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'Sheer savagery': Syrian rebel rips out soldier's heart, Human Rights Watch says

A Syrian rebel commander has been caught on video cutting out the heart of a soldier and biting into it, Human Rights Watch said late Monday.

Amateur video posted online shows a man cutting into the dead soldier's torso and removing his liver and heart.

The New York-based rights group identified the man as Abu Sakkar, a founder of the rebel Omar al-Farouq Brigade. 

In the video, which prompted outrage on all sides of the country’s deadly civil war, the man says: "I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,”according to HRW.

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A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.

Sakkar also uses sectarian language to insult Alawites, HRW said. More than 80,000 are thought to have been killed in the increasingly sectarian conflict, in which majority Sunni Muslims have sought to overthrow Assad, whose family is chiefly supported by Alawites, who are an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Access to country is difficult because of government restrictions and security concerns, making it hard for observers and news organizations to independently verify the source and authenticity of Internet videos. 

HRW said it compared frames in the clip to similar videos of the same man and spoke to sources in Homs, including other rebels, who identified Sakkar.

“It is not known whether the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade operates within the command structure of the Free Syrian Army,” HRW said Monday. “But the opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army leadership should take all possible steps to hold those responsible for war crimes accountable and prevent such abuses by anyone under their command.”

It repeated its call for the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria’s conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Even by the standards of Syria's ever-worsening stream of atrocity and massacre videos, the latest footage from the country cannot fail to shock for its sheer savagery,” HRW emergencies director Peter Bouckaert wrote on the Foreign Policy news site.

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People resisting the army of President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria cope with loss and prepare for fighting.

“Abu Sakkar is just one man, and there are many other armed fighters in Syria who reject such sectarian actions and would be horrified by the mutilation and desecration of a corpse -- let alone an act of cannibalism. But he is a commander in a decisive battle in Syria -- hardly a marginal figure.”

Fahad Almasri, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army condemned the actions portrayed in the video.

"First, who did this behavior has not the FSA, does not represent us and does not represent the Syrian Revolution. We in the joint command of FSA categorically reject any actions or behaviors do not respect the values and ethics of Syrian Revolution and FSA, and we condemn in the strongest words of condemnation of such acts of individual that does not accept them never," Almasri said.

The United States and Russia this week proposed an international conference aimed at ending the war. A Syria government minister on Tuesday said it wanted more details before deciding whether it would agree to attend, Reuters reported.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi was quoted by state news agency SANA as saying that Syria welcomed the proposal but stressed it "will not be a party at all to any ... meeting which harms, directly or indirectly, national sovereignty." 

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