|Syrian rebels committed crimes against humanity: HRW||
Syrian rebels killed at least 190 civilians and took more than 200 hostage during an offensive in Latakia province in August, Human Rights Watch said on Friday, in what it calls the first evidence of crimes against humanity by opposition forces.
HRW said many of the dead had been executed by militant groups, some linked to al Qaeda, who overran army positions at dawn on August 4 and then moved into 10 villages nearby where members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect lived.
In its first government-sanctioned trip into Syria during the 2-1/2-year conflict, New York-based HRW has documented a series of sectarian mass killings by Assad's foes during a broader campaign in which Western-backed rebels took part.
In some cases, entire families were executed or gunned down as they fled, according to a report titled "You Can Still See Their Blood".
HRW identified five rebel groups instrumental to funding, organizing, planning and carrying out the Latakia attacks, including the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant groups, as well as the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and another unit of foreign jihadi fighters.
These groups publicized their involvement through videos and statements, some of which were used to corroborate the HRW report. The operation appeared to have been largely financed by private Persian Gulf-based donors, HRW said.
The HRW report documented the involvement of over 20 rebel groups in the Latakia offensive, which started on August 4 after months of bombardment of a nearby Sunni village, and ended on August 18, when the government regained control of the area.
Rebels told Reuters in August that around 200 of Assad's men were killed at the start of the offensive.
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