BEIRUT (Reuters) – Islamic State militants have executed Syrian army soldiers and are holding a group of them hostage after capturing an air base in northeast Syria at the weekend, pictures posted on the Internet and on Twitter by supporters showed on Wednesday.
Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda, stormed Tabqa air base near Raqqa city on Sunday after days of fighting with the army that cost more than 500 lives, according to monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Tabqa was the army’s last foothold in an area otherwise controlled by the militants, who have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq. The United States has carried out air strikes on the group in Iraq and is studying its options in Syria.
In one picture posted online, a group of militants in balaclavas are seen gunning down at least seven kneeling men identified as army personnel. Reuters was not able to immediately confirm the authenticity of the images or when exactly they were taken.
Other photos showed groups of eight to 10 soldiers in fatigues taken hostage, some with facial wounds. Three are identified as officers. The photos appeared to show at least two dozen hostages.
One picture reportedly shows the body of a pilot who had appeared on Syrian state television before the attack on the base explaining how the army could easily defend it. Others show militants holding up knives next to groups of captured men.
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