Islamist rebels have executed at least 56 Syrian government troops captured in fighting for an air base in the north-west of the country, a monitoring group has said.
The soldiers were reportedly killed by fighters belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda, and their extremist allies earlier this week after they took the Abu al-Duhur military airport, in Idlib province, on 9 September.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, confirmed the executions on Saturday, following posts on Twitter by opposition supporters showing images of soldiers lined up on tarmac, and bloodied corpses lined up on the ground.
Another image reportedly showed a bearded militant posing triumphantly in front of the camera, his foot on a dead soldier.
The total death toll on the government side since the seizure of the airbase is 71, according to the pro-opposition SOHR, which said that 56 soldiers have been executed in the past week.
Jabhat al- Nusra, the Turkestan Islamic Party and “other Islamist factions" were said by the SOHR to have carried out the 56 executions having captured base in a joint assault within the past two weeks.
The Army of Conquest was named by the Daily Telegraph as one of the groups involved in capturing the base.
A post on the SOHR’s website contradicted claims made on Syrian state media, which admitted the airbase had been captured but said that government troops had made an orderly withdrawal.
The post said that “all the soldiers who were in the airbase are dead, missing or captives”.