Al-Qaeda in Syria executes 14 govt ‘soldiers’

Nusra Front fighters are shown moving forward to fight against Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen at the hilltop of Khalsa village in southern Aleppo, Syria, in this file image posted on Twitter on June 14, 2016. (Al-Nusra Front Twitter page via AP, File)
Updated 22 July 2016

Al-Qaeda in Syria executes 14 govt ‘soldiers’

BEIRUT: Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front has executed 14 captured men it accused of fighting for President Bashar Assad, in retaliation for a regime advance near Damascus.
A video distributed via the group’s social media accounts showed 14 men, many with injuries including black eyes, stating their names as they lined up in pairs in front of the group’s black flag.
“Implementation of the death sentence against a group of ... regime prisoners because of their attack on Harira village in Wadi Barada,” text on the video read.
The footage showed the men being shot in the head simultaneously as they knelt in front of Al-Nusra fighters. Wadi Barada is an area in the Qalamun region of Syria’s Damascus province and is mostly controlled by an array of opposition groups, including Al-Nusra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said that Al-Nusra had threatened to execute prisoners if government forces entered Harira.
The threats came in an earlier video in which one of the captured men warned that the group would kill 14 captives if the government attacked.
Al-Nusra is the local affiliate of Al-Qaeda and has regularly carried out executions of government forces.
In September 2015, it executed at least 56 regime fighters at a military airport in Idlib province in the northwest of the country.
More than 280,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 min 8 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.