Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Latakia Massacres: The Hostages

Latakia Massacres: The Hostages
December 16, 2015
(last edits (major) Dec. 20)
minor correction 3/5/2017

Thanks to God, Finding Women and Children
Just after dawn on August 4, 2013, Turkish-backed Islamist rebels operating out of the town of Salma were suddenly in charge of several Alawi (Alawite) villages in the northern countryside of Latakia province. Most of the thousands of residents had managed to run away in time. But those taken by surprise, shot down while escaping, or unable to run were subject to the plans laid by the attackers.

The plans were, apparently, kill all of the men and spare the women and children, but as prisoners. That's genocide. Human Rights Watch didn't quite call it that, but called it war crimes and crimes against humanity, in their October, 2013 report (see HRW report for this and all HRW citations). HRW heard from “an opposition activist in Latakia (unnamed) who coordinates between and assists the armed opposition groups fighting there” who explained how, on (meaning by?) August 5, the second day of the offensive:
“We caught 150 women and 40 children, and killed all the men. ... They were all carrying weapons. ... We want a prisoner exchange without conditions.” 
He has no problem admitting the bulk of the massacre, and kidnapping of civilians, directly to HRW. The executuion of elderly cleric Badreddin Ghazal after capture first raised alarm bells. But he was also a clear NDF/"Shabiha" militant, apparently there in connection with this (as an adviser, IIRC). And here they admit killing all men, militants and civilian, before or after capture. ("all armed" is probably not true, and just code for "the killing of all men was pre-approved" - men = possible fighters = "all armed.")

One terrorist captor was more nuanced: (see below): "Thanks to God we broke into these villages and found women and children. Men had fled and left the women and children. We captured women and children." He even says in some cases, Alawite parents actually killed their children before the rebels could get there and save them. They claim their amazing Sunni religion forbids the killing of children, women, or the elderly or infirm. They made a point of harassing an old Alawi man to make a video where they explain this - they're way better than the Alawite scum who kill everyone. McDonnel, LA Times:
“Don’t be afraid. We are not going to kill you or do you any harm,” a bearded rebel fighter who goes by the name Abu Firas tells an elderly Alawite man in one clip. “Do you know why? Because the prophet [Muhammad], peace be upon him, said, ‘Do not kill the elderly, a child or a woman.’ This is our religion. What about your religion?”
The pattern of killing largely follows this mandate, but HRW heard that of at least 205 people killed in the assault, at least 18 were children and 57 were women. And sometimes, those who were older, lower value, or just less mobile were just killed and left there. The disabled elderly woman shown at right is Shamieh Darwish, as HRW reported it, here in rebel care as a nice part of one of their videos. They showed her bedridden disabled son too. They did not show both of them being shot dead and buried in the backyard, as they wound up (this story is central to the HRW video accompanying their report, and hosted by report author Lama Fakih). These Islamists are more pragmatic about their religious values than they act.

Sometime in these first days, an opposition activist with the Islamist brigades in Latakia filmed at least 33 seconds (re-post, Aug. 13) of about a dozen women and children looking unhappy in the back of a rebel pickup truck, holding slender food wraps they barely nibble.  Notice how the bed of the truck was mostly washed out before this from its last bloody haul, perhaps dumping the very husbands, fathers, sons and grandfathers these prisoners already miss?

Jonathan Steele, reporting for The Guardian, heard from soldier Hassan how one rebels were overheard arranging a truck for "the girls." Hassan explained "Several were taken and raped, and have not been seen again." Those are not likely to be the same ones seen above. They could be the six HRW heard about from a NDF fighter -  "he and other pro-government fighters located the corpses of six women, stripped naked, on the roof of a home at the beginning of al-Hamboushieh village. He identified two of the women as the wives of Firas and Bassam Mariam."

