A report from a Christian human rights group in Syria claims that the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) executed two Christian men for violating Islamic law after the capture of the city of Idlib last week. Idlib is a regional capital in northwest Syria.
MCN News reported yesterday:
According to the Assyrian Observatory for Human Rights in the city of Idlib in northern Syria, an armed group called Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement executed two citizens in the city Tuesday, Elias Naguib, 83, and his son, Nael Elias, 44. The two citizens were owners of a liquor store. The incident took place on Saturday, March 28, 2015, in the city of Idlib in northern Syria.
Remarkably, the New York Times erroneously reported on Sunday that Jabhat al-Nusra had been responsible for the killings, and that Ahrar al-Sham had set up checkpoints to protect Christians in the newly “liberated” city:
Tensions are already evident in Idlib over the treatment of Christians, a bellwether issue. Two activists, who asked not to be identified out of fear for their safety, said that foreign fighters from Nusra had killed two Christians after hearing they worked in a liquor store.
They said that fighters from Ahrar al-Sham had rebuked the foreigners and set up checkpoints to protect Christians from them.
Abdullah Mohamad Al-Muhaisini, a Saudi Islamic law jurist traveling with the fighters, used Twitter to construct a complex argument against killing Christians who do not resist.
Not killing Christians is apparently a “complex” issue. But NYT reporter Anne Barnard took to Twitter yesterday to correct the record and clarify that Ahrar al-Sham was being fingered for the killings:
Nusra foreigners killed 2 Idlib Christians for liquor store; locals told us. Update: today others blame Ahrar al-Sham http://t.co/TUlDrbtU5B
— Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT) March 31, 2015
Reuters reported earlier today on an audio released by the head of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, promising to bring Islamic law to Idlib:
AlQaeda in Syria signals sharia law for captured city of Idlib http://t.co/u7zuXDiKpb "Allah willing they will enjoy the justice of sharia"
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) April 1, 2015
What makes the reported role of Ahrar al-Sham in these executions noteworthy is that the group has been the darling of the Washington D.C. foreign-policy think-tank community.
As I noted here at PJ Media a few weeks ago, in January 2014 former Bush and Obama administration officials took to the pages of Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations, to debate “The Good and Bad of Ahrar al-Sham,” contending that the U.S. needed to “befriend” the Syrian jihadist group as some kind of counter to more extreme jihadist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and deeming this jihadist group, “an Al Qaeda affiliate worth befriending”:
Yet, Ahrar al-Sham joined forces with Jabhat al-Nusra in the taking of Idlib. As I previously noted, at the time they wrote this, one of Ahrar al-Sham’s top leaders was a lieutenant for al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri who openly declared himself a member of al-Qaeda. After most of their leadership was wiped out in a bombing in September, they gravitated closer to the jihadist groups they were supposed to counter and their positions have been bombed by the U.S. – much to the consternation of other “vetted moderate” rebel groups.
The jihadist takeover of the important city of Idlib gives additional evidence that the war encouraged by the Obama administration and the bipartisan DC think-tank cheerleaders is most likely far from over, compounding the misery of the Syrian people all around.
And while the execution of these two Christians is just a drop in the ocean of blood spilled in this conflict, that the crime was committed by the darlings of the DC think-tank community demonstrates that those who encouraged befriending “moderate Al-Qaeda” either: 1) have no earthly idea what they’re doing or whom they’re supporting, or; 2) have no reservations about supporting objective evil.