An extremely graphic and savage video going viral on YouTube in the past couple of days shows what appears to be a Syrian rebel dismembering a slain government soldier and then biting into his heart.
Reuters reports that the perpetrator seen in the video is actually a rebel commander whose nom de guerre is Abu Sakkar, who is one of the founders of the Farouq Brigade. And according to Reuters, he is a well-known insurgent from Homs.
In the video, which TheBlaze has chosen not to include in this post due to the graphic and disturbing nature of the images, one sees digitally blurred images of the rebel cutting into the torso of the soldier, who is presumably a loyalist of embattled President Bashar Assad. One then sees the rebel yanking out two organs from the slain soldier’s chest.
This is the translation subtitled on the video, “I swear to god we will eat your hearts out. You soldiers of Bashar (Assad) the dog…we will take out their hearts and eat them.”
The chants of Allahu Akbar – Allah is the greatest – are heard as off-camera onlookers cheer on the gruesome scene as the desecration of the dead body unfolds.
Before the video cuts off, the rebel is seen biting into one of the soldier’s just-extracted organs. According to his own narration, he is apparently biting the soldier’s heart.
Reuters reports that Human Rights Watch has condemned the rebel’s behavior:
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said that he had seen an original, unedited copy of the video and that Abu Sakkar’s identity had been confirmed by rebel sources in Homs and by images of him in other videos wearing the same black jacket as in the latest clip and with the same rings on his fingers.
“The mutilation of the bodies of enemies is a war crime. But the even more serious issue is the very rapid descent into sectarian rhetoric and violence,” said Bouckaert.
He said that in the unedited version of the film, Abu Sakkar instructs his men to “slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them”, before biting into the heart.
TIME Magazine’s Middle East Bureau Chief Aryn Baker writes that she first became aware of the video a month ago.
In her aptly-titled piece, “Savage Online Videos Fuel Syria’s Descent Into Madness,” she writes that Abu Sakkar’s real name is Khalid al-Hamad.
According to her description, while the rebel pulls a heart out with his right hand, the organ he pulls out with his left hand appears to be a lung.
As in the case of most amateur videos emerging from Syria, TheBlaze cannot verify its authenticity; however Baker describes TIME’s investigation into the video:
Two TIME reporters first saw the video in April in the presence of several of Abu Sakkar’s fighters and supporters, including his brother. They all said the video was authentic. We later obtained a copy. Since then TIME has been trying to ensure that the footage is not digitally manipulated in any way — a faked film like this would be powerful propaganda for the regime, which portrays the rebels as terrorists — and, as yet, TIME has not been able to confirm its integrity. Abu Sakkar has not commented on whether the man in the video is indeed him because he is currently fighting on the front lines in Syria, according to fighters under his command. The video became public on May 12 when it was posted online by a proregime group and is indeed now being used as propaganda by regime supporters (and has already been shared 1,115 times on Facebook and has over 46,000 views on YouTube). These 27 seconds of footage provide a glimpse at how brutal the Syrian war has become — and a startling example of how technology appears to be fueling that brutality.
“Videos like this prompt a troubling question: How do countries who want to support Syria’s rebels make sure they’re not unintentionally aiding rebels who might commit war crimes?,” Baker asks.
While nearly 80,000 have reportedly been killed during the two-year conflict, this latest video provides more evidence that horrific atrocities continue to be perpetrated.
Brigadier General Salim Idris who heads the Syrian Military Council (SMC), a group guiding some of the rebels tells TIME: “Look, it is very clear that these kinds of behaviors, this cutting of bodies, is not allowed. If there is evidence that fighters from the FSA [Free Syrian Army] are doing something against human rights or international law, they will be brought before the court.”
The video can be seen at (warning: graphic) this link.