A militant group with ties to al Qaeda reportedly executed a woman in a northwestern Syrian town after accusing her of committing adultery, rights groups reported this week.
Local activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently posted graphic video showing the shooting death of the woman, which reportedly occurred in an area outside Syria's northwestern city of Idlib.
In the footage, suspected masked members of al Nusra Front, the Syrian arm of al Qaeda, surround a woman in the streets. The woman, clad entirely in black, except for a red jacket, gets on her knees and reportedly asks to see her children — a request that is denied, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
A bearded man then begins to speak in the short video, and after he finishes, another man wearing a striped shirt aims a pistol down towards the woman's head and shoots her, causing her to fall off the curb. The footage also shows several militants holding out their recording devices, also apparently filming the incident.
SOHR's director, Rami Abdulrahman, said on the group's website that al Nusra Front currently controls more than 70 to 80 percent of Idlib. The al Qaeda affiliate and the Islamic State militant group are the two most powerful insurgent forces currently in Syria, he added.
Since last July, at least 14 people in Syria have been killed for allegedly committing adultery or for being homosexual, according to SOHR. Half of those killed have reportedly been women. The rights group also reported that in a recent incident in the city of al-Mayadin, a man was whipped by Islamic State militants in a town square for allegedly committing adultery.
In the face of the continued insurgency threat from the Islamic State, which began to overrun vast areas of Iraq and Syria last summer, the US military announced plans Thursday to expand a program to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the militants.
The expanded initiative is set to kick off in the spring and will initially see 400 troops and additional support personnel sent to Syria to train the rebels, the Pentagon said in a statement. Over the next three years, the US plans to provide $500 million to train upwards of 5,000 fighters each year. The governments of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, have volunteered their countries to host the training.
The Pentagon estimates the US-led coalition will need to train as many as 15,000 rebels if it is to regain land from the Islamic State, particularly in eastern Syria, Reuters reported.
The announcement followed a meeting in Istanbul between US officials and rival and activist groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"These introductory meetings were an important step as we prepare to launch the train-and-equip program later this spring with our international partners," Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith said, Reuters reported.
Syria's state-run Syrian Arab News Agency denounced the plan as an indication that the US is "continuing to support terrorism in Syria."
The US is currently leading a coalition conducting airstrikes against militant targets in both Iraq and Syria. There are currently also 3,000 American troops training local forces in Iraq to battle the Islamic State insurgency there.
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