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Rights Group Says Islamic State Carried Out Mass Executions in Syria

FILE - An image taken from a video published by the media branch of the Islamic State (IS) group on Jan. 3, 2016, purportedly shows an IS fighter at an undisclosed location before executing five men from the Syrian city of Raqa.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Islamic State extremist group executed 33 people this week -- the first mass executions carried out by the militants this year.

The British-based watchdog group says the killings were carried out in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor early Wednesday morning.The Observatory says its activists witnessed the executions, but says it is unknown if those killed were fighters on either side of the six-year civil war, or civilians who had been arrested by IS forces and sentenced to die.

The Observatory says it is the largest mass execution carried out by IS since two groups of 15 persons were killed in two separate executions in between September and October of last year.