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Syrian rebel defends eating dead soldier's organs as revenge
The actions of Khaled al-Hamad, known by the nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, handed an instant propaganda victory to the Syrian govenrment, which accused the West of ignoring rebel atrocities.
The video purported to show the leader of a breakaway rebel faction cutting the lungs out of a soldier's corpse before apparently eating a small piece of the organ.
"I swear to God we will eat your hearts, Alawite soldiers of Bashar the dog," he said, referring to supporters of President Bashar al-Assad from the minority Alawite sect.
Speaking to Time magazine, he said had no regrets about taking revenge - "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" - after finding images of regime abuses on the dead soldier's mobile phone.
"We opened his cell phone and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked, and he was humiliating them," he said.
"Hopefully," added Hamad, "we will slaughter all of them [the Alawites]." He said that he possessed another video of himself "sawing" a member of the pro-regime Shabiha militia with a "saw we use to cut trees".
Hamad added: "I sawed him in small pieces and large ones."
In Damascus, Ali Haider, the minister for reconciliation, said this was only one of many atrocities carried out by the regime's enemies. "If the international media has just discovered this now, then they are coming to it very late. These type of atrocities have been happening in Syria since the beginning of the crisis," he said. "The international community just didn't want to admit it."
Mr Haider added: "We have documented hundreds of acts that are equally as horrific as the one documented in this video. We have seen one of our pilot's heads cut off and cooked on a grill. We have seen rebels toasting their success by drinking the blood of their victims."
The latest video is one of many now circulating on pro-government websites. In the capital, supporters of Mr Assad's regime voiced their revulsion over the behaviour of his enemies.
"Did you see what these animals do?" asked one woman who declined to giver her name. "They are devils. How can any human being do this? How can the West support these extremists?"
Human Rights Watch said that Hamad, also known as Abu Sakkar, should be brought to justice. "The desecration and mutilation of a killed person is definitely a war crime," said Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director. "This one is particularly disturbing because of the sectarian nature of the language used by Abu Sakkar."
Mr Bouckaert described the rebel as a "very significant commander" adding: "The danger is that extremists on both sides will feel the need to respond in kind."
Opposition leaders united in their condemnation of Hamad, with the Syrian National Coalition saying that is behaviour "contradicts the morals of the Syrian people, as well as the values and principles of the Free Syrian Army".
The rebels' military council issued a "wanted" poster for Hamad, demanding that he face punishment. The brigade he runs is an offshoot of the Farouq Brigade, which is backed by the official opposition, but operates independently. The incident raises the question of whether the supposed rebel military leadership is in charge of events.
But some rebels asked whether the mutilation of enemy corpses was worse than the recent mass killing of children, apparently by an Alawite militia loyal to Mr Assad, around the coastal town of Baniyas 12 days ago.
[Source: By Ruth Sherlock, Damascus and Richard Spencer, The Telegraph, London, 14May13]
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