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Terrorism & Security

War-crime accusations emerge as Syrian rebels take strategic town

Syrian regime forces may face logistical problems after withdrawing from the strategic town of Saraqeb. The UN says a video that has emerged appears to show rebels committing war crimes.

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Ann Harrison of Amnesty International told The New York Times that the footage "depicts a potential war crime in progress, and demonstrates an utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question." A United Nations Human Rights Council spokesman made similar comments when shown the video, reports Reuters.

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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Whether or not the executioners in the video were members of Jabhat al-Nusra, jihadists are a growing presence in Syria and are proving attractive to aspiring revolutionaries in the country.  The Monitor's Scott Peterson reported yesterday that while the US and other Western nations offer words of encouragement and small arms and communications equipment to Syrians fighting Assad, the jihadis offer weapons and manpower.

"We hoped the American government would help us in our revolution, because it fights for the democratic flag in the world – and toppled Saddam Hussein in the name of democracy," says a Syrian judge who runs a temporary court in a rebel-controlled district of Aleppo. He gave his name as Abu Ibrahim.

"But Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did nothing. America failed us," says the secular Syrian, whose tailored suit and pressed shirt contrasted sharply with the motley collection of rebels who man the frontline a few streets away. "This whole thing about jihadists is an excuse not to support us."

"The jihadists in Aleppo are so few, and we take them as a burden. We don't need them, we need their weapons, their fighters," Abu Ibrahim says. "We are ashamed to tell them to get out. They came to fight with us and we must appreciate that. We can't stop them because the West has not come to help."

But the Guardian's Martin Chulov, reporting on foreign jihadist fighters working with native rebels, writes that some rebels think that the jihadists and the Syrian rebels' cooperative relationship may prove to be short-lived.

Bound by social customs that offer wayfarers shelter and hospitality, this rebel unit seemed to sense that trouble is brewing between them and the growing band of global jihadis. Many rebel groups the Guardian spoke to this week said a showdown was looming with the new arrivals.

"I give it six months," said one rebel officer at a checkpoint in the old market place in the central Aleppo suburb of Midan on Thursday. "Maybe a year," said another. "I was in Iraq fighting the Americans and I saw how they changed once they sensed they had power."

"It's so mixed up," said a third young rebel, a defector from Damascus. "And this is just how Bashar wants it."

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