Syrian 'heart-eating' militant killed in infighting ambush

Syrian 'heart-eating' militant killed in infighting ambush
Senior al-Nusra Front commander, Abu Saqqar, who was filmed eating an organ of a dead regime soldier has been killed by gunmen near the Turkish border.
2 min read
07 April, 2016
Human rights groups have accused all sides in the war of committing atrocities [YouTube]

A Syrian militant who appeared in a gruesome video cutting out the heart of a regime soldier and eating it has been shot dead by rival rebels.

Khaled al-Hamad, otherwise known by his nom de guerre Abu Saqqar, who reportedly joined the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front about a year ago, was killed along with five other militants in the northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday.

Rival rebels "assassinated Hamad, who was known as Abu Saqqar and who was a military commander in Al-Nusra, by gunning him down", the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR] said late on Tuesday.

In May 2013, Abu Saqqar appeared in a video showing him eating the heart of a dead regime soldier, sparking an international outcry and condemnation from the mainstream Syrian opposition.

At the time, he was fighting in a rebel brigade in central Homs province.

In a statement on social media, Nusra blamed the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, for the killing.

It said he was ambushed by Ahrar al-Sham fighters at a checkpoint in Harem, which prompted Nusra fighters to besiege the group's local headquarters, demanding that they hand over Hamad's killers.

"He was likely killed in a settling of accounts" between Nusra, which dominates much of Idlib province, and other Islamist rebels in the area, SOHR chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Hamad was denounced almost universally for his on camera cannibalism, which involved him appearing to eat the heart of a dead soldier. The video heavily damaged the image of the uprising.

However, in the aftermath of the controversy, Hamad remained ambivalent.

In a video uploaded in the summer of 2013, he said he was willing to be held accountable for his actions if the Assad regime would also answer to its crimes.

"I didn't want to do this. I had to. We have to terrify the enemy, humiliate them, just as they do to us. Now, they won't dare be wherever Abu Saqqar is," Hamad told media in June 2013.

"Put yourself in my shoes. They took your father and mother and insulted them. They slaughtered your brothers, they murdered your uncle and aunt. All this happened to me. They slaughtered my neighbours," he added.

The Syrian conflict began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011 but swiftly escalated into an armed rebellion after his regime unleashed a brutal crackdown.

Many Syrians became radicalised, and human rights groups have accused all sides in the fighting of committing atrocities.