Brutality in Captivity
Besides those killed immediately, and others who may have slipped without mention into darker places yet, over 200 women and children acknowledged as taken prisoner (in details below). All were held under demand which, of course, asks the question "or else what?" And that might point to a willingness to carry the massacre even further and  kill the captives just like they killed their men.

And at times it seems that "what if" was just a "whatever" thing to their Salafist captors. Consider entry 21 on HRW's list of identified hostages, presumably alive and being negotiated over in October: Jaffar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, age 7 (Imad al-Sheikh Ibrahim’s child). An early pro-government social media alert (Facebook, still available) named this child - Jafar alSheikh, but aged 4, from Nabatah - and claimed he was already dead. That explained: "he was scared so he asked for water to drink ... a bearded man stabbed him to death." That may be confused or untrue, but it was reported back on August 7 by an informed source.  (A 3-year-old sibling is listed by HRW, but also as a living hostage.) It seems Jafar was probably taken alive as a hostage, but from there ... if pressed, Fakih would probably acknowledge they can't be sure if he was or wasn't killed afterwards. 

HRW's Lamah Fakih would later tell Syria Deeply a year after the abductions in August, 2014 "there have been some troubling reports saying others (of the initial captives) – we have the names of 17 – were executed immediately after their abduction." Who that includes on or off their list isn't clear, but it's newer information not reflected in their report. 

Earlier reports in 2014 had already mentioned such executions, if not a number. May 18, Shia Post
In interviews with Press TV, the released hostages recounted their ordeal during their captivity at hands of extremist kidnappers in Latakia. “When we were in Salma, they killed some of the people who were with us,” said Zeinab, a young girl among those freed, adding that the militants killed a boy from a nearby village as he tried to escape.
Al-Akhbar, May 8 
Oum Ali, the woman who was scouring the hospital asking about the fate of her six-year-old boy. Oum Ali asked the freed hostages one by one about her son. She persisted until one woman, a freed captive herself, gave her the shocking answer: “Your son was shot and killed by the fighters months ago.”

according to another freed child, the fighters gouged out the eyes of one of the abducted children who was not part of the deal. The child said, “After that, we knew nothing about him.” 

The Public Face
An August 18 L.A. Times report mentioned pro-government news reports "that more than 150 area civilians have been taken hostage," alongside an opposition spokesman who "said the civilians were being held to protect them (who?) from army shelling and would be released at some point in exchange for prisoners in government hands," unless perhaps their terms aren't met.

As Human Rights Watch found, in their October report, the total number of stolen women and children was alt least 225. On the 6th, the same activist told them, the prisoners were split up between the groups he worked with: the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh), the Daesh-linked Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA), Jabhat al-Nusra, and Suquor al-Izz. Out of HRW's five centrally involved terrorist groups, only Ahrar al-Sham is absent from that deal. (group details here). Later, it was narrowed to JMA (holding "about 105" or maybe exactly 106)  and ISIS (110-120).

General Kifah Milhem, head of Military Intelligence in Latakia, heard then from "an armed opposition group" (not specified) "who stated that he had the abducted ... 70 women and 50 children from Latakia." By numbers, that's likely Islamic State's batch, 120 and not 110, and still rounded off.

The other "about 105" is from The woman speaking as seen in the semi-famous September 9 video -  considered here at ACLOS (still at right, JMA/ISIS flag). The woman holding a child and speaking, as covered as possible, is identified to HRW as Eleen Shakouhi from al-Hamboushieh. As translated by ACLOS and HRW, she names the villages they came from and says the treatment is "good" or "they treat us well." Her main message: "We demand the international community and the Syrian authorities to work to release us in exchange for the release of prisoners of Mujahideen." 

The masked man holding these hostages who also speaks in the video has been identified as local leader of JMA, Abu Suhaib al-Libee. He was also reported killed in the fighting, also reorted by HRW to have lived, after two medical stops in Turkey. But this guy is masked, it's not clear. He says they found these people, "put them in a good place and good health care ... and we treat them according to Islamic law and the Islamic religion... " He says they're "near Qardaha," implicitly in Latakia, but HRW heard more likely they were over in Idlib province.

