Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Exclusive: ‘We Will Slaughter All of Them.’ The Rebel Behind the Syrian Atrocity Video

News sites around the world have shown Khalid al-Hamad sink his teeth into what appears to be the lung of a dead Syrian government soldier. His fellow rebels have called for him to be arrested or killed for the act. Human-rights groups have condemned him. But al-Hamad has no regrets.

In an interview conducted via Skype in the early hours of May 14, al-Hamad explained to TIME what caused him to cut out the soldier’s organs: “We opened his cell phone, and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked and he was humiliating them, and sticking a stick here and there.”

The video, a 27-second clip in which al-Hamad brandishes organs that appear to be the lungs and heart of the Syrian soldier who lies dead at al-Hamad’s feet, was first seen by two TIME reporters in April. A few weeks later, TIME obtained a copy. Though we had been told by witnesses to the filming that the video was legitimate, we set about authenticating its content, aware of the potential that it could have been faked for propaganda purposes. Al-Hamad has now confirmed that the video is real, and that he did indeed take a bite of the soldier’s lung. (At the time of filming, al-Hamad believed he was biting into the liver. A surgeon who has seen the video confirms that the organ in question was a lung, which somewhat resembles the liver). On May 12, a copy of the video appeared on a proregime website, sparking a flood of Facebook Shares and YouTube views.