UK & World News

  • 29 August 2014, 0:44

IS Fighters 'Executed' 250 Syrian Soldiers

Barack Obama is calling for a coalition of countries prepared to take military action against Islamic State (IS) militants, as a video emerged of hundreds of "executed" Syrian soldiers.

The soldiers were captured at the weekend when the Sunni militants seized an air base in the province of Raqqa, in northern Syria.

The Reuters news agency said a video posted on YouTube on Thursday that purportedly shows dozens of bodies has been confirmed as genuine by an IS fighter.

"Yes we have executed them all," he said.

US President Barack Obama said the US was working to get more countries on board in order to strike at IS.

He said: "We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region, and we're going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy."

France has already ruled itself out. The UK has so far provided humanitarian assistance and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he does not want troops on the ground.

Mr Obama played down the prospect of imminent US military action in Syria, saying "we don't have a strategy yet", but said it was time for Middle Eastern nations to "stop being ambivalent".

He said his top priority remained rolling back the militants' gains in Iraq.

It came as the US military said its fighter planes conducted five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in northern Iraq on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that four of the hostages held by Islamic State in Syria, including journalist James Foley before he was beheaded, had endured waterboarding at the hands of their captors.

The latest video of IS brutality to have emerged shows the bodies of scores of men wearing nothing but their underwear lying face down.

The line of bodies appears to be dozens of metres long.

A caption written underneath says: "The 250 shabeeha taken captive by the Islamic State from Tabqa in Raqqa have been executed."

Shabeehais the name of armed militia forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad. Tabqais the location of the Syrianairbasecaptured by IS in the last few days.

The head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later confirmed that Syrian soldiers had been "executed" at three different places, resulting in the deaths of at least 160.

Rami AbdelRahman said it had happened after jihadistsdefeated the 1,400-strong garrison at Tabqa, of whom 200 were killed in fighting, 700 escaped and dozens of the remainder were captured as they fled.

Meanwhile, the United Nations says an armed group has detained 43 peacekeepers from the Philippines and Fiji in Syria'sGolan Heights. A further 81 peacekeepers are also trapped, the UN has said.

A UN statement said negotiations were under way to release those trapped or being held.