Note: "about 105" vs. a Syrian official's allegations (albeit second-hand) that Fedaa Majzoub, an Australian Islamist member of the SNC, was "responsible" for the kidnapping of 106 Latakia hostages. This suggests he was working with JMA. He denies the claim, but admits to helping arrange the relocation" to Turkey of Armenian Christains following a 2014 rebel Latakia offensive... (see the Moderate Backdrop).

Gen. Milhem spoke on the 9th, and was still waiting for the list of demands from Daesh for their batch. Some reported the demands for release of one batch of hostages was the release of 4 Libyan fighters, a sizable cash payment, and a video-recorded anti-government protest in the town square. (this part needs more work.) (see below for the families and the prisoners themselves forced into little anti-Assad performances)

Later in September, HRW heard, "control over the hostage file was transferred to Ahrar al-Sham.” who are made to seem the good guys in this drama, and also more Syrian than the rest. It's worth noting Suqour al-Izz's leader was in charge of financing the operation, with Ahrar al-Sham's leader as a deputy. ISIS and JMA were hoping for payment to fund their operations, just then greatly expanding. And they probably got it direct, from this allied, "moderate," and well-funded group (rich donors in the Persian Gulf).

With the main mission accomplished, many or all of these 200+ could well be released with or without their demands being fully met. And it's likely that this acknowledged tally was made only after secretly skimming off some villagers to keep or pass on as sex slaves and the like. These they would simply never admit to (as far as I know, that's zero, or 20 - there were a moderate number just missing, will see...).

The HRW report gives a long list of named hostages in their report. Pro-government sources also gave partial lists early on. See ACLOS page. 

The Record on Released/Escaped/Killed
Recalling there were about 225 known civilian hostages to start, let's cut back to before the start. As mentioned above, it seems to HRW (later, after the report) that 17 captives "were executed immediately after their abduction." That means before the 225 tally was assembled. So it raises the initial number taken to at least 242. And this is on top of the non-captured 205 found bodies (so death toll at least 222), with the 17 crossover members proving rebel willingness to execute their women and children captives as well.

