DAMASCUS : Syrian rebels overran the Aleppo headquarters of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Wednesday, as claims emerged that ISIL had massacred prisoners there in cold blood. The ISIL defeat came a day after its spokesman threatened to “crush” opposition fighters who have attacked the group in several provinces. “There are hardly any ISIL members left in the city of Aleppo,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Elsewhere, a diplomat announced that two Swedish reporters missing in Syria since November had been freed. And the fractious Syrian opposition National Coalition said it was postponing until January 17 a final decision on whether to attend peace talks in Switzerland. On the ground, ISIL battled moderate and Islamist rebels in clashes that first erupted on Friday and have killed at least 385 people.

Announcing the new toll on Wednesday, the Observatory said it included 56 civilians.

ISIL’s headquarters in a hospital in the Qadi Askar neighbourhood of Aleppo was overrun by opposition fighters, who reportedly freed dozens of prisoners. But a video posted online Wednesday claimed ISIL had previously executed at least nine prisoners after handcuffing, blindfolding and shooting them in the head. While recording images of the bodies, the cameraman is heard to say: “This was done by ISIL. Are the victims apostates? No, they’re Muslims.”

ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a defiant message late Tuesday, urging fighters to “crush them (the rebels) totally and kill the conspiracy at birth”. “None of you will remain, and we will make of you an example to all those who think of following the same path,” he added. Adnani also warned that ISIL had “declared and begun a war” against the National Coalition and chiefs of the opposition Free Syrian Army. “Everyone who belongs to this entity is a legitimate target for us, in all places, unless he publicly declares his rejection of that group and of fighting the mujahedeen (jihadist fighters).” His message came hours after the head of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, urging an end to the fighting.