Beirut: A Syrian rebel group which has received US military backing said it is investigating the beheading of a young child in Aleppo after video footage circulated showing the boy being killed by a man activists identified as a member of the group.
Images of a fighter cutting off the small boy’s head with a knife matched some of the worst brutalities committed by Daesh, which has killed hundreds of captives in Syria and neighbouring Iraq in the last three years.
The video shows the boy laying in the back of a truck when a fighter begins to cut off his head with a small knife.
One fighter shouts "we will leave no one in Handarat", which is north of Aleppo city where there has been fighting between rebels and regime forces.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the video depicts rebel fighters.
In an earlier clip, the boy was sitting in the back of the truck with fighters around him accusing him of being a member of Al Quds brigade, a Palestinian group fighting with the regime forces.
“This is a prisoner from the Quds Brigade. They don’t have men any more so they’ve sent us children today,” one of the men said. “These are your dogs, Bashar, children of the Quds brigade,” said another.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the men were fighters from the Nour Al Din Al Zinki Movement, a rebel group which has received military support channeled from Turkey, including US-made TOW missiles.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington was seeking more information on what he described as “an appalling report”.
“If we can prove that this was indeed what happened and this group was involved ... it would give us pause about any assistance or any further involvement with this group,” he told reporters.
In a statement, Nour Al Din Al Zinki denounced what it described as “the human rights abuses that were shared on social media sites”, which did not represent its policies or practices.
It said it had formed a committee to investigate what happened. “All invididuals who undertook the violation have been detained and turned over to the committee for investigations in accordance with the relevant legal standards,” it said.
Earlier in July, Amnesty International issued a report saying that rebels and jihadists in Syria are guilty of war crimes, accusing them of "a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings".
The London-based rights group named five Syrian anti-regime factions operating in northern Syria among them Nureddin Zinki.
Activists accused Nurredin Zinki group of carrying out the killing, but the group issued a statement condemning a "violation" that was "an individual mistake, that does not represent the general policy of the group".
According to Rami Abdel Rahman, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief, "the boy is no more than 13 years old, he was captured Tuesday in Handarat area, but the incident took place in a rebel held area in Aleppo city, Al Mashhad neighbourhood to be exact".
He could not confirm if the boy was a Palestinian or a child soldier, though he said Al Quds brigade denied that he was one of its fighters.
Nureddin Zinki added that "the persons who carried out this violation were arrested and handed over" to a judicial committee for investigation.
Syria's conflict began in 2011 with the repression of anti-government demonstrations and has evolved into a multi-front war that has left more than 280,000 dead and forced millions from their homes.