06/11/2013, 00.00
SYRIA - ISLAM
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For Aleppo bishop, boy's brutal killing shows jihadist danger

Muhammad al-Qatta, a 14-year-old coffee seller, was killed on Sunday by a group of Islamists, executed in public, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. For Bishop Jean Clement Jeanbart, a jihadist victory would mean that Christians could no longer practice their religion in Syria. In an appeal to all Catholics, he calls on them to pray for an end to the war and for the reconciliation of the Syrian people.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - The public execution of Muhammad al-Qatta, a young coffee seller brutally assassinated on Sunday by a group of jihadists in Aleppo for insulting Muhammad, "is a terrible event that shocked the entire population of the city, Muslims and Christians, who do not want an Islamic state in Syria," Mgr Jean Clement Jeanbart, Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, told AsiaNews. For the prelate, such an act is yet another example of the brutality of foreign militants fighting in Syria.

"Christians," he explained, "are terrified by these militias and fear that in the event of their victory they would no longer be able to practice their religion and that they would be forced to leave the country." Sending more weapons to the country would only lead to more such cases of violence, he added.

Reported by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organisation run by rebels in exile Muhammad al-Qatta's case has been repeated around the world.

The incident occurred on Sunday in one of the districts of the city controlled by Islamist insurgents. The young man was working at his kiosk when two men approached him demanding a cup of coffee for free. The boy protested, saying that "even Muhammad himself would have done the right thing and paid."

Outraged by the answer, the two fighters took away little Mohammed. After beating him, they led him to the streets getting people to bear false witness against him by saying that the boy had insulted the prophet and Islam.

After reading the verdict, the teenager was blindfolded and killed with two shots to the neck and the back, in front of his parents and a crowd of over a hundred people, forced to watch the execution. What actually happened has yet to be confirmed however.

In a video  aired on a rebel website, a woman claiming to be Muhammad's mother describes her son's brutal killing, saying that the boy was working to help the family.

This morning, the Islamic court of the "Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant", the name by which Islamists call the districts of Aleppo under their rule, issued a statement in which it denied responsibility in the case, claiming that it had never authorised Muhammad al-Qatta's execution or trial.  

For Mgr Jeanbart, Islamic Courts are a scourge that plagues most of the areas controlled by al-Qaeda affiliated foreign militias, which are also opposed by local pro-rebel groups, not to mention by supporters of Bashar al-Assad.

"As soon as they reached the city," the bishop said, "Islamist guerrillas, almost all of them from abroad, took over the mosques. Every Friday, an imam launches their messages of hate, calling on the population to kill anyone who does not practice the religion of the Prophet Muhammad. They use the courts to level charges of blasphemy. Who is contrary to their way of thinking pays with his life (see video)."

The prelate called on all Catholics to pray for Syria. "Let us turn to God for an end to the conflict and the violence and for the reconciliation of our people." (S.C.)

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