BEIRUT -- Footage posted online purporting to show Syrian rebel troops executing pro-government militia members in Aleppo has drawn strong condemnation and attracted many Internet viewers.
Human Rights Watch is among the groups that have criticized the apparent summary executions, which were allegedly committed by Free Syrian Army fighters during the fighting in the Syrian city.
"Such reprisals never justified," Nadim Houry, the group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, tweeted.
Both sides in the Syrian conflict have committed extrajudicial executions, human rights groups say.
The two-minute video, uploaded to YouTube, is said to depict pro-regime enforcers known as shabiha led down what appear to be stairs toward an agitated crowd of men, many of them armed, chanting "God is great." The alleged shabiha appear to be unarmed.
Some of the prisoners bear signs of being wounded or abused. One older man has a bloodied face and is dressed only in boxer shorts. The group of captives, apparently four in number, is pushed up against a wall in a courtyard and killed in a frenzy of shooting and screaming
The caption of the video says the footage shows the execution of the "dog" shabiha leader Zeino Berri in Aleppo. Reports say the men were leaders from the Berri clan. The opposition accuses the clan of committing atrocities in Aleppo before rebels took parts of the city almost two weeks ago.
At one point, someone puts a hand in front of the lens, apparently attempting to stop the scene from being filmed.
Then: the sounds of a deafening barrage of shooting for about a minute.
As the shooting comes to a halt -- amid roars and cheers -- the camera zooms in on what appears to be a heap of bodies.
Shabiha, from the Arabic word for ghost, are armed paramilitary members allied with the government of President Bashar Assad. Many are members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoote of Shiite Islam. But the opposition says there are also many shabiha from other sects.
The opposition has blamed shabiha for widespread killings, rape and atrocities, including the so-called Houla massacre, the killings of more than 108 people, mostly women and children, in late May in the town of Houla.
In a separate incident, Reuters interviewed a rebel fighter who chuckled when he recounted the story of a Syrian army sniper who had been captured and executed by rebels. The soldier, said Ahmed the rebel, was shot to death after a "trial" at his own graveside.
More than 140,000 people have viewed the footage of the purported executions of the pro-government militiamen on YouTube. The video has attracted more than 2,000 "likes" and about 100 "dislikes."
"This is what happens to people who kill children, women and shell protesters! Everyone else should use this as an example," read one comment under the video.
"How ugly," read another comment posted under the video. "But they deserve it."
"To hell and good riddance," said another commenter.
"These people want freedom and democracy"? asked another viewer. "What a farce."
In a new report, Amnesty International said Wednesday that the Assad government had pressed a brutal campaign in Aleppo, committing mass human rights violations before rebels took control of several city neighborhoods
"The report details a wide range of systematic, state-directed abuses, including the deliberate targeting of peaceful protesters and activists, the hunting down of injured protesters, the routine use of torture, the targeting of medics providing lifesaving emergency treatment to the wounded, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances," the organization said.
-- Alexandra Sandels
Photo: A screenshot from a video uploaded to YouTube said to show the execution of alleged government sympathizers in Aleppo.