Syrian journalist Fares Hamadi was killed along with his colleague Ibrahim Abd al-Qader in an apartment in Urfa, southeastern Turkey, on October 30, 2015. Hamadi was the head of the production department for Eye on the Homeland, a Syrian news website, according to a statement on the group's Facebook page.
Abd al-Qader worked as the executive director of Eye on the Homeland, the statement said. A member of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently told CPJ that Abd Al-Qader had been an early member of their group. The murders took place a few weeks before CPJ was to recognize Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently with its annual International Press Freedom Award.
Supporters of the militant group Islamic State published a video on social media claiming responsibility two days after the murders. Text in the video said Islamic State murdered Abd al-Qader and Hamadi to warn all "apostates [that] they will be slaughtered silently," mocking the name of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. The video ends with footage of Hamadi's body, which had a deep gash that had nearly severed the neck. Abd al-Qader's body was not shown in the video.
In an interview with NBC, published on November 2, 2015, Abd al-Qader's brother, Ahmed, who is one of the founders of Eye on the Homeland, accused a Syrian named Tlas Surur of murdering his brother and colleague. Ahmed Abd al-Qader said Surur arrived from Raqqa more than a month before the murder, claiming to have defected from Islamic State. But the story was a ruse to gain the journalists' trust, he said. On the night of the murder, Surur invited Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Hamadi to his apartment across the street from where they lived. Surur was waiting with two accomplices, who have not been publicly identified, and the apartment's windows had been covered to hide the attack from onlookers, Ahmed Abd al-Qader said. He added that he believes Surur fled to Syria after the murder.
According to Turkish media reports published the week after the murders, police found three footprints in blood and camera footage of one of the suspects. One police source, who was not named, told NBC that evidence implicated Surur in the murders.
Since the start of the conflict, numerous Syrian journalists have operated independent media outlets in Turkey, including Eye on the Homeland. The Turkish authorities have largely allowed these outlets to report on Syria without harassment but Syrian journalists have repeatedly told CPJ they face restrictions on reporting on events inside Turkey and fear the Turkish government is not doing enough to protect them from potential threats emanating from Syria. Members of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and Eye on the Homeland told CPJ they receive death threats on a daily basis for their reporting on Islamic State.
Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, one of the few reliable and independent sources of news left in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, was established in April 2014. The group has been declared an "enemy of God" by Islamic State in retribution for its reporting. Eye on the Homeland, which was founded by a group of Syrian journalists and activists, reports on events in Syria through its website and a semi-monthly newspaper, according to the group's website.
Police in the southeastern Turkish city of Urfa arrested a man news reportsidentified only as Muaz Al-A, whom police suspect murdered Hamadi and Abd al-Qader. Turkish intelligence and police officers allege the man is a member of the Islamic State group and crossed the border to Syria after the killings, but that he recently returned to Turkey, the daily newspaper Habertürk reported on August 14.