Dozens of civilians in Syria are dead as a result of an apparent revenge killing after ISIS after entered the once predominately Christian town of Qaryatayn more than three weeks ago.
Although the extremist group is technically in retreat as government forces take back key cities, they reportedly came to the town with a hit list, shooting and beheading more than 70 people in just weeks. The victims’ bodies were unceremoniously dumped in farms and ditches, The Associated Press reported.
ISIS militants were driven out by government forces over the weekend, a small victory that soon revealed the gruesome trail the terror group left behind.
Residents said they watched from their windows or the street as the slayings occurred.
***WARNING: Video contains extremely disturbing images
Abdullah AbdulKarim, a former resident of Qaryatayn, told the AP that his surviving family members walked for miles to find cell phone signal to alert him that his uncle – a local mayor — two cousins and another relative died in the slaughter. Another one of his uncles is still missing, AbdulKarim said.
About 35 of the 50 militants who overtook the town were originally from Qaryatayn and accused many of the victims of collaborating with the government, AbdulKarim said.
“They came into town with a hit list,” AbdulKarim said. He had fled to northern Syria years ago, he said. “…Our curse is from within us.”
Fighters went door-to-door looking for people accused of collaborating with the government and later barred relatives from burying the dead, AbdulKarim said.
“They took people to show them bodies dumped in an open area to let them know they were killed, but also to terrorize the public,” AbdulKarim said.
Qaryatayn has changed hands between ISIS and the Syrian government several times since the civil war broke out in 2011. It was once a predominately Christian town and is known for its ancient monastery, the 1,500-year-old St. Elian monastery, which was demolished when ISIS first took over in 2015.
ISIS fighters used Qaryatayn’s location to defend the historic city of Palmyra. Russian-backed government forces overtook Qaryatayn in April 2016, but ISIS recaptured it in late September.
Raw video from the AP shows several bodies lying in the streets at Syrian government troops retook the town.
“These are people who don’t know God, they don’t know anything. They killed children and women with knives, they beat women, broke their arms,” one resident who wished to remain anonymous told The AP.
AbdulKarim said the government also killed civilians, but added that residents were too afraid to report those deaths.
In addition to the dozens of deaths, several more remain unaccounted for. The names of 67 victims have been identified, and at least 13 people are still missing. ISIS also took Qaryatayn’s police chief, his wife and other security personnel hostage to negotiate their exit.
About 200 ISIS militants left Qaryatayn prior to government forces marching in.
(H/T: The Associated Press)