New details of atrocities carried out by Islamist rebel fighters in the town of Adra, 20 kilometers north of Damascus, continue to pour in from survivors of the massacre there, in which reportedly at least 80 people lost their lives.
“The decapitators” is how the Adra residents, who managed to flee the violence there, now call the people who currently have the town under their control. Adra, a town with a population of 20,000, was captured by Islamist rebels from the Al-Nusra front and the Army of Islam last week, following fierce fighting with the government forces. The town’s seizure was accompanied by mass executions of civilians.
Following alarming reports of the massacre, RT contacted international rights groups including the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). However, none of them were able to provide any information.
While the HRW told RT that it “cannot comment at this stage as our research is still ongoing and it has been very difficult to get accurate information about what is happening in Adra and who is responsible for the abuses,” the ICRC said they “don’t have access to this area and can neither confirm nor deny any information circulating.”
RT Arabic has managed to speak to some of the eyewitnesses of the atrocities. Most of them have fled the town, leaving their relatives and friends behind, so they asked not to be identified in the report for security reasons.
An Adra resident said he escaped from the town “under a storm of bullets.” He later contacted his colleagues, who described how the executions of civilians were carried out by the militants.
“They had lists of government employees on them,” the man told RT. “This means they had planned for it beforehand and knew who works in the governmental agencies. They went to the addresses they had on their list, forced the people out and subjected them to the so-called “Sharia trials.” I think that’s what they call it. They sentenced them to death by beheading.”
A woman, hiding her face from the camera, told RT of the beheadings she had seen.
“There was slaughter everywhere,” she said. “The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.”
One of the witnesses of the Adra massacre, who spoke to RT on condition of anonymity. Still from RT video
It’s been reported that 80 civilians were killed in the massacre. The death toll could still grow, as currently the information coming from Adra is scarce. The town has been surrounded and isolated by the Syrian army, who have been trying to force the extremists out.
“Civilians told us that the workers of an Adra bakery were all executed and burned during the first hours of the attack. Whole families were massacred. We do not have an exact estimation of the number because we are unable to get into the town, but the number is high,” Kinda Shimat, Syria’s Social Affairs Minister, told RT.
Details of the executions are trickling out of the town as eyewitnesses tell their stories.
“They killed everyone at the Adra Ummalia police station,” another fugitive from the town told RT. “And they killed everyone at the Adra Ummalia hospital where my sister works. She stayed alive only because she didn’t show up for work that day. There are about 200 people at the police station. They are civilians. The militants are hiding among them, using them as a shield to prevent the Army from bombing the police.”
The events in Adra are a further example of the shift that has taken place within the Syrian rebel forces which has lately been dominated by Islamist extremists, according to Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
The Syrian army on a mission to force rebels out of the town of Adra. Still from RT video
“The so-called moderate opposition forces are virtually non-existent from the military standpoint,” Chossudovsky told RT. “The only force which has funding and weapons are the Islamists, particularly Al-Nusra. And their rebel brigades are the ones committing atrocities. The divisions are occurring precisely because segments of the opposition realize that these terrorist brigades do not belong to the so-called opposition movement.”
Both the Adra massacre and the latest Aleppo bombing have signaled the escalation of violence in the war-torn country ahead of the UN-mediated continuously postponed peace talks on Syria, now set to take place in Geneva on January 22.
On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire ahead of the talks.
“We must have a cessation of hostilities before we begin political dialogue on Syria in Geneva,” he said.
More than 100,000 people have died during the three-year-old civilian war in Syria, according to UN estimates.
Contributed by RT.com