Video Shows Syrian Rebel Eating Organs on Battlefield

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 14 2013 12:06 PM

Syria's "Cannibal Commander" Says He Has at Least One Other Gruesome Video

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 11.36.46 AM

Screenshot of the video

Syria's civil war, already a near-constant source of gruesome images and horrifying accounts of atrocities on the ground, this week offered it's latest difficult-to-watch, but nearly-impossible-not-to video from the battlefield. The footage, filmed at the end of March but uploaded to the Internet this week, shows a rebel commander calmly using a knife to cut open the chest of what appears to be a dead pro-Assad soldier. The rebel commander then removes one of the dead man's organs—exactly which one is somewhat up for debate—speaks to the camera, and then takes a bite.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"I swear to God, you soldiers of Bashar, you dogs, we will eat from your hearts and livers," the rebel says, according to a translation from Foreign Policy. "O heroes of Bab Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take out their hearts to eat them!" (While the rebel likely believed he was biting into the heart and/or liver, there's a decent chance he was mistaken. A surgeon Time magazine spoke to says that it appears most likely that the organ in question was the dead man's liver.)

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The video was published by forces loyal to the Assad regime, something that would suggest the possibility that it could have been faked for propaganda purposes. Unfortunately, all signs suggest that's not the case. Human Rights Watch, for one, says the video is almost certainly legit, and Time went straight to the source for confirmation, interviewing the rebel identified in the film, Khalid al Hamad (nom de guerre: Abu Sakkar), who wasted little time confirming everyone's fears. Then, for good measure, he added to them, suggesting that he has another video that sounds like it could rival the current one in terms of sheer shock value:

In an interview conducted via Skype in the early hours of May 14 al Hamad explained to TIME what caused him to cut out the soldier’s organs: "We opened his cell phone and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked and he was humiliating them, and sticking a stick here and there."
Al Hamad, who is Sunni and harbors a sectarian hatred for Alawite Muslims, said he has another gruesome video of his killing a government soldier from the Alawite faith. (Syrian President Bashar al Assad is Alawite; the conflict in Syria is increasingly sectarian.) "Hopefully we will slaughter all of them [Alawites]. I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip I am sawing another Shabiha [pro-government militiaman] with a saw. The saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him in small pieces and large ones."

Al Hamad, according to Foreign Policy, previously fought for the mainstream Farouk brigade, but broke off from the group this past October to form the "independent"—and more militant—group known as the Omar al-Farouk brigade, which has focused much of its fighting in the strategically important town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border. From the sounds of it, Al Hamad views his now well-known cannibalism as part of the fight, saying that the clip would give government soldiers second thoughts. "They film as well but after what I did hopefully they will never step into the area where Abu Sakkar is," he said.

You can read the full interview in Time, and check out Foreign Policy for more background on the war. And, if you really want to (spoiler: you don't), you can see the video in question here.