WASHINGTON, July 26, 2014 — Islamic State — formerly Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) — fighters in Damascus have seized a Syrian army base in the northern province of Raqa, killing scores of troops and beheading some of them. Those beheaded were put on display in the city and photos were posted online.
The soldiers’ decapitated bodies were strewn on the ground. The bloodied heads were lined up as a “message to the people of Raqa, to tell them it [IS] is strong, that it isn’t going anywhere, and to terrify” anyone who may attempt to oppose them.
According to observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, “Some of the executed troops were beheaded, and their bodies and severed heads put on display in Raqa city,” an IS stronghold.
During the two day assault on the Division 17 base, jihadists murdered at least 85 soliders, but the fate of some 200 remains unknown,” says Rahman.
Videos and photos posted by the jihadis show IS fighters inside Division 17 living quarters and burning a portrait of Syrina President Bashar Assad.
IS is attempting to take control of the area just days after it attacked and took over the al-Shaier natural gas fields in the central province of Homas. More than 270 Syrian Government troops and civilian workers were slain by IS in the al-Shaier clash.
IS is known for its brutality. It was originally an Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaeda, but was disavowed by al-Qaeda leader Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri for refusing to take direction from the al-Qaeda leadership and for its extreme violence.
The attack against Division 17 troops began when IS sent a suicide bomber to the gate of the base. However, a mis-trigger caused the bomb to explode prematurely, according to reports that identified the bombers as Saudi jihadists.
Another attack was executed against Regiment 121, stationed in the northern provice of Hasaka, according to the al-Safir newspaper.
With the capture of oil and gas fields in Deir al-Sour, most of the province is under the IS’s control. The group reportedly has started selling oil to Iraqi and Turkish merchants, further padding its coffers.
The group has proclaimed the establishment of an “Islamic Caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq, changing its name from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham to the “Islamic State.”
Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has tens of thousands of fighters under his command, the goal of the jihadi group is an Islamic state in the Levant, an area that includes parts of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine. The group is currently fighting the Shiite government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said Friday that ISIS fighters accused of atrocities would be added to a list of war crimes indictees.
In Aleppo, an additional 30 troops were killed in an overnight ambush. Syria has been at the center of deadly conflict since March, 2011. Over 160,000 persons have been killed and millions have lost their homes due to the ongoing violence.