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Human Rights Watch Report Points to Gulf Funding of Opposition Atrocities in Syria

Oct. 14, 2013 (EIRNS)—The report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Oct. 10, documenting atrocities committed by five Syrian opposition groups during their August assault on Latakia Province of northern Syria, also includes leads as to the funding of that assault, as well as additional documentation on the large number of foreign fighters that were involved. At least 205 civilian noncombatants are known to have been killed in the assault that began in Aug. 4, and HRW was able to document that at least 67 of them were executed, even though they were unarmed and trying to flee (indeed, several of those executed were incapable of fleeing because of age and infirmities, including an 80-year-old woman who was blind). Another 200 people are known to have been kidnapped.

The report identifies several Kuwaitis who were named in Twitter and youtube postings by themselves or by rebel groups who received the donations of hundreds of thousands of euros, but the report also indicates that funding came from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the U.A.E. The report insists that there's no evidence to suggest that those individuals who were raising and providing funds for the assault knew about the abuses that their funds were about to pay for—though it seems reasonable to assume that they were fully cognizant of the groups they were supporting—but that continued support of the five principal groups involved in the slaughter of unarmed civilians "may make these individuals complicit in war crimes or crimes against humanity if these groups continue to commit abuses."

HRW's description of the five principal groups certainly belies any notion that they are the product of an internal uprising against a repressive regime, as they are clearly dominated by foreign leaders and fighters as well as foreign funds. The five groups are as follows:

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), led by an Iraqi by the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who aligned his group with al-Qaeda leader Zayman al-Zawahiri earlier this year. Among the ISIS fighters who died during the assault whom HRW names (again from Twitter, youtube and other social network postings) were a Tunisian and a Chechen.

  • Jabhat al Nusra is also aligned with al-Qaeda, though there have been reports of clashes between Al Nusra and ISIS. At least three Al Nusra fighters were killed during the assault, two Moroccans and a Libyan.

  • Ahrar al Sham, also an Islamist group, last three fighters during the assault, all Moroccans.

  • Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar "is led by Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen and is made up of several nationalities, including Chechens, Turks, Tajiks, Pakistanis, French, Egyptians and Moroccans." This group is affiliated with ISIS, but the degree of control that ISIS has over wal-Ansar is not clear. Two Libyans from wal-Ansar died in the fighting and social networks identified another Chechen as a wal-Ansar commander.

  • Suquor al-Izz is lead by Sheikh Saqr al-Jihad from Saudi Arabia. Not only was he personally involved in leading the assault, he was also identified as one of the chief fundraisers for the operation, personally appealing to the funders from Persian Gulf countries and organizing the fund raising center in Syria that conduited the funds to the rebel groups doing the fighting. Several fighters from Suquor al-Izz are named as casualties in the operation, including two Tunisians.

All five of these groups were implicated in war crimes, including the executions of civilians and the taking of civilians as hostages, by evidence uncovered by HRW's investigators and presented in graphic detail in the report. No elements of the Free Syrian Army apparently took part in the initial assault on Aug. 4, but they did appear in areas taken over by the above-named groups in the days afterwards, including FSA commander Gen. Salim Idriss, who is seen in several videos posted on youtube praising the "liberation" of Latakia province.