In a public appearance filmed and posted online, members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one brandishing a knife, held up a bearded head before a crowd in Aleppo. They triumphantly described the execution of what they said was a member of a militia fighting for the Syrian government.
But the head was recognized from the video as originally belonging to a member of Ahrar al-Sham, a terrorist group that often fights alongside ISIL though it does not share its al-Qaeda ideology.
After inquiries, an ISIL spokesman admitted he was Mohammed Fares, an Ahrar commander reported missing some days ago. This could not be independently confirmed, but in an earlier video of a speech by Fares he bears a close resemblance to the severed head in the later video.
The opposition Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said that ISIL militants misunderstood comments Fares made referring to the Imam Ali (PBUH) and Imam Hussein (PBUH), the Shia Immams.
ISIL spokesman Omar al-Qahtani confirmed that Fares had been injured and, thinking he had been captured by members of a militia against which he was fighting, asked them to kill him in terms misunderstood by the ISIL members in fact taking him to hospital.
It is thought he was wounded in the battle for Base 80, a military zone being fought over near Aleppo.
In explaining the error, al-Qahtani made reference to a story in which Mohammed said Allah (God) would forgive a man who killed a believer in error.