First Published: 2017-10-23

IS ‘executed’ 116 suspected of Syria regime collaboration
Jihadists killed at least 116 civilians from Al-Qaryatain in ‘reprisal killings’ over period of 20 days, accusing them of collaboration with regime forces.
Middle East Online

Majority of those killed were executed in the last two days before IS lost the town

BEIRUT - The Islamic State group executed dozens of civilians this month in the Syrian desert, a monitor said Monday, in a gruesome massacre as the jihadists see their "caliphate" collapse.

The extremist group last week lost its key Syrian stronghold of Raqa, the latest in a string of setbacks for the jihadists who are facing multiple offensives in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said IS fighters massacred more than 100 people in the desert town of Al-Qaryatain this month before they lost it to regime forces.

"IS has over a period of 20 days executed at least 116 civilians in reprisal killings, accusing them of collaboration with regime forces," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Regime forces retook Al-Qaryatain, which lies in the central Homs province, on Saturday, three weeks after the jihadists had seized control of it.

State news agency SANA published Monday footage from inside the town, showing a ransacked and partially burnt hospital, and roads with rubble strewn across them.

Homs governor Talal Barazai greeted residents, thanking them for their "steadfastness", and pledging to stand by them, as dozens of people queued to receive aid being distributed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

IS first occupied the town in 2015 and lost it to Russian-backed Syrian forces last year.

"After the regime retook it (on Saturday), the town's residents found the bodies on the streets. They had been shot dead or executed with knives," Abdel Rahman said.

"Most of the IS fighters who attacked the town a month ago were sleeper cells... They are from the town, know the town's residents and who is for or against the regime," he said.

The majority of those killed were executed in the last two days before IS lost the town again, he added.

The regime seized back Al-Qaryatain on Saturday after more than 200 jihadists withdrew overnight, pulling back into the vast desert region that stretches all the way to the Iraqi border.

Al-Qaryatain was a symbol of religious coexistence before Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, with some 900 Christians among its population of 30,000.

But it was ravaged by IS during the group's eight-month-long occupation of the town in 2015-16, with its Christian sites including a fifth-century church reduced to rubble.

- IS decline -

At the peak of its power in 2014, IS's self-styled "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq was approximately the size of Britain.

But it has suffered a string of major setbacks in recent months, including the loss in July of its most important Iraqi stronghold, the city of Mosul.

Last week, it also lost its foremost Syrian bastion, the city of Raqa, after a campaign of more than four months led by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia.

The jihadist group is now mostly confined to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor in the country's east, along the border with Iraq.

IS holds around 40 percent of the province, which was once almost completely in its hands, and faces two separate offensives, including by the SDF.

The US-backed militia is fighting the group mostly on the eastern side of the Euphrates River that slices diagonally across the province.

On Sunday, SDF fighters seized one of the country's largest oilfields from the group.

Syria's regime is conducting a separate, Russian-backed offensive in the province, largely on the western bank of the river.

In September, the offensive ended an IS siege of nearly three years on government-held parts of the provincial capital Deir Ezzor city.

The group now holds just eight percent of the city, according to the Observatory.

Elsewhere in Syria, IS holds just a few pockets of territory, including a handful of recently recaptured villages in central Hama province, and parts of the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk in southern Damascus.

An allied group, Jaish Khaled Bin Walid, is also present in parts of southern Syria.

 

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail