Islamic State fighters execute 250 Syrian soldiers
BAGHDAD: Islamic State fighters say they have “executed”
250 Syrian soldiers, as President Barack Obama prepares to hold crisis talks
with his security aides. The soldiers were captured at the weekend when the
Sunni militant group seized an air base in the province of Raqqa, in northern
The Reuters news agency said a video posted on YouTube
on Thursday and purportedly showing dozens of bodies was confirmed as genuine
by an Islamic State fighter.
In Washington, the White House said Obama was due to
meet with Vice President Joe Biden and members of his National Security
Council. The meeting will take place at 4pm local time (9pm UK time) in the
White House Situation Room.
The video shows the bodies of scores of men wearing
nothing but their underwear lying face down. The line of bodies appears to be
dozens of metres long.
A caption written underneath says: “The 250 shabeeha
taken captive by the Islamic State from Tabqa in Raqqa have been executed.” Shabeeha
is the name of armed militia forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad. Tabqa
is the location of the Syrian airbase that has been captured by IS in the last
An Islamic State fighter in the Syrian city of Raqqa
who spoke to Reuters over the internet said: “Yes we have executed them all.” Head
of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later confirmed that Syrian
soldiers had been ‘executed’ at three different places, resulting in the deaths
of at least 160.
Rami Abdel Rahman said it had happened after jihadists
defeated the garrison of 1,400 at Tabqa, of whom 200 were killed in fighting,
700 escaped and dozens of the remainder were captured as they fled. Meanwhile,
the United Nations says an armed group has detained 43 peacekeepers in Syria's
Golan Heights. A further 81 peacekeepers are also trapped, the UN has said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the peacekeepers
were detained early on Thursday during a “period of increased fighting between
armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces.” The detained peacekeepers are
from the Philippines and Fiji, a UN official told Reuters.
Soon after, more UN troops were seen crossing from the
Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights to the Syrian side. The Golan
Heights straddles the disputed border between Israel and Syria. A UN statement
said negotiations were under way to release those trapped or being held.
French President Francois Hollande said that the
opposition forces fighting IS militants in Syria and Iraq should get more
Western support. But he ruled out regarding Assad as an ally saying: “There is
no choice to be made between two barbarisms.”