," Ahmed said.

ISIL and JAN use the same method to intimidate people, said Mahmoud Rafih, an activist with the local co-ordination committee in Manbij.

Contrary to Islamic tradition, corpses are not buried within 24 hours and instead are left out in full view for days. Rafih said this strikes horror in the hearts of citizens and combatants alike. Infighting and fragmentation

Al-Qaeda-linked groups that say they are trying to establish an Islamic state in Syria fight among themselves for control of Syria's economic resources, Ahmed, the military analyst, pointed out.

"What is happening in Syria clearly reveals two things: the first is how far removed al-Qaeda elements are from the Islamic slogans they pretend to promote," said Ahmed, "in particular the unity of Muslims and the predominance of the citizens' interest over any other, putting instead their personal interests above all and displaying their internal conflicts."

"The second is the fragmentation of al-Qaeda," he said.

Reader Comments
CLICK HERE to Add a Comment
    • Alfius Rumkorem
      May 5, 2014 @ 04:05:30AM
    • The 2014 parliament election for the seats in the House of Representatives is a fiasco. This is the worst it has ever been. Every candidate utilizes money. It is embarrassing because it violates the religious norms in this country. The Islamic and Christian religions do not teach that. It seems like Indonesians are religious only to the extent that it is stated on their ID cards. That is why, before they apply for candidacy as people's representatives, we should find out about their early lives. Today many of them have become residents of psychiatric hospitals.
    • ipin
      May 3, 2014 @ 07:05:55PM
    • Does anyone know how to join the Black Flag army in Syria? Please provide me with information.
    • dzaky
      April 29, 2014 @ 08:04:49PM
    • Let us all learn more about this and not insult each other because we don't know the real issues.
    • radia darmawan
      May 5, 2014 @ 08:05:35AM
    • I agree with Dzaky, we must be discerning when we receive news from any party. There is no guarantee that what is conveyed will be the truth. What is clear is that Islam forbids the killing of humans except when under attack (self defense).
    • Alfius Rumkorem
      April 29, 2014 @ 02:04:15AM
    • Mr. Abashom, you are very correct. The war in Syria is being waged by America, Israel, and France in support of the Contra group and Russia, Iran and China who support Assad (government) with the intention of planting capital in Syria should they win. It's about oil, my friends. Follow the issues closely and you will know which countries are supplying weapons to Syria. So, for those who want to comment, please leave good comments. Thanks.
    • Ansor
      April 21, 2014 @ 09:04:01AM
    • The war in Syria is purely in defense of virtue. The Shia are not Islam, they are infidels. Islam does not teach to kill but to defend from slander and enemy attack. There are no other teachings as perfect as Islam, this site means to provoke but sorry, you are wrong, I love Islam.
    • apri
      April 17, 2014 @ 11:04:44AM
    • Which one is true?
    • impron
      April 16, 2014 @ 08:04:17AM
    • I do not like it when Muslims are fighting each other but I dislike wicked rulers like Bashar Assad and his cronies even more.
    • Dedi
      April 14, 2014 @ 10:04:42PM
    • It is not justified for a Muslim to kill infidels indiscriminately, the sin is equal to killing the entire human race. We can only go to war if war is waged on us and we are expelled from our homeland because we have faith in Allah. This kind of infidel is called harbi (evil) infidels, we are obligated to be just towards all people including non-Muslims because it brings us closer to observance. Today there are many heretical teachings that claim to be Islam like the Shia in Syria. The Shia are not Islam but they claim to be Islam. How can you be Islam if they deny the Prophet's Hadith by saying that all the disciples besides Ali RA are infidels when the Prophet's Hadith makes certain that they are inheritors of heaven, including Ali RA. This is the same as saying the Prophet is wrong. Saying the Prophet is wrong is an infidel act because all that was said by the Prophet did not come from His desires. The prophet's nature is not like that and He is guided by Allah.
    • radi
      May 5, 2014 @ 09:05:47AM
    • It is unlikely that ISIS and JAN would do that.
    • mira
      April 12, 2014 @ 08:04:52AM
    • The above is a cruel and slanderous piece of news. The JN and ISIS are noble fighters, we will not be affected by garbage news.
    • Pembela ISIS
      April 12, 2014 @ 07:04:51AM
    • Whatever the news and however it is presented I would still not believe it because your news are lies. Your site might be among the sites funded by the Christians, Shia or Jews. Long live ISIS, long live the Islamic nation.
    • Alfius Rumkorem
      April 8, 2014 @ 02:04:03AM
    • Every person born in this world serves the Creator's purpose, to bear fruit and do good for Allah the Creator by helping people who need our help. Before our ancestors knew religion, they already had love in their hearts (then we were still infidels who according to our teachings had not known Allah's teachings), Therefore, we were baffled when we heard that people are calling others infidels and must be killed. There are members of our family that follow Christianity while we are Muslims. Must I kill them because they are infidels? Rather than hating them I would sooner return my religion to its country of origin, Saudi Arabia, so that we can live in peace like we used to. My brother said, "Is it forbidden to use the things that are discovered by Christians like electricity, airplanes, ships, computers and the internet - things we use today?" I had no answer for him. Thank you.
    • Charles KYS
      April 4, 2014 @ 05:04:26AM
    • Truly unfortunate.
    • pendi
      April 3, 2014 @ 10:04:47AM
    • That is a lie.
    • teno hikmatiar
      April 3, 2014 @ 01:04:54AM
    • Subahanallah, it is rather difficult to obtain credible information from Syria because they all just bring each other down. The unfortunate thing is that each of them claim that they are waging war in the name of jihad for truth. Consider again whether jihad entails killing fellow Muslims. They all kneel before their God and yet they kill each other. It is perplexing and confusing. Repent, oh, Muslims.
    • alwi
      April 2, 2014 @ 09:04:51PM
    • This site belongs to the Shia, specifically the Ijabi, It is no wonder to me that they publish items that back the Syrian Mujahideen into a corner. The reality is that the war in Syria is not only to topple the B. Assad government but to destroy people who damage the Islamic principles like the Shia and other infidel groups. The Mujahideen will not falter in killing the enemies of Islam because it is the mandate of the Prophet SAW.
    • uzair
      March 27, 2014 @ 01:03:03AM
    • Be careful with opinions because opinions can stifle the spirit of the mujahideen. In the world of the internet, the hypocrites spread doubt amongst laymen, random news and lies. They are the collaborators of the Zionists who have become slaves to America, the Jews and the Christians.
    • abashom
      April 7, 2014 @ 06:04:31PM
    • Open your eyes, my fellow Muslim brothers, what you are fighting for in Syria is actually a scenario by America and Israel to pit Muslims against each other. Think on this: where in Islam is it taught that killing a fellow Muslims gains you entry into paradise? You have been tricked by the agents of America and Israel through the fatwas of clerics under their influence. Realize this before it is too late.
    • Jeki
      March 20, 2014 @ 04:03:30AM
    • This is the result of interpreting the teachings of religion, things get messy when everyone has their own interpretation and this makes it difficult.

Add A Comment (Comments Policy)* denotes required field



The most important issue in Indonesia's presidential election is:

Photo Essay

Mariyah Nibosu, whose husband was shot dead in 2009 by unknown gunmen, stands outside her home in September 2013 in the state-run 'widows' village' of Rotan Batu, 20km from Narathiwat. "Women suffer a lot here," she said. "But we are strong. We have to feed our children by ourselves. We have to survive." [Christophe Archambault/AFP]

As Thailand's Deep South insurgency drags on, families suffer, persevere