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Posts tagged ‘Levant’

Christians Face Danger From Jihadists in Syria.


Image: Christians Face Danger From Jihadists in SyriaThe Church of Saint Michael in the Syrian village of Qara was heavily damaged in fighting between rebels and pro-government forces in late November in the predominantly Christian region of Qalamoun, north of Damascus.

By Okke Ornstein

The biggest threats facing many Christians in war-torn Syria are the militant jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida, which want to establish a caliphate across the Levant ruled by the laws of their extremist brand of Islam.

In their members’ view, those who are not “true Muslims” deserve to be killed, and Christians most certainly qualify.

“I think my cousin was killed just because he had a Christian cross dangling from the rear-view mirror of his car,” Abraham Tunc, a representative of the Assyrian community in the Netherlands, told Newsmax.

Christians in Syria make up about 10 percent of the population, with the largest concentration living in and around Aleppo, which is now the scene of an all-out assault by the Syrian army on the various rebel groups that control most of the city.

Outside a Greek Orthodox church in Damascus, what appeared at first glance to be a Nativity scene is instead a small improvised space to remember those who were killed during the ongoing war.

The wall is covered with portraits and stories about atrocities: A family was dragged out of their house and murdered, a man was killed by a bomb. Others suffered even more gruesome treatment.

“We lost about 200 members of our community because of the war,” a church volunteer told Newsmax.

“It all started as protests. People wanted more freedom, which everybody understood. And then it became war and we are where we are today,” he added.

On Christmas Day in Damascus, the war was never far away. At the Greek Orthodox al-Salib Church, the sound of cannon fire could be heard between songs at Christmas Mass.

The church’s neighborhood in Damascus has been transformed into a heavily fortified compound. On every road there are two military checkpoints, and no cars, not even those with an official permit, are allowed to pass through.

On Christmas there was more security at the church gate where volunteers used scanners to make sure nobody carried guns or explosives inside. A surprisingly high number of visitors attended the service, lighting candles.

“Actually, visits have gone up since the start of the war,” explained the volunteer, who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

The Greek Orthodox Church is the oldest and largest Christian community in Syria, and al-Salib’s neighborhood is one of the wealthier in Damascus, reflected by the number of fur coats and other expensive fashion items people were wearing on Christmas.

Not surprisingly, the volunteer said that “you’ll find that most people here are very much pro-Assad.”

In February, Syria’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch John al-Yaziji met with President Bashar Assad and was quoted by state media expressing his confidence that Syria would come out victorious from its crisis.

The Greek Orthodox community is far from the only Christian group in Syria. Throughout the country, but mostly in the north, there are other Orthodox as well as Catholic groups.

Many Christians have fled, most of them to other parts of Syria or to Turkey. A vast number of them are Assyrians, an ethnic group with origins in ancient Mesopotamia which now inhabits roughly the same area as the Kurdish people in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.

Those who can afford it, or who have family in Europe, often travel to Germany, the Netherlands, or other countries, either legally or with the aid of smugglers, Tunc said.

This often leads to harrowing scenes when rickety boats capsize on their voyage from Turkey to EU member Greece, or when refugees get stuck, abused, and extorted at the Eastern European frontiers. One of Tunc’s relatives narrowly escaped death in a boat accident while trying to make her way from embattled Syria to the safety of Europe.

Tunc has lived in Europe since long before war broke out in Syria, but he still has relatives in Aleppo with whom he sometimes manages to talk on the phone. He explained that the situation there is dangerous and some members of his extended family were killed and others now live in Turkey, near the border.

Just months ago, the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, which is an ally of Iran and the Assad regime, drove out al-Qaida linked groups from the northwestern coastal part of Syria, where many Christian minorities live.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Activists: Hundreds of Syria Rebels Pledging Loyalty to al-Qaida.


Image: Activists: Hundreds of Syria Rebels Pledging Loyalty to al-Qaida

Syrian rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra wave their brigade flag as they step on top of a Syrian Air Force helicopter at rebel-captured Taftanaz air base.

