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Germany arrests 2 Syrian rebel jihadists over alleged terror ties

Suspects include founder of group that later folded into Islamic State, who is accused of war crimes against Shiites

FRANKFURT, Germany — German prosecutors Thursday announced the arrests of two Syrians suspected of belonging to foreign terrorist organizations, including the alleged leader of a rebel group which joined Islamic State.

Amer A. and Basel O. were detained in Kiel and Munich on Wednesday and placed in pre-trial detention, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Amer A. is alleged to have founded the “Liwa Jund al Rahman” in 2013 in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. His fighters “repeatedly engaged in hostilities against the Syrian army,” it said.

In June 2013, Amer A.’s fighters joined other jihadist groups in an attack on the eastern village of Hatlah that killed up to 60 Shiite residents.

Survivors were forced to flee “by intentionally stoking fears of death — also by means of arson and looting,” prosecutors said.

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Amer A. is suspected of having committed a war crime “by means of forced displacement” that “meant the end of all Shiite presence in Hatlah.”

In 2014, Amer A. joined the IS jihadist group and placed his fighters and financial resources under IS authority, according to prosecutors.

Basel O. meanwhile is alleged to have held “a prominent military position” in Amer A.’s organization in 2013-2014. The suspect commanded combat units that fought Syrian troops, notably at Deir Ezzor’s military airfield, the statement said.

Germany has arrested several Syrians on its soil over crimes committed in their country.

One of the most high profile cases to be brought to trial was that of a former Syrian colonel who was in January 2022 found guilty of crimes against humanity committed in Damascus.