Syrian army troops have executed 24 people on charges of “inciting wildfires” in the country’s west, state media said. The men were allegedly caught on camera during a time of local drought inflamed by refugee arrivals in Syria, the BBC reported. Videos of the executions have been shared widely on social media, with the men’s deaths also noted by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
The alleged crimes took place in the Latakia governorate, which has seen long-running wildfires, and caused millions of dollars in damages. Latakia’s mayor, Qusai Ghanem, was reportedly arrested as part of the crackdown. On Sunday, hundreds of Lebanese protest in the southern city of Sidon calling for the release of Ghanem. Lebanese journalists also gave a demonstration in Beirut calling for the release of footage from inside the Latakia jail.
Regime spokesman Aicha Abdallah acknowledged in a statement that the men were arrested for “trespassing and creating roadblocks.” He said that soldiers had suspected the men of ordering drivers to cut long queues at roads leading to Latakia and there had been “irresponsible distribution of grain and irrigation water.” He added that the men were sentenced to death for the “public incitement to commit acts of wildfire and damage public and private property.”