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US bans entry to Syria security agent over killings on video

BEIRUT — The US State Department on Monday banned the entry into the United States of a Syrian intelligence member who appeared in a leaked video last year that showed him fatally shooting people during the country’s 12-year conflict.

The ban against Amjad Yousef, a member of the notorious Branch 227 of Syria’s Military Intelligence, includes his wife and immediate family members, the State Department said in a statement.

Yousef was one of several Syrian security agents who appeared in the video in which dozens of blindfolded and bound men were shot and thrown into a trench.

The decision came a week before Syria’s conflict entered its 13th year. The war killed nearly half a million people and left much of the country devastated.

“As a result of today’s action, Yousef, as well as his wife, Anan Wasouf, and their immediate family members, are ineligible for entry into the United States,” the Department said. of State.

The 6-minute, 43-second video clip, dated April 16, 2013, shows intelligence officials lining up about 40 prisoners in an abandoned building in Tadamon, a suburb of Damascus near the refugee camp. Palestinians of Yarmouk. For most of the war, the district was a front line between government forces and opposition fighters.

The prisoners are blindfolded, with their arms tied behind their backs. One by one, the Branch 227 gunmen stand them at the edge of a trench outside the building filled with old tires, then push or tackle the men, shooting them as they fall.

In a cruel game, the agents tell some of the prisoners that they have to go through a sniper route and that they should run. Men fell on the bodies of those who walked before them. As the bodies pile up in the trench, some are still moving, and the gunmen fire into the pile.

Then the gunmen set the bodies on fire, presumably to remove evidence of the massacre.

The State Department said Yousef, a member of the Syrian security services, was involved in “serious human rights violations” for his involvement in the killing of 41 unarmed civilians.

The statement said the United States calls on the government of President Bashar Assad “to end all violations and abuses of human rights, including but not limited to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture.” .

He said the footage of the killings in Tadamon and the ongoing atrocities in Syria “serve as a reminder that countries should not normalize relations with the Assad regime in the absence of lasting progress towards a political resolution “.

After the February 6 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria killing more than 50,000 people, including about 6,000 in Syria, some Arab foreign ministers made rare visits to Damascus and met with Assad for the first time since the conflict began in March 2011.

Calls have increased in recent months for Syria’s return to the Arab League. Syria was expelled from the 22-member organization and boycotted by its neighbors after its uprising-turned-conflict broke out.

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