War crimes alert over executions by rebels

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Extremist Islamic groups in Syria are committing a “soaring” number of killings in the country’s north that could amount to war crimes, the UN human rights office said yesterday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that over the past two weeks her office had received reports of “a succession of mass executions of civilians and fighters who were no longer participating in hostilities in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa by hardline armed opposition groups in Syria, in particular by the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. She warned that such killings violated international humanitarian law.

Fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other Islamic groups in northern and eastern Syria has killed hundreds of people over the past two weeks. The infighting is the most serious among opponents of President Bashar Assad since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

Ms Pilay’s office reported that in the first week of January a number of people were killed in Idlib by armed opposition groups. It said that on January 6 in Aleppo three people reportedly held by the al-Qaida linked group at its base in Makhfar al-Saleheen were found dead, handcuffed, with bullet wounds in their heads.

Two days later, also in Aleppo, “numerous bodies, again mostly handcuffed and blindfolded, were found in a children’s hospital” once used as a base by the group.