Outrage at Syrian rebel shown 'eating soldier's heart'


The BBC's Jim Muir: "It's one of the worst things I've seen"

A video which appears to show a Syrian rebel taking a bite from the heart of a dead soldier has been widely condemned.

US-based Human Rights Watch identified the rebel as Abu Sakkar, a well-known insurgent from the city of Homs, and said his actions were a war crime.

The main Syrian opposition coalition said he would be put on trial.

The video, which cannot be independently authenticated, seems to show him cutting out the heart.

"I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog," the man says, referring to President Bashar al-Assad as he stands over the soldier's corpse.

Who are the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade?

Abu Sakkar, seen in cropped still from video showing him purportedly biting the heart of a dead soldier
  • Group of rebel fighters led by Abu Sakkar (pictured above)
  • Unit of the Islamist al-Farouq Brigades, founded in Homs in June 2011
  • Al-Farouq Brigades made their name defending Baba Amr district of Homs during government assault in Feb 2012
  • Al-Farouq Brigades operate under umbrella of the Free Syrian Army
  • Al-Farouq Brigades reported to comprise about 20,000 fighters
  • Abu Sakkar has appeared in videos firing rockets at Shia villages in Lebanon in April 2013 and posing with bodies of Hezbollah fighters
  • HRW said the attacks on the Shia villages appeared to be indiscriminate and a war crime

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Abu Sakkar is the leader of a group called the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Al-Farouq Brigades. He insults Alawites, the minority offshoot of Shia Islam to which Mr Assad belongs.

"The desecration and mutilation of a killed person is definitely a war crime," Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC. "This one particularly disturbing because of the sectarian nature of the language used by Abu Sakkar."

HRW said those committing war crimes on either side had to know that there was no impunity and that they would be brought to account.

The human rights group said Abu Sakkar had been filmed before, firing rockets into Shia areas of Lebanon and posing with the bodies of guerrillas from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement killed fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

"Abu Sakkar is a very significant commander - he's in charge of one of the most important battles happening in Syria right now," said Mr Bouckaert. "The danger is that extremists on both sides will feel the need to respond in kind."

The video was posted on Sunday, though reporters from Time Magazine said they had first viewed the footage in April.

Time said on Tuesday it had spoken to Abu Sakkar, who confirmed that he had bitten into one of the soldier's organs - though a surgeon told the magazine that the organ appeared to be a lung, not the heart or liver, as reported elsewhere.

Syria's opposition coalition said the Al-Farouq Brigades were investigating the incident.

"The Syrian Coalition strongly condemns this act - if it is revealed to be true," it said in a statement. "The culprit will eventually be tried in court in front of an honest and fair judiciary."

It is one of the most gruesome videos to emerge in more than two years of carnage in Syria, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut.

The UN says nearly 80,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011, and millions have fled their homes.

'National sovereignty'


The results of many terrible atrocities in Syria have surfaced on internet video clips over the past two years and more. But this one was particularly chilling because it was filmed as it happened, showing an exultantly brazen and barbaric act of gratuitous bloodthirstiness.

Even if it was not intended as a provocation, it is likely to have that effect as the struggle between rebel and government forces for control of Quseir and nearby strategic villages intensifies.

The video performance - for that is what it was - had a strong element of sectarian incitement, as the leader identified as "Abu Sakkar" urged his followers to cut out and eat the hearts of Alawites (Bashar al-Assad's ruling minority).

It is likely to bolster the conviction among some that the regime is less bad than the possible alternatives, while weakening the argument of those who want to arm the rebels more seriously.

It is unlikely to have a direct impact on preparations for a peace conference sponsored by Washington and Moscow, which are already running into problems. But it may bolster the view of some US officials that it is better to push for a political settlement than to help the rebels win.

Meanwhile, Jordan has said it will host a meeting next week for the Friends of Syria - a group of Western and Arab nations that want Mr Assad to relinquish power - to help prepare for a peace conference on Syria in June.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last week to hold the conference, which they initially hoped to organise before the end of May.

The conference will try to persuade the Syrian government and opposition to accept a deal based on the core elements agreed by the UN-backed Action Group for Syria in June last year.

These included an immediate cessation of violence and the establishment of a transitional government that could include officials serving under President Assad and members of the opposition.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said on Tuesday that Syria would need more information before deciding whether to attend such a conference, but would not be party to any meeting which harms "national sovereignty".

He said the future role of Mr Assad was an issue "only for the Syrian people and the ballot box".

Mr Kerry suggested the Syrian government would be at the table as it had already given a list of representatives to Russia.

"If he decides not to come to the table, it would be another one of President Assad's gross miscalculations," he said. "I don't believe that that is the case at this moment."

Mr Kerry said he had also spoken to Free Syrian Army leader General Salim Idriss, who had assured him he was committed to the negotiation process.