But from the 225 tally in early September and onward, here is a partial record. A reported 54 captives including many children and fewer women, remained in rebel hands for at least 17 months and perhaps until now or until dead. Only 43 are clearly reported as being released one way or another in between. I seem to be missing part of the story, likely early on, or perhaps the fate of as many as `111 128 other acknowledged hostages was left unexplained. (2017 note: bad math for 111 - I subtracted that 17 (months) oops. It's 128 unaccounted for.)
  • September-March, 2015: no known news, but number of held has shrunk from 225 to 94. See thoughts below. 
  • March 12 video Al-Jazeera Arabic: مختطفات من الطائفة العلوية يناشدن إطلاقهن
    Desc. trans. "Posted factions in the Syrian opposition Pictures of the island L94 what she said was a child and a woman from the countryside of Latakia kidnapped in August / August last." A particular woman does all the talking (face uncovered, at center below, doesn't seem to be the same Eleen Shakouhi, but it's hard to be sure). Women shown in one area, children in another.
Steep cliff right behind the place, could be located if it mattered enough (check for all possible site matches around Salma, then further out, in Idlib, maybe in Turkey...).  
  • March 18 2014 Syrian Observer report mentions rescue operations (?): "The latest release operation was on March 14, when three women from the villages of Hambushiyeh, Barouda and Ballouta in the northern countryside of Latakia were set free."
  • March 19 al-Jazeera Arabic video (auto-trans) "Syrian opposition delivery of three hijackers Aloyat system" "Leaked Syrian opposition factions in the new images of what it said it three hijackers Aloyat delivery in the countryside of Latakia in the midst of the ongoing negotiations with the regime." The women are all elderly. Pro-government footage with the women in the hospital is used, not clear to me what they say. There's snow on the ground.
  • Syrian rebels claim Alawites' kidnapping Al Jazeera English, March 24, 2014 - story on the above March 12 video of 94 captives still held, exchange pending, 2,000 captives demanded in exchange  (video and still forthcoming)
  • Al-Akhbar May 8 40 released and speak of captivity. 15 released at time of report, 25 more expected, and apparently released.
Eleven children and four women were released through the checkpoint at the Kefraya village on the outskirts of Latakia. They were then taken to the National Hospital in the city for medical checkups.
...The ceasefire deal in the Old City of Homs includes the release of 40 civilians from the villages of Salanfa in the Latakia countryside, out of more than 95 kidnapped civilians, but not much has been revealed about the fate of the other hostages. Today, 25 civilians are expected to be released and moved out of the opposition-controlled eastern countryside of Latakia.
  • May 18 45 released (same 40 +5? or is this 85 total? or error? 94-40=54, which is the next number given) In interviews with Press TV, the released hostages recounted their ordeal during their captivity...
  • May 31 AJA video تسجيل جديد لمختطفات علويات في اللاذقية (auto-trans) New registration hijackers Aloyat in Lattakia "Broadcast takers kidnapped Alawites in Lattakia a new recording in which one of the hijackers said that's become fifty-four .. and one of the prisoners said that the abductors are demanding the launch of two thousand detainees held by the system release" Women and children shown together indoors, same woman does all the speaking (right of center below). Also includes extra footage from March, apparently, with women and children together.
new footage in May, 2014, stitched panorama
old footage from March, stitched panorama
    • Syria Deeply August 6, 2014 reprot - HRW hears no change, still 54:
    Human Rights Watch has reported that 54 women and children taken hostage by armed rebel groups in Alawite villages in rural Latakia are still being held, one year later.
    We know 40 of them were released this May, but there have been some troubling reports saying others – we have the names of 17 – were executed immediately after their abduction.
    Now we have [this new list] of individuals identifying themselves as being in the custody of the Muhajireen in the Latakia countryside. And there are unconfirmed reports that other hostages are being held in other locations.
    • August 24 video and September 2, 2014 article (all4syria.info) (Arabic) auto-translated parts: HRW calls for the release of 54 remaining captive, 20 women and 34 children (defined as under age 14). A "developmental interaction network" seemed to heed the call and paid a visit to the captives.  "At the end of the investigation conducted by the network correspondent with the hijackers will be published Video the interview with the young Rowan, which insisted on appearing on the camera screen to talk about the suffering and confirmed in this interview that they were fine and had her words directed to Human Rights Watch, called on the younger her release, and with her and he did not income In this battle as they carried the responsibility of Bashar al-Assad to stop the process of negotiations that will lead to her release with the rest of her companions, ..." 
    • The video, again August 24 (translated) interview with young Rowan was Uploaded on Aug 27, 2014 by salomar alomar, listed as category: comedy (meaning what?)  "Developmental Interaction Network" stamp. Still below. The girls are familiar. The one holds a sign I can make out in Arabic Bashar al-Assad, bottom line. A brief view of the one in English makes me think it says "to all the world: (the?) Bashar al-Assad (regime?) no longer cares about (us, Alawites, his own people)." See, in the right environment, they're capable of learning, interacting, developing. Still, the demands must be met, or else (still not specified)

