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Syrian Opposition Group Condemns Rebel Unit for Torture

Free Syrian Army fighters walk along a street piled with damaged building as they head toward the frontline in Aleppo's Salaheddine district, April 8, 2013.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights denounced on Tuesday a rebel battalion it said has tortured and extorted residents in Syria's northern city of Aleppo.

Torture, kidnapping and summary killings have become a daily aspect of Syria's uprising-turned-civil war.

But the Observatory, a British-based group with a network of activists across Syria, said it felt compelled to single out the Aleppo unit of the Free Men of Syria Brigade [Ahrar Suriya] after collecting a large number of witness testimonies that point to frequent cases of detainment and torture.

"These types of incidents are increasingly common on both sides unfortunately. Many of these people are civilians, not fighters. Incidents like this degrade the revolution that people started," said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory, in a telephone interview.

Abdelrahman emailed pictures of a man he said was tortured by the group. The man's legs were red, the skin torn open in several places. His back was covered in open lash marks. The man told the Observatory he had sustained the injuries while being detained for three days.

Other residents told the group that the same unit of Ahrar Suriya, which operates near the government-held district of Achrafieh, has forced locals to pay protection money.

The Observatory said refugees, as well as residents, were being extorted for money.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad that began as peaceful protests but has devolved into civil war.

The United Nations says both sides have committed human rights violation, though it says there is more documentation of such incidents by Assad's forces.