Syrian Army Establishes Suicide Bomber Platoon

Responding to growing pressure from Sunni Islamist rebels, Syrian regime takes drastic decision to try to beat them at their own game.

Ari Soffer,

The Syrian army is having a hard time contending with Sunni Islamist rebels
The Syrian army is having a hard time contending with Sunni Islamist rebels
Reuters

As if things weren't bloody enough in Syria's four-year civil war: The Syrian army has announced the formation of a platoon of suicide bombers, to counter the ever-growing threat of Sunni jihadis including ISIS and Al Qaeda's Nusra Front.

A video released at the end of December and translated by MEMRI shows an announcement by half a dozen men calling themselves "the commandos of the Mountain Battalion," declaring their new "martyrdom-seeking platoon."

Strapped with explosives and standing behind a copy of the Koran, a message is read out by one of the masked men who says that their platoon was formed in "response to all the foreigners who have distorted the religion of Islam, and have defiled the soil of our country."

Its purpose, he says, is to "defend our country and its master" from those "who have sold their souls to Satan and his followers."

Islamist rebels - and primarily those from the Nusra Front and ISIS - have long employed suicide-bombings against pro-regime forces and civilians in regime-held areas, often to devastating effect. 

But while Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias - including Hezbollah, among others - have long fought their own "jihad" alongside the Syrian Arab Army against Sunni rebels, this is the first time pro-regime forces have themselves enlisted suicide bombers. 

The grim development may be an indication of the desperate situation faced by the Syrian regime, which is believed to only control roughly 30% of the country. The men in the video claim it was taken in An Nabi Younis, a government stronghold in western Syria between Homs and Aleppo.

Meanwhile, monitoring groups say casualties in Syria's civil war hit a new high in 2014, with at least 76,000 people killed.

Well over 200,000 are believed to have died since 2011, although precise figures have become impossible to calculate.

Some 3,500 of those killed in 2014 were children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which puts the full figure of those killed in the war at 206,603.




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