Syria rebels release video of alleged pilot of downed warplane

14/08/2012 GULAN MEDIA       

A group of Syrian rebels said they have captured the pilot of a warplane that the Free Syrian Army claimed to have shot down on Monday in the far east of the country. The man, identified as pilot Colonel Mufid Mohammed Sleiman, was described as “a staunch enemy of the revolution” by the FSA spokesman, who said he had served with him for years before his own defection. A video distributed by the “Revolutionary Youth of the Land of the Euphrates” after the rebels claimed to have shot down a Russian-made MiG fighter near Muhasen in Deir Ezzor province shows Sleiman surrounded by three armed men.

“We will treat this prisoner according to what is required of us by our religion, our morals and the protocols in the Geneva convention related to prisoners of war,” a rebel identified as Captain Abu Laith said in the video. Syria’s state media said earlier that a warplane had suffered a malfunction while on a routine training mission in the province and that the pilot had ejected.

If confirmed, it would be the first time that the rebels have succeeded in downing a Syrian plane since the conflict erupted in March last year.

FSA spokesman Kassem Saadeddine said the plane was a MiG-23BN and that the pilot was from Zahraa, an Alawite district of the city of Homs.

“He is a member of a squadron I used to fly with… before I defected,” he told AFP via Skype. “I served with him for 15 years, and he is a staunch enemy of the revolution.” In the video distributed the purported pilot is seen saying: “My mission was to bomb the town of Muhasen.”

The man, who has a light beard and is wearing a dark blue shirt, is seated at a table. “The wounds on my face were caused by the strong wind that forced me on to stones after I ejected from my plane,” he said.

“The revolutionaries have treated me well and they gave me first aid assistance,” he added. “They are good people.”

Meanwhile other disturbing footage on YouTube appeared to show rebels meting out violent justice. In one video, dead bodies are thrown from the rooftop of a post office, while a crowd of shouting men watch. Enraged members of the crowd kick the bodies down stairs and can be heard calling them members of the Shabiha pro-government militia.

In another video, a young man’s throat is slit with a knife by captors who accuse him of being a member of the Shabiha while his blood pours on the ground and his last breath rattles. Rebels said the video may have been made by government forces to discredit them.

Such images will cause alarm among Western countries that have backed the rebels publicly but are worried about the presence in their midst of hardcore al-Qaeda-style Sunni Muslim fighters who use the ruthless tactics that became common in the sectarian bloodbath in neighboring Iraq. The Alawite sect, of which President Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle are members, is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.