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Ahrar al-Sham denounce HRW of executions and taking hostages

The Islamic Ahrar al-Sham movement has denied the Human Rights Watch accusation of  execution civilians and taking hostages in the Alawite villages in Latakia.

In a statement was obtained by Zaman Alwasl, the rebel movement said no one of its fighters was involved in killing civilian, assuring that Assad forces was depending on Shabiha, civil armed militia, who are deeply involved in killing Syrians.

Ahrar al-Sham revealed that most of people in the Alawite Mountains, Bashar al-Assad homeland, was carrying weapons and they have very large quantities of arms and ammunition than some pieces.

HRW report that released in October 11, said Armed opposition groups in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 as hostages during a military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on August 4, 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages.

Ahrar al-sham has bases in northern Syria, in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo, but has affiliates all over the country; no complaints against it were risen, they said our main duty is Jihad for God's sake nothing else.

The 105-page report, “‘You Can Still See Their Blood’: Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside,” presents evidence that the civilians were killed on August 4, the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast majority women and children. The findings strongly suggest that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.

“These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population in these Alawite villages.”

For the report Human Rights Watch conducted an on-site investigation and interviewed more than 35 people, including residents who survived the offensive, emergency response staff, and fighters and activists on both government and opposition sides.

Human Rights Watch found that at least 20 distinct armed opposition groups participated in the operation they alternately termed the “campaign of the descendants of Aisha, the mother of believers,” the “Barouda offensive,” or the “operation to liberate the coast,” which lasted until August 18. It is not clear whether all or most of these groups were in the villages on August 4 when the vast majority of abuses apparently took place.

However, five groups that were the key fund-raisers, organizers, and executors of the attacks were clearly present from the outset of the operation on August 4: Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, and Suquor al-Izz. Human Rights Watch concluded through multiple interviews, the on-site investigation, and a review of opposition statements and videos that these five armed groups are responsible for specific incidents that amount to war crimes.

Through the on-site investigation, witness statements, videos and photographs, and a review of hospital records, Human Rights Watch determined that opposition forces unlawfully killed at least 67 of the 190 dead civilians who were identified. For the rest of those killed, further investigation is required to determine the circumstances of their deaths and whether the victims died as a result of unlawful killings.

The high civilian death toll, the nature of the recorded wounds – for example, multiple gunshot or stabbing wounds – and the presence of 43 women, children, and elderly among the dead together indicate that opposition forces either intentionally or indiscriminately killed most of the remaining victims.

The scale and pattern of the serious abuses carried out by opposition groups during the operation indicate that they were systematic and planned as part of an attack on a civilian population. The evidence strongly suggests that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses committed by opposition forces on and after August 4 rise to the level of crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.

The local and senior commanders of Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, and Suquor al-Izz who led the operation may bear criminal responsibility for the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses. For both war crimes and crimes against humanity the principle of “command responsibility” applies to military commanders and others in position of authority who can be held criminally liable for crimes committed by forces under their effective command and control.

This covers situations in which the commanders knew or should have known of crimes being committed by their subordinates and failed to prevent the crimes or hand over those responsible for prosecution. Fighters from these and other groups who directly ordered or carried out abuses should also be held criminally accountable.


 Ahrar al-Sham is likely to be Syria’s largest salafi faction. It claims to run about a hundred local armed groups, as well as offices for humanitarian aid and sharia law. It was created in the Idlib-Hama region in early summer 2011. In December 2012 it spearheaded the creation of the SIF alliance, which drew like-minded Islamist groups into its orbit. In spring 2013, several SIF member factions merged into Ahrar al-Sham, greatly adding to its numbers and influence. It seeks an Islamic state based on sharia law.

Zaman Alwasl
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