Start Quote

This gruesome episode.... highlights - in stark terms - some of the problems facing those Western powers eager to support the opposition”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has argued that Mr Assad could still have a post-war role, said it was "especially important to avoid any moves that could aggravate the situation".

"Only a quick cessation of hostilities and a political settlement can prevent a negative scenario," he said after talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Russia is concerned by Israeli air strikes on targets inside Syria, while Israel is unhappy at shipments of Russian weapons to Damascus.

The two leaders gave no indication of whether they had discussed Russian supplies of advanced weapons systems to Syria, including air defence missiles and artillery systems.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was not violating any international sanctions and would honour contracts already signed, but avoided confirming reports that it was preparing to sell Damascus S-300 air defence batteries.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    yuk a disrespect to your company my friend cant tolerate them kind of inhumane behaviour sorry.

  • Comment number 792.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    @788. wizarat


    Isn't Suyani a prophesied tyrant?

    Correct me please, does your post deliberately try to insinuate that Islamic or Arab culture is conductive to such savagery?

    Talking about 'animals' getting our tax dollars (and btw I wouldn't condemn this guy having the same done to him alive), care to mention the $150 billion in Foreign Reserves 'taxed' from Libya for..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Where are the comments I wrote on this subject. Zaheer

  • Comment number 789.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Nothing new, This has been done by Hinda - mother of Muavia - wife of Abu Sufyan. Hinda ate the heart of Prophet Muhammad's Uncle- Hazrath Hamza. Abu Sakhar is just following the tradition set by the Sufyanis of Sham (present day Syria)
    I hope we understand now who we are supporting in this rebellion. These animals are getting our tax dollars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    First Libya had it all - except the blessing of the 'elite nations' and their financial 'institutions'.

    Gaddaffi fatally got seduced by Tony Blair; the master charmer.

    Now Syria, an expedient ally of Iran and a foe of the sort of extremism found in Israel, Saudi, Qatar, is being slowly defeated via propaganda vehicles and mercenaries funded by OUR Government(s).

    The Great Deception continues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    My money is on the way Abu. Not that I have a choice about it... Hell, get yourself a new knife with the cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Agree with all the comments that support not getting involved in Syria let the UN sort it out... that is their purpose right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    If the West spent as much time trying to end this nightmare as they do supporting these animals we would be in a better place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    758. jeni
    "Why oh why does the West think that by getting Assad out"

    Because Alan Juppe ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Jupp%C3%A9 ) believes that this will be good thing to do. I can see no other reason (although I tried hard enough for more than a year to find one)... and nobody bothered to tell me something reasonable (that is, other than pure propaganda) about that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    Doing this in the name of Islam is the most foolish thing I have ever seen

    We will remember this day as the end of pandering to religious zealots and trying to accommodate their narrow minded beliefs of any persuasion.

    Ban mutilation of genitalia

    Ban suppression of women

    Deport or arrest people for spreading hate

    Ban intolerance of mixed faith marriage

    This is not acceptable in the UK!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    The Syrian conflict has been lit and fuelled by propaganda. How can this savage even claim to be a Muslim when the modern Geneva Conventions borrows heavily from Islamic Sharia (something my sister has found - a legal expert in Human Rights).

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    BBC - this is either true or it isn't. Why publish anti-bashir stories if they are not true? Why publish anti Bashir stories if they are not true ... in fact BBC, why are you publishing if not to create news for your propaganda machine? We're awake!

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    If this is true,why the hell are the UK/US Govs wanting to fund these monsters, imagine them actually running Syria?. I served in the BA and the last thing I would do to a fallen enemy would be to take a bite out of his heart. INsane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    Seems like I'm a broken record these days, as all my posts seem to start with "as an ex-soldier"...

    Too many or our brave soldiers' lives are being wasted in wars that don't concern us. When I served, there were lines weren't crossed, and we didn't, but I wouldn't blame any soldier for refusing to serve if we involve ourselves here.

    There will never be winners, only varying degrees of loss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    768. CURTAINS 2012 - I don't know enough of his life to validate your claims.

    In other words, you can't find anything on Youtube or a link with Google, ergo, he's not real in your sad little celebrity-obsessed existence.

    That is exactly what I meant when I said you know almost nothing about real life. Some things you have to work out on the basis of actual experience. I suggest you get some.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    Just now
    Come on. Denial is getting harder. Islam is a different and bigger problem, for all of us. Quit excusing it"

    Am not excusing anything or anyone. Nutjobs are all the same to me, but if you think it's down to religion crack on. I have enough examples in my own head of good old christian boys doing the sick things. Carry on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    772.zen dahodi
    5 Minutes ago
    America under Hillary Clinton and Obama's watch has created this mess, unrest, killings and destruction in Syria. It was really a worst move by the White House, similar to Bush-Cheney's Iraq WAR. We will be sucked in to this quagmire for a long time to come.


    Obama can't even deal with the ghettoes in his own warships.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.


    Come on. Denial is getting harder. Islam is a different and bigger problem, for all of us. Quit excusing it.


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