BEIRUT, June 26, (Agencies): A graphic video emerged Sunday showing the killing of fi ve Syrian media activists captured by the Islamic State group last year. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the fi ve were abducted in October and are believed to have been killed in December over their coverage of events in the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour, half of which is held by IS.
The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdurrahman, said news of the detention and killing of the activists was withheld because no bodies had surfaced and the families feared retribution for reporting the deaths. In the video, an IS narrator says the group is facing a media war and warns against reporting to the “crusaders” and “enemies of God.” The narrator says journalists who report on IS may be targeted, even if they reside in Europe.
Abdurrahman said one of the activists, 28-year-old Sami Jawdat, has been feeding information to the Observatory since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011 and continued to do so after IS seized half of Deir el-Zour in 2014. He said Jawdat had been detained by IS on a number of previous occasions.
He said that since learning of the abduction and killing of the activists, his group has told other activists to refrain from taking photos or shooting video in IS-held areas. In the video, each activist explains what he did to report from the area, at times acting it out by shooting pictures or interviewing people in the city’s market. One of the activists says he reports for Al-Jazeera, another says he contributed to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
There was no immediate comment from either on Sunday. Syria is the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists after Yemen and Iraq, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 95 journalists have been killed in Syria since 2011. Almost no international news organizations send staff to Syria because of kidnappings by militants, who often kill their hostages.
Meanwhile, at least 82 people including 58 civilians were killed in Russian and regime air strikes on an Islamic State group-held area of eastern Syria, a monitor said Sunday in a new toll.
“Three Russian and Syrian regime air raids on the region of Al-Quriyah, southeast of Deir Ezzor city, killed 58 civilians,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It added that 24 other people were killed, without specifying wether they were civilians or IS fighters.
The Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources in Syria, initially reported that 47 people including 31 civilians died in the raids around Al-Quriyah. Russian warplanes have been carrying out an air war in support of President Bashar al-Assad since September 2015. Elsewhere, a Jordanian court on Sunday charged 21 people with carrying out “terrorist acts” after their arrest in an operation against jihadists in the country’s north in March, a prosecutor said.
The State Security Court accused them of committing “terrorist acts that led to deaths”, making explosives and possessing weapons, the official Petra news agency quoted the court’s chief prosecutor as saying.
The agency did not say when their trial would begin. In other news, the head of Libya’s unity government said Sunday that only a united military bringing together all the country’s armed factions would be able to defeat the Islamic State group. “We are convinced that the only way to end this organisation (IS) is through a united military command that brings together all Libyans from every region of the country,” prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj told AFP in a written response to questions.
He also for the first time said his forces were receiving “limited assistance” from foreign countries, but did not name them. Forces loyal to Sarraj’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) have been fighting since mid-May to oust IS from Sirte, 450 kms (280 miles) east of the capital Tripoli. Backed by the international community, the GNA set up base in Tripoli at the end of March but has struggled to assert its control over all of Libya.