VIDEO: US-backed Syrian rebels shoot IS corpse in possible war crime

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Video obtained by MEE shows member of the US-backed Ahmed al-Abdo brigade shooting the dead body of an Islamic State militant's corpse

Image showing the moment the Ahmed al-Abdo fighter points a gun at the dead Islamic State militant (Still)
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Thursday 20 July 2017 9:39 UTC
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A US-backed rebel group in Syria may have committed possible war crimes in dealing with Islamic State (IS) group militants, according to footage obtained by Middle East Eye. 

The footage taken in the Syrian desert near Homs earlier this year shows a member of the Ahmed al-Abdo brigade shooting the corpse of a dead fighter belonging to IS repeatedly in the head.

Tanf, lying near the Syrian-Jordanian border, is where US special forces training rebels are based. The town has been a flashpoint in recent weeks as militias backed by Iran have tried to get near the US garrison, prompting US coalition jets to strike back.

Ahmad al-Abdo Martyrs Brigade is part of the US-backed Southern Front Brigade of the Free Syrian Army and has been operating against IS in the Qalamoun area and the Damascus countryside.

The group has received equipment such as TOWs, vehicles, training and military equipment from the US helping them to down a Syrian army war plane last month.

Read more ►

Rebels claim downing of Syrian aircraft near ceasefire zone

The US has been training and equipping rebel factions since 2013. The criteria it has used to assess each group has remained secret however. 

Possible war crimes 

The acts committed in the footage are possible war crimes in violation of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the "mutilation of dead bodies". The acts also appear to call into question the US’s ethical judgement when dealing with rebel forces.

Stills obtained by MEE show US special forces assisting and advising Southern Front troops near the Syrian-Jordanian border.

The footage also shows a football match with one player using a handgun to recklessly shoot toward the ball, just missing the other players by a matter of feet.

The United States Central Command (also known as Centcom) which heads the coalition against IS told MEE that it had stopped short of launching an enquiry into the incident.  

In a statement it said that partnered forces understood the requirement to abide by the laws of armed conflict, but that any violation “would be unacceptable and should be investigated in a transparent manner”.



American soldiers training members of Ahmed al-Abdo Brigade fighters near al-Tanf area in Syria (Still)

“The results of that vetting are reported to Congress on a quarterly basis consistent with the law."

Partnered forces are “strictly vetted...for associations with terrorist organisations,” the statement added. 

This is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding US-backed groups.

US-backed Kurdish forces have also been accused by human rights groups of committing war crimes and forcefully displacing thousands of Syrian civilians, mostly Arabs, and demolishing villages in northern Syria since 2015.

At the same time, fighting broke out last year between Pentagon-backed rebels and those backed by the CIA, with US officials reporting repeated shootings while the two US-backed groups manoeuvred through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.