    •  17 months after their capture, still 54 hostages. Arabic report, Jan. 31 (alsouriya.net), relates pro-rebel version of attack (no massacre, men were all off fighting, only 136 women and children were taken), says Assad refuses to get the people released, "because he does not see the importance according to his calculations" - 3 elderly women died before 3 others were released in March - 40 were released in May, 15 as a "down payment," then 25 others, plus 30 soldiers, in return for Islamist rebels bein allowed to escape from Old Homs. "The opposition fighters had acknowledged the survival of 85 abductees" (after the 3 women released? Others say 94)  Father "George monsters" (auto-translated), Advanced priests in the Diocese of the Roman Orthodox church, the Latakia governor, hostage families, and others were working on the release for at least 4 months, but "efforts were not fruitful under the regime" and their families were fed up. It's just like the girls' signs said - Assad doesn't care.
    • Al-Akhbar Feb. 15 2015 -
    •  Fifty-four civilians, women and children, have been held captive for 17 months by armed groups in the northern Latakia countryside. ... Each child then says his or her name: Dala’ Ayman Maryam, Ahmed Ayman Maryam, and Farah Ayman Maryam. The mother introduces the child she is carrying in her arms: Mohammed Ayman Maryam. She concludes: Today is December 6, 2014.
    • August 2, 2015 Arabic report (almodon.com) says after two years, the Alawites were fed up - the government was not doing its best, and didn't really care. They wanted to work with the militants, but official didn't want to cave to "terrorist" demands. And so Assad callously leaves 54 Alawites in good treatment in rebel hands for 2 years and running. What a callous prick. If they finally get killed, it's his fault.
    • Nothing newer I'm aware of. 
    • Unknown time:  the militants killed a boy from a nearby village as he tried to escape.
    Tally (may improve with more info, accepting comments if anyone knows of any)
    225 after 17+ killed, -3 rescued, ( ≠ 94 held in March) -(40-85) released ( ≠ 54 still held 17 months later)
    low total of subtractions: 60, + 54 remaining = 114 accounted for, 111 unclear.
    low total of subtractions: 105,  + 54 remaining = 159 accounted for, 66 unclear.

    So depending what we're missing here, as many as 66-111 people (or so) might remain a mystery. Most of them seem to have gone off the list, maybe in quiet paid release arrangements, in the long span between September and March. But it's quite possible some of these were peeled off from the acknowledged captives list for other reasons.

    Not Killed for Ghouta Attack
    Of course it raised many eyebrows how this horrific mass seizure of of humans occurred just two weeks before the alleged mass deaths by sarin in the August 21 Ghouta attack. The Latakia-Ghouta connection remains a major point of reference for a lot of people, based on claims in a report by ISTeams ("Mother Agnes" affiliated) claiming family members in Latakia recognized Ghouta child victims as their kidnapped relatives from Latakia. The suggestion is cross-country fakery; Latakia victims could hardly be trucked all the way to Damascus, so the videos were faked with them in or near northern Latakia.

    This is, in my opinion, just the kind of thing to keep an eye out for. However, No further details or independent verification ever came of the supposed identifcations. Some attempted visual guesses by third-party analysts have failed, in our assessment. 

    Different captive people, killed in the Ghouta area
    And we can fairly prove now how unlikely that scenario is. See ACLOS refutation and here this overview of death tolls including mine at the bottom: app. 420 visual minimum, probably 500+ victims (600-800 seems a good range). At least 420 of these are seen in various body displays reasonably placed in Ghouta. Some bodies are recycled in 2 or more scenes, but not counted twice. This is explained more in-depth in this Monitor post, pointing to Talk:Alleged Chemical Attack, August 21, 2013/Victims Analysis#ACLOS Visual Matches.

    How these are all placed in Ghouta:
    1) "WhiteMorgue" (said to be in Douma) contained 187 bodies min., maybe well over 200 at fullest
    2) This contains 2 bodies seen in Saqba, geo-located, so all WhiteMorgue victims must be not far away
    3) other large body arrays do not seem, so far, to feed into the WhiteMorge total and should be added.
    3a) Kafr Batna's set, SunMorgue: at least 85 bodies, Tuberculosis hospital geo-located 3b) Irbeen's hospital basement set, said to be 63 in number, visuals say 60-65 - had NBC News visit the site a week later, in Irbeen (filmed), and film it looking the same 3c) 78-88 reported in Moadamiyeh, many seen in unique images - not proven there but somewhere, unlikely to be recycled anywhere else 3d) some 30-ish unique photographed victims said to be buried in Ain Tarma, not proven there but somewhere.

