A man in his sixties was abducted and tortured by members of Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army faction in Afrin, an area of Northern Syria adjacent to the border with Turkey.

60-years-old Qadri Mustafa spent over a moth a prison run by the militants along with hundreds of other civilians who were detained under no charges. He says that the prisoners were subjected to daily torture and forced use of drugs. Mustafa did not disclose the name of the faction that kept him prisoner as well as the circumstances of his release due to fear for his safety and the safety of his family.

Mustafa’s story is but a single example of dozens similar cases that have become extremely widespread in Afrin. Since the area was captured by Turkey-backed FSA factions and the Turkish military, it has been governed by a network of local councils acting under supervision of Turkish officials. However, the real power lies in hands of the armed factions, who abuse it on a regular basis.

Business owners, wealthy individuals and ordinary citizens alike fall prey to the militants, who rob and abduct people for ransom exploiting lack of legitimate authority in the area.

Local sources confirm that kidnapping and demanding ransom is the preferred tactics used by the militants for extortion. Looting is also common, with local markets filled with stolen furniture, heating devices and home electronics and specialized social media channels offering stoles items along with weaponry and munitions.

In the early stages, the militants raided houses left by families, mainly Kurdish, who chose to flee the area before it was fully captured by Turkey-backed forces. As the income from these operation dwindled, the fighters turned to robberies and assassinations.

Security chaos provoked protests of local citizens, who have complained about the crimes committed by the militants on social media and to a number of local outlets. On a more serious note, FSA fighters have been targeted by numerous IEDs left near the buildings used as headquarters and planted in FSA vehicles.

FSA factions blame Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for the attacks. YPG and Afrin Liberation Forces, another covert operations unit linked to Kurdish forces, has confirmed that they are responsible for some of the attacks, but many others remained unclaimed.

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