Rebels believed to have executed Syrian troops

In this Nov. 1, 2012 photo, rebel fighters watch over enemy positions as they wait for Syrian army troops to enter a street during clashes in the Karmal Jabl battlefield in Aleppo, Syria.
AP Photo/Narciso Contreras

BEIRUT A new video appears to show Syrian rebels killing a group of captured soldiers, drawing condemnations from human rights groups who warned on Friday that the gunmen may have committed a war crime.

An anti-regime activist organization said the killings took place near the northern town of Saraqeb, which has been the scene in past weeks of heavy fighting between rebels and forces of President Bashar Assad's regime.

Human rights groups said they were trying to confirm the video's authenticity. The footage was consistent with other Associated Press reporting in the area. The video is dated Thursday, a day when the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy attacks by rebels on regime checkpoints at Saraqeb.

The video shows rebels beating and kicking a group of captured soldiers, some of the apparently wounded. The soliders are not bound or blindfolded. The rebels then shoot them to death. The exact number of soldiers in the video is not clear, but appears to be around 10.

London-based Amnesty International called the video "shocking" and said it may depict a "potential war crime in progress."

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was examining the video.

"The allegations are that these were soldiers who were no longer combatants and therefore, at this point, it looks very like a war crime. Another one," the spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva. "Unfortunately this could be the latest in a string of documented summary executions by opposition factions as well as by government forces and groups affiliated with them, such as the (pro-government) shabiha" militia.

"The people committing these crimes should be under no illusion that they will escape accountability, because there is a lot of accumulated evidence, perhaps including this video," he said.

On Friday, the Observatory condemned the killing of nearly a dozen soldiers at the Hmeisho checkpoint. Amnesty released a highly critical statement.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, asked how rebels can demand rights at a time when they violate such rights.