Top Islamic State commander decapitated in Syria

Body found after being killed by unknown assailants, peppered with cigarette burns and anti-smoking message

Islamic State fighters near the border between Syria and Iraq (screen capture: YouTube/Vice News)
Islamic State fighters near the border between Syria and Iraq (screen capture: YouTube/Vice News)

In a lurid twist of fate, a senior figure in the Islamic State’s self-styled police force, who had apparently presided over numerous beheadings, was found decapitated in eastern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The monitoring group, which operates a network of contacts within Syria, said that “This is evil, you Sheikh” was scrawled over the corpse, while a cigarette was placed in its mouth, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Prior to his demise, the man served as a top commander in the caliphate’s al-Hisbah modesty brigade, which polices residents living under IS control to ensure that they adhere to a strict brand of Sharia law.

Rami Abdulrahman, who single-handedly runs the London-based information office, said that he could not determine who had slain the IS chief, but that it was the first time that an al-Hisbah member had been killed in this way.

“We do not know whether Islamic State killed him or whether it was local people or other fighters. Either way it is important, because he was a very important man,” Abdulrahman said.

Local activists say that smoking is punishable by death because the caliphate considers it a form of “slow suicide” and therefore the brigades ensure that “[everyone is] aware that smoking in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God.”

According to the Observatory, IS has beheaded and stoned to death in areas under its control those who commit actions they deem “un-Islamic,” such as adultery, blasphemy and even magic tricks.

The Islamic State filmed and disseminated videos of a number of high-profile executions in 2014 that it carried out against Western journalists and unarmed Syrian and Iraqi soldiers, causing an outcry in the international community.

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