Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned massacre in the town of Adra, 20 kilometers north of Damascus. Survivors say jihadist rebel groups executed dozens of civilians, including children, beheading them or burning them alive.
“Moscow is convinced that such acts have to be decisively condemned and the international community should actively confront the perpetrators and financers of those acts,” Aleksandr Lukashevich, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.
While the Syrian army continues its broad push to get the insurgents out of Adra, RT Arabic has gathered eyewitness accounts of what happened in the town last week, when it was captured by Islamist rebels of the Al-Nusra front and the Army of Islam.
Those who managed to flee the violence in Adra and reach Damascus say they saw the militants slaughtering Alawites, Druze, Christians and Shiites indiscriminately. Fearing their interviews might do harm to their relatives still in the occupied town, the fugitive survivors asked not to reveal their identities.
One of them told RT that all of the officials in the town were killed “no matter what religious groups they belonged to.”
"Among them were people who did not support any of the warring parties – neither the opposition nor the government. Nevertheless, they have been abused – they were terrorized and used as human shields,” the witness said.
There’s no reliable way at the moment to communicate with the people trapped inside Adra, but RT Arabic’s Abutaleb Albohaya, reporting from Damascus, cites the country’s officials as saying that “the atrocities against the civilian population are continuing.”
“What is happening in Adra is unthinkable,” one of the Adra escapees told RT. “Children are being slaughtered and thrown out of the windows. But no one is doing anything. The crisis in Syria continues in an environment where there is no international law, including those relating to the paramilitary operations.”
Human Rights Watch has been evaluating the reports coming out of Adra.
“I am afraid we cannot comment at this stage, as our research is still ongoing and it has been very difficult to get accurate information about what is happening in Adra and who is responsible for the abuses,” Lama Fakih, the watchdog’s Syria and Lebanon Researcher told RT in an e-mail.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has complained that Adra is inaccessible to its experts.
"We don't have access to this area and can neither confirm nor deny any information circulating," the ICRC said in a reply to RT’s request for comment.
The government in Damascus, meanwhile, wants to draw the UN’s attention to events in Adra. The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations on Monday, saying that more than 100 people were massacred by the al-Nusra Front and the Islam Brigade in a suburb of the capital.
“Adra has seen some horrific crimes,” Nizar Skif, chairman of the Union of Lawyers in Syria, told RT. Among the atrocities, the lawyer said were reports of “sadism,” of people being “thrown into the furnaces” and “houses burned with people inside.”
Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, described the Adra massacre as outrageous. He said it was not the only evidence of brutality on the part of some of the rebel groups, which constitute the so-called Islamic Front, created as an alternative to the Free Syrian Army, which has positioned itself as a secular force, committed to keeping Syria a multi-religious society.
“The Islamic Front has proclaimed quite radical goals, although our western partners have been trying to establish ties with them and describe the front as an “acceptable power”, which possesses influence “on the ground,” Lavrov said at a press conference. “However, there’s some evidence which we consider reliable and which shows that when the front was being created, a possibility of Al-Nusra joining in was discussed. That did not happen only to save the front’s reputation, as Al-Nusra has been on terrorist organizations’ lists in the US and Europe.”
Lavrov expressed his concern over the possibility that the Islamic Front could be ideologically close to Al-Nusra, now that the US mediators of the Geneva-2 peace talks on Syria, set for January 22, have been meeting with the front’s representatives, trying to “somehow get them “under the umbrella” of the Free Syrian Army”.
With new groups within the Syrian opposition having lately “sprung up like mushrooms” according to Lavrov, Russia has been particularly concerned with who exactly is going to negotiate peace with the Syrian government at the so-called Geneva-2 peace conference.