    Besides that detailed visual analysis, this more basic review of news reports also helps refute the claim, testifying to many or all of the hostages surviving well past the Ghouta incident, being freed or still held months later. 

    As we noted at the time, rebels were on a general capture frenzy in those days, and no one has yet looked into the possibility these were Kurdish civilians taken in the hundreds in Aleppo province shortly before. But like the Latakia Alawi, these should have been held far in the north of Syria. One possible hostage raid that's closer was in a Christian village in southeastern Homs province (slightly far), perhaps attempted on August 15, but foiled. Other seizures perhaps remained unknown, and closer to Damascus, maybe further back in time, or simply done in secret and not reported. These would be much smarter places to get the required x-hundred bodies to toss across that "red line."

    Wherever they were from, the clues are strong that the Ghouta victims were mostly or all people rebels held captive before they died from a variety of chemical extermination methods, mostly it seems in basements.


    1. Gen. Milhem spoke on the 9th, and was still waiting for the list of demands from Daesh. Some reported the demands for release of one batch of hostages was the release of 4 Libyan fighters, a sizable cash payment,
      and a video-recorded anti-government protest in the town square.  (this part needs more work.)

      As Kayali put it to me, the fighters leading the rebel offensive on Latakia in the summer were primarily from Chechnya, Afghanistan [i.e. Afghan Arab veterans and the like],
      the Maghreb, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf area

      Figure 6 :Abu Rahmat al-Lībī, a Libyan fighter for ISIS.

      Figure 9: Abu Turab al-Lībī, a Libyan fighter for ISIS.

      Figure 12: Two Libyan fighters in the lush forests of rural Latakia as part of the mujahideen offensive. According to Anṣār ash-Sharī’a supporters from Tripoli (Libya), the two men are from the northwestern Libyan town of Zāwīya.

      Figure 13: Photo of Latakia forestry taken by the Libyan Shari’a official for the ISIS-front group Katiba al-Muhajireen: Abu Ṭalḥa al-Lībī.


      Though Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, like its Tunisian counterpart, at one point appeared to be pro-Islamic State,
      some of its members also joined Katiba al-Muhajireen,
      a foreign fighter group operating in Latakia that has been subsumed under Jabhat al-Nusra.


      May 31, 2013 · Libyan fighters are in Syria, fighting alongside anti-government forces

      July 28, 2012

      September 2012 According to Frenkel, a member of the Free Syrian Army stated, that the shipment contained over 400 ton of weapons from Libya, including SAM-7 surface to air missiles and rocket propelled grenades.

      2011-11-30 600 Libyans ‘already fighting in Syria’

      1. raw material, mostly new, thanks (won't probably do much with it anytime soon though)

    2. The activist explained how the prisoners were first divided between four groups: ISIS, JMA, Jabhat al-Nusra,
      and Suqour al-Izz.

      As mentioned in the introduction, Latakia province has had a reputation as a hangout for muhajireen.

      Indeed, a number of well-known jihadist factions with foreign components/leadership set up base in Latakia province,

      such as Suqur al-Izz,

      which was led by Saudis and merged with Jabhat al-Nusra last year, and Harakat Sham al-Islam, a Moroccan-led faction that first emerged in 2013 and has remained separate from Jabhat al-Nusra in being affiliated with the Jabhat Ansar al-Din jihadi coalition, despite the clear al-Qa’ida affinities and the merger of that coalition’s leading component- Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar– with Jabhat al-Nusra earlier this year.


