Tom Rayner / Sky News – 2014-05-04 00:29:09
British Fighters Filmed In Syria ‘War Crime’
Sky News obtains a video posted on a UK man’s Instagram account that shows jihadist rebels shooting dead a prisoner
Tom Rayner, Middle East Reporter / Sky News
LONDON (May 2, 2014) — Video has emerged implicating British fighters in Syria in an apparent war crime. Footage uncovered by researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) shows jihadist rebels killing a prisoner, said to be a loyalist of President Bashar al Assad.
The incident is thought to have happened in the last two weeks near Raqqa in northern Syria. The footage was posted on the Instagram account of a man believed to be from London.
The caption accompanying the video describes the prisoner as one of “Bashar [al Assad’s] dogs” and says the killing was retribution for the deaths of four fellow rebels and the rape of a woman.
The ICSR monitors the social media accounts of hundreds of foreign fighters inside Syria. They believe the man that posted the video is part of a group of British fighters, known as Rayat al Tawheed, an affiliate of the Sunni jihadi movement ISIS, which controls large swathes of northern Syria.
Shiraz Maher, a senior ICSR researcher based at King’s College London, said the killing of prisoners is a war crime in international law.
“It’s incredibly serious,” he said. “We believe the main characters involved with Rayat al Tawheed come from London. We have deduced this based on our discussions with foreign fighters, our extensive record-keeping of foreign fighter activity in Syria, and our maintenance of social network maps which allows us to plot activity and associations in a visual form.”
Although no audible English is spoken in the video itself, analysts from the ICSR believe they have identified one of the gunmen as being a British citizen. A man is seen in the video firing shots into the body of the prisoner in the seconds after the initial bullet was fired by the main shooter.
Analysis of the gunman’s physical build, wristwatch and balaclava led the ICSR to conclude he is the same man seen speaking English with a London accent in other videos posted by the group. “We don’t know if the prisoner was alive or dead when he fired, but he did partake in the execution, he did fire shots at the individual from his weapon, and we believe he is a British citizen,” said ICSR researcher Joseph Carter.
On two separate videos posted on YouTube, the man identified as the gunman by the ICSR is heard berating the British Muslim community for failing to provide sufficient financial support for the jihad or the families the fighters have left behind.
“You know who you are, from the capital, the Midlands, up north, wherever you may beâ€¦ it’s a disgrace, that brothers know where these wives are, where these families are, and yet you are buying your nephew or your child a PlayStation 4 or taking them out to Nando’s,” he said.
The Government’s counter-terrorism programme last week launched a campaign urging the families of young men planning to travel to Syria to intervene. It is estimated that up to 400 Britons have travelled to fight or train in Syria in the last two years.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “This demonstrates why we have consistently called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Horrific atrocities have been committed by both the Assad regime and by extremists. The international community must ensure that all those responsible are held to account. Our priority is to dissuade people from travelling, but any extremists should know we are prepared to take action to protect national security, and intelligence agencies and police are working to identify potential threats.”
Amnesty International UK Syria campaign manager Kristyan Benedict said: “This alleged British member of the extremist group ISIS says it’s ‘a disgrace’ other British Muslims will not join him in Syria. The real disgrace is people like him and other extremists brazenly committing war crimes and holding Syrians back from realising their aspirations for a Syria free from violent authoritarianism.
“The scale of unlawful killing, torture and arbitrary detention from the Syrian government side still dwarfs abuses carried out by numerous armed groups, but the Assad government certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on atrocities.
“All these crimes will need to be properly investigated and the perpetrators held to account.”
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