The body of a high-ranking official in the Islamic State's self-proclaimed police force in Syria, a unit well-known for conducting beheadings, was found beheaded, a monitoring agency reported Tuesday.
Reliable sources told the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that an Egyptian national, who is known as a deputy "emir" of the al-Hesbah police in province of Deir al-Zor in the eastern region of the country, was found decapitated near a power plant in the city of al-Mayadin.
Sources also said that the head of the official, whose name was not disclosed in the report, was found with a cigarette in his mouth and the words "O Sheikh this is munkar (a hateful and evil thing)" written on his body. His body was also found to have been tortured.
"We do not know whether Islamic State killed him or whether it was local people or other fighters," the head of the Syrian Observatory, Rami Abdulrahman, said. "Either way it is important because he was a very important man."
Although it is unclear as to who is responsible for the police official's death, it has been widely reported that smoking is a violation of ISIS' strict brand of Islamic law.
According to International Business Times, ISIS leaders have deemed the act of smoking a "slow suicide" and have warned that "every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God."
In some of the towns that ISIS controls, the group has imposed a law that if anybody is caught smoking, they are to be arrested and whipped. Iraqi News reports that in one instance, 10 smokers received over 50 lashes in a public square. ISIS has also banned the use or alcohol and drugs.
One person caught smoking by ISIS in Raqqa told al-Monitor that when he was caught he had his fingers broken as a militant bent them back and forth with a set of pliers.
"It is not their right to impose anything personal on us," the smoker said. "To quit smoking needs therapy and takes time. How could one quit in a few days?"
In November, one French ISIS fighter was forced to abandon the caliphate because it was just too hard for him to quit smoking and he did not want to face the consequences of relapsing.
"I really struggled with not smoking," Moreau testified before the court. "It was forbidden by the katiba (a group of Islamist militants)," the ex-militant told France 24. "I had brought Nicorette gum with me, but it wasn't enough. So I left my gun with my emir and I left."
Although it is unknown how many people have been executed because of their smoking habits, McClatchy DC reports that ISIS has imposed beheadings in the past for smoking infractions.
While it may be suspected that the police official was killed by ISIS due to the message found on his body, there is also speculation that he may have been killed by someone who opposes ISIS' oppression of personal liberties.
The Syrian Observatory also reported that two unknown men recently tried to assassinate two ISIS militants in the same town where the police official's body was found. The men tried to kill one militant by attempting to run him over near a roundabout in the town. Another militant was seriously injured when unknown men hit him with a metal club as they drove by the militant on a motorcycle.