Hundreds of rebels have pledged allegiance to al-Qaida-affiliated forces in northern and eastern Syria, activists and Islamist sources said on Friday, strengthening the group’s control in the region.Not only individual fighters, but entire units have joined the small but powerful al-Qaida-linked groups — the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — in recent days, according to the sources inside Syria.

“This is a sign the radical groups are still growing in power. This region could fall to the jihadists,” said an activist in the eastern town of Raqqa, who asked not to be identified. “We may see this become a trend.”

Clashes have been intensifying between Nusra or ISIL and the less effective but more moderate forces that make up the majority of opposition fighters, especially in opposition-held territory along Syria’s northern and eastern borders.

At least two entire rebel brigades are said to have joined the Nusra Front in the opposition-held province of Raqqa, which borders Turkey. One of the groups, the Raqqa Revolutionaries, has about 750 fighters in total, according to a source close to Islamist forces who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another group, the God’s Victory Brigade, said in a statement on Facebook that all of its leaders and fighters had pledged loyalty to Nusra Front.

“God’s Victory Brigade, which is comprise of 15 battalions, had pledged its allegiance to the Nusra Front, giving complete submission [to it] in times of hardship and of ease,” it said.

A video uploaded by activists from Raqqa on Friday showed a massive convoy of fighters on cars and trucks with artillery and machine guns as they waved black flags. The video’s title said it showed a newly unified force of Nusra fighters and other rebel battalions who had recently pledged loyalty.

Western forces have been wary of giving further support or weapons to opposition forces who are not only plagued by internal divisions, but the rising influence of al Qaida groups.

Sporadic clashes between harder-line Islamists and more moderate rebels are increasingly frequent and activists fear that is weakening the 2 1/2-year revolt against President Bashar Assad. The uprising began as peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule but has degenerated into a war that has killed more than 100,000.

While some tensions stem from contrasting ideological outlooks, most rebel-on-rebel fighting is more about control of territory and the spoils of war.

Some activists said the new Islamist loyalty pledges were timed to combat increasing hostility from rival rebel groups, including the Supreme Military Council, the armed wing of the opposition’s Western-backed umbrella leadership abroad.

Many Syrian rebels are attracted to radical units because they are generally more effective than the moderate forces that have Western backing but receive only halting military aid.

Islamists have steady, private sources of funding and incorporate experienced militants, many of them from abroad, who have fought U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Obama-Backed Syrian Rebels Are Actually Al-Qaeda Soldiers.


Obama is currently funding the Syrian rebels

After the carnage unfolded at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, a potential gun running scheme to arm Libyan and perhaps even Syrian rebels was uncovered. The troubling aspect of arming said rebels is the fact that, according to some intelligence experts, those rebels are actually al-Qaeda.

obama-funding-syrian-rebels-al-qaeda-benghazi

Now, al-Qaeda in Iraq has acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that al-Nusra Front, the rebel faction fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, is indeed part of its network.

What’s more, the militant jihadist group said it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in the country.

The remarks, made by Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and published in Al Aribya have finally confirmed longheld suspicions that the two groups are one in the same.

“It’s now time to declare in front of the people of the Levant and [the] world that the al-Nusra Front is but an extension of the Islamic State in Iraq and part of it,” the SITE Monitoring Service quoted Baghdadi as saying in a speech released on jihadist forums Monday.

The two groups will now reportedly merge and be called the “Islamic State in Iraq” and the “Levant.”

The Syrian rebels aren’t the only ones who could receive support from al Qaeda. Baghdadi said that al Qaeda would furnish support to other jihadists “on the condition that the country and its citizens be governed according to the rules dictated by Allah.”

Al-Nusra Front was labeled a “terrorist” group by Washington back in December over its suspected affiliation to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Back then, U.S. State Department dubbed al-Nursa as simply a “new alias” for al-Qaeda in Iraq, saying it was “an attempt by AQI to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.”

Al Aribya also notes that jihadist forums online reveal that hundreds of radicals have traversed from Iraq into Syria to lead the charge against Assad’s regime. source – The Blaze

by NTEB News Desk

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