As evidence mounts of abuse and summary execution of prisoners , The Observer witnesses an extraordinary meeting between a Sunni rebel leader and his Alawite captive in al-Bab, near Aleppo
First Lieutenant Darid Barakat sat on a foam mattress on the floor of a schoolhouse, men he once commanded alongside him, and his captors standing in a murky corridor outside.
There were 30 or so men held in the room – in what passes for a prisoner of war facility in a rebel-controlled part of Syria. Barakat and two others, both officers like him, were members of the Alawite sect. Another officer was a Shia, and the rest were all soldiers – and Sunnis – like the rebels now holding them.
The prisoners had been there since late July, not long after a plan by the Free Syrian Army to bring its uprising to the heart of the country's second city, Aleppo, was put into action by the rebel force in the city of al-Bab. Until that point, the local guerrillas had not fired a shot in 18 months of uprising.
Barakat and some others had worked at the military security office in the heart of al-Bab, 30km north-east of Aleppo. With him in the makeshift jail were captives from the nearby political security building and from all other corners of the regime's extensive police state.
The battle to take al-Bab had been a rout; the once formidable stretch of state buildings were destroyed and the defeated men who once worked inside were now at the mercy of an enemy whom they had dreaded.