    3. " He says they're "near Qardaha
      The man holding them has been identified as local leader of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA), but he was also reported killed in the fighting. He says, and put them in a good place and good health care ... and we treat them according to Islamic law and the Islamic religion... " He says they're "near Qardaha," implicitly in Latakia,

      Despite the mujahideen’s initial successes in capturing numerous Alawite villages and apparently being only several miles away from Qardaḥa,
      pro-Assad forces ultimately pushed back
      and by mid-August, jihadi circles began circulating messages to pray for the mujahideen as the offensive ultimately failed, with fighting now confined to the Jabal al-Akrād area.


    4. Badreddin Ghazal

      He has no problem admitting the bulk of the massacre, and kidnapping of civilians, directly to HRW. The executuion of elderly cleric Badreddin Ghazal after capture first raised alarm bells.

      On August 4, opposition fighters abducted and later executed Sheikh Bader Ghazzal, the local Alawite religious authority
      in Barouda who presided over the maqam. The opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra released a statement on what is believed to be their website acknowledging that its members executed the sheikh, who was a relative of Fadl Ghazzal, an adviser to former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, because the sheikh supported the Syrian government.

      Muwaffaq al-Ghazal

      Besides the widely circulated footage of Kayali from earlier this year in which he apparently calls for the necessity of cleansing Sunni areas on the coastline (most notably Baniyas), Kayali is also frequently shown in TSR media output appearing with Alawite sheikhs, one of whom was the well-known Muwaffaq al-Ghazal, who enjoyed close ties with Kayali

      and was later killed by Jabhat al-Nusra as part of the “Eye for an Eye” revenge operations announced by Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Jowlani

      against Alawite villages in retaliation for the chemical weapons attacks in East Ghouta.


      1. Muwafaq vs. Badreddin - different guy? Landis says he was killed by Nusra, in revenge for Ghouta, so after Aug 21 ... the other, killed by Nusra, some days before that, so ...

        Also, Landis blind spot: "Shabiha massacres," like Kayali "cleansing" al-Bayda (next to Baniyas) of ... the extended family of a government-loyalist imam, among all the Sunnis they could have picked. And did them up very bad - pregnant woman sliced open, etc.

    5. 19 Dec 2013
      Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, leader of Jabhat al-Nusra


      Al-Nusra suffered a blow in the recent months when hundreds of its foreign fighters defected with their weapons, to join another al-Qaeda linked group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

      For the moment, however, the Islamic State seemed to have the edge in the recruitment battle. Many of the Nusra Front soldiers told me that over the previous months, their siblings and cousins had been fighting for the Islamic State. The pay was better.

      Joulani 2015

    6. Names of the victims of the massacres which wiped out entire families, and The kidnapped

      Wednesday, August 21, 2013
      Syria medics uncover Latakia massacre
      More than 200 bodies have been delivered to hospitals in the western Syrian province of Latakia following the occupation of several towns and villages by foreign-backed militants, medical sources say.
      The medics said on Tuesday that most of the dead bodies belonged civilians including women and children who have been killed in ambushes carried out by terrorists groups around the city of Latakia.
      On Monday, the Syrian army recaptured the villages of Hambousheyah, al-Ballouta and Sheikh Nabhan in the strategic province.Military officials say they are now getting closer to the Salma village, which is the last bastion of Takfiri extremists in the region.

      A doctor working in the National Hospital in Latakia, which received the casualties from the countryside, told Human Rights Watch that the hospital received 205 corpses of civilians killed during the August 4-18 operation.
      The doctor showed Human Rights Watch a medical report the hospital prepared on August 26 stating that the “[c]ause of death in several of [the bodies] was multiple gunshot wounds all over the bodies, in addition to stab wounds made with a sharp instrument, given the decapitation observed in most bodies … Some corpses were found in a state of complete charring, and others had their feet tied …” The medical report reflected that the degree of decomposition of the corpses was consistent with the victims having been killed around August 4.

      The final death toll exceeded 400, with 150 to 200 people taken hostage


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