Syria: Christians targeted in shooting

August 21, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world


The uprising against President Assad started with street protests in 2011

The uprising against President Assad started with street protests in 2011

Syria, August 20, 2013: At least nine Christians were killed in a shooting by opposition fighters in central Syria at the weekend as activists who launched the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad admitted that Islamists have “stolen” the revolution.

Accounts of the attack near Ein al-Ajouz in the early hours of Sunday morning (18 August) differ slightly, but it appears that the rebels targeted checkpoints manned by government forces, killing five soldiers, and also shot dead six civilians, two of whom were women.

One resident said that the gunmen opened fire on roadside restaurants, shooting Christians who were holding a celebration. The state-run SANA news agency said that women and children were among the dead, describing the incident as a “massacre”.

The road where the attack took place links Ein al-Ajouz with another Christian village, Nasrah.

In other news from Syria, Italian church leader Paolo Dall’Oglio, who disappeared at the end of July, has reportedly been killed in Raqqa. British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on 14 August that he was killed while being held prisoner by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda front group. The report has not yet been confirmed.

Islamist militant groups have become increasingly prominent in Syria and now control parts of the country, endangering the Christian residents in those areas.

One of the leading brigades is the al-Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat al-Nusra. It seized the city of al-Thawrah in February and has since driven the Christians out. The militants confiscated their homes and possessions, and threatened them with death if they did not comply with Islamic laws. One of the two churches in the city was destroyed.

A Christian refugee from al-Thawrah said:

All the Muslims stayed there, but if any Christians want to go back they have to become Muslim or else they will be killed.

There appears to be growing recognition both within Syria and abroad of the danger posed by Islamist rebel groups.

Activists who first rose up against President Assad in early 2011 told The Washington Postthat it feels as though their campaign has been hijacked. One said:

I’m still against the regime, but now if you think about the fall of the regime, it’s dangerous. The Islamists, the jihadis, they have stolen our revolution.

He went on to say that now some kind of political compromise that could even allow Assad to stay in office – with diminished powers – would be best for Syria.

On Friday the British government (16 August) outlawed the al-Nusra Front, making membership of the group a criminal offence. Senior MPs have warned that jihadists in Syria“currently represent the most worrying emerging terrorist threat to the UK and the West”.

– barnabas team

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