UN warns of 'regional war' in the Middle East
The Middle East appears on the brink of wider sectarian war engulfing Iraq and Syria with radical Islamist insurgents wantonly kidnapping, torturing and killing civilians, UN human rights investigators said in a report.
Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have routed Baghdad's army and seized the north of Iraq in the past week, linking it with a major swathe of territory previously taken in eastern Syria during the civil war there.
"A regional war in the Middle East draws ever closer. Events in neighbouring Iraq will have violent repercussions for Syria," the investigators' report said.
"We predicted a long time ago the dangers of spillover both ways, which is now becoming a regional spillover," said Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international law expert who took part in the inquiry. "We are possibly on the cusp of a regional war and that is something we're very concerned about."
UN human rights Navi Pillay said yesterdayforces allied with ISIL in northern Iraq had almost certainly committed war crimes by executing hundreds of non-combatant men over the past five days.
A report presented today to the UN Human Rights Council said foreign Sunni jihadi militants and funds had poured into Syria where rebel factions including ISIL were wantonly abusing civilians in zones they controlled.
"Growing numbers of radical fighters are targeting not only Sunni [Muslim] communities under their control but also minority communities including the Shi'ites, Alawites, Christians, Armenians, Druze and Kurds," the report said of Syria.
Its reference to Sunni militants targeting Sunni civilians involved forceful pressure on Sunni women to comply with sharia (Islamic religious law) and acts of revenge against Sunnis who had served in the Syrian government.