A gruesome video making its rounds through the Internet last week depicts Syrian rebel fighter Khalid al-Hamad (known popularly by his nom de guerre, Abu Sakkar) cutting into the corpse of a pro-Assad fighter, removing his lung, and proudly biting into it. "God Bless you Abu Sakkar," says the cameraman, "it looks like you are drawing a love heart [on his chest]!"
"I swear to God," al-Hamad replies, "you soldiers of Bashar [al-Assad], you dogs, we will eat from your hearts and livers! O heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take out their hearts to eat them!"
The footage is graphic, and isn't being linked to here. It can be found embedded throughout the internet.
Human rights advocates have strongly condemned the video, which the Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently confirmed was legitimate. The Free Syrian Army's military councils have condemned the "monstrous act" as well, calling for an investigation "in which the perpetrator will be brought to justice."
In light of growing frenzy on both sides of the conflict, al-Hamad has released a new video (below) in which he explains his actions. "I am one of the people of Syria, and the people of Syria are a part of the world. I am willing to face trial for my actions, if Bashar and his thugs stand trial for their atrocities. My message to the world, if the blood in Syria doesn’t stop, all of Syria will become like me."
He says that recorded footage found on the cell phones of pro-Assad fighters confirms the rape of women, killing of children, and torturing of men.
"You are not seeing what we are seeing," al-Hamad said in a subsequent interview with TIME. "Where are my brothers, my friends, the girls of my neighborhood who were raped? May God bless them all."
In 2011 al-Hamad became one of the founders of the Farouk brigade, one of Syria's largest rebel militias. He then broke off and formed the more independent Omar al-Farouk brigade in October of the following year.
Nadim Houry, HRW's deputy director of the Middle East, is calling upon rebel leaders to take stronger action against this and other mounting atrocities, which constitute as war crimes under common international law prohibiting the defiling of the dead. "It is not enough for Syria's opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government. The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses."