Syria rebels linked to al Qaeda apologize for beheading fellow fighter

Islamist Syria fighter Mohammed Fares (L), seen here in a YouTube video, who was later beheaded by a fellow fighter by mistake. Courtesy Syrian Observatory

The leaders of an al Qaeda-linked Islamist faction fighting Syrian president Bashar Assad have asked for “understanding forgiveness” after they mistakenly cut off the head of a fellow rebel and held it aloft for public display.

In a video posted on YouTube Wednesday, a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) held up a bearded head in front of a crowd in Aleppo and said he was an Assad loyalist, according to an online statement from the radical fighters' group.

He was later identified as Mohammed Fares, an anti-government fighter who had been wounded in clashes against the Syrian army earlier that day, a spokesperson from British based the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told NBC News. The neutral group reports on incidents involving both sides in the conflict.

When Fares arrived at a makeshift hospital he allegedly shouted the names of two figures associated with Shiite Islam a statement from ISIS leader Omar Al-Qahatani said in an online statement.

As a result the mostly Sunni fighters assumed he was a government fighter and executed him.

Al-Qahatani asked for Allah’s forgiveness in the statement, adding that the error is frequent in Jihad wars.

He also referenced a story in the Quran where the prophet Mohammed said Allah would forgive a man who killed a believer in error.

Groups like the ISIS have “expanded their influence significantly in 2013,” according to a recent report by military journal Jane’s Defense Weekly, bolstered by an increasing number of foreign fighters among their ranks.

They often enforce strict Islamic laws once they gain control over parts of the country. The Syrian civil war has already left an estimated 100,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.

“Their final goal is to create an Islamic Emirate which becomes a piece of territory which they control. And from there they will start to export jihad everywhere else,” Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow with Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, said in a recent interview.