Every time it seems like the atrocities of the Syrian civil war have crossed another horrifying line, a new story comes along that pushes the bar even lower. A video is circulating online that appears to show a rebel commander eating the lung of a dead Syrian solider. Though there were questions about the video's authenticity, the man who appears in it has come forward and says he did it and has no regrets. Both Time and CNN have other evidence to suggest it is indeed authentic—and horrifying to all sides of the conflict.
The man in the video is Khalid al-Hamad, who also goes by the name Abu Sakkar. He is a leader of the "Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade," which is opposed to the Assad regime, but reportedly operates outside the command of the main Syrian opposition group, the Free Syrian Army. In an interview with Time, Abu Sakkar admits to mutilating the body, and says he did so after looking at the dead solider's cellphone and finding a video of him humiliating and assaulting a woman and her two daughters.
In the video, which was circulated widely this week and analyzed by Human Rights Watch, Abu Sakkar appears to cut the heart, lungs, and liver out of a dead Syrian solider. He holds the organs in his hands and says into the camera:
I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! Takbir! God is Great! Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!
At the end of the video, he takes a bite of one of the organs. Most initial viewers believed it was the heart, and Hamad says he thought it was the liver at the time, but a surgeon who watched the video says it was a lung. You can see a blurred version of the brief video via Iran's PressTV.
Even members of the FSA have denounced Sakkar and the video, saying he's just one man who might have gone over the edge. According to his friends and contacts, Sakkar has lost two brothers in the war and both his parents have been detained by the government. He and his brigade also originated from the Baba Amr section of Homs, which has seen some of the most vicious and brutal fighting of this entire, awful war. Abu Sakkar's brigade has also been accused of shelling a Shiite town across the border in Lebanon. Abu Sakkar is Sunni and holds a fierce hatred for Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect.
Despite the near universal outrage over this new video, this is hardly the first mutilation video to surface out of Syria. Reports of torture and beheadings and executions of unarmed prisoners have followed the story of the war from the very beginning, and there have been numerous documented incidents of brutality against the living and mistreatment of dead bodies. Though some have been forged to discredit the opposition, there's good evidence that many of them are real. In one of the most notorious videos from last winter, a young boy around 12 years old was filmed beheading an Assad solider with a sword.
Abu Sakkar himself says he has more videos—including one that he claims shows him sawing a man into pieces—and is completely unapologetic. He says he hopes the video will frighten regime soliders, but the increasingly punitive brutality threatens to undermine any hope for a future peace. Other opposition groups, including the Supreme Military Council, have called for Abu Sakkar's arrest. Mutilation, even of dead bodies, is considered a war crime by most international treaties.