At least eight young men were crucified over the weekend on electrical poles in Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State group in Syria. A number of those executed allegedly attempted to desert the extremist group, also known as ISIS, while others were alleged to have violated “regulations” in the city, ARA News reported, citing a Syrian human rights group.

“The victims have been detained for nearly a year, before the group decided to execute them on Sunday,” said a source from the at-Taakhi organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Eyewitnesses told ARA News that ISIS officials read aloud the accusations against the men before crucifying them near the historic Rusafa citadel in Raqqa. Another individual was reportedly killed on charges of spying for the U.S.-led coalition.

A total of 35 ISIS members were rounded up Saturday in Raqqa, and some 15 were killed, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. The crackdown, likely meant to root out alleged spies, was tied to the assassination of Abu Hija al-Tunisi, a high-level ISIS figure killed in an airstrike last week.


The extremist group, which controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria, has executed hundreds of people on spying and sedition-related charges. Last month, six people were reportedly killed in ISIS-held territory near Aleppo on charges of spying, apostasy and violations of regulations. Five others were executed on drug-trafficking charges.

The extremist group has maintained a strong grip on Raqqa, which became its headquarters in 2014. Raqqa, as other strongholds, has been targeted by the U.S.-led coalition as well as by Syrian and Russian forces. ISIS has lost about 20 percent of its territory in Syria and 40 percent in Iraq.

The group has been accused of egregious human rights abuses, including enslaving children and women, and executing its opponents. In areas under its control, militants have set up a harsh legal system that criminalizes dissent and acts deemed contrary to a stringent understanding of Islamic law. Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry said ISIS actions against minorities amounted to genocide.