Al-Ghassaniyah (AsiaNews) - There are many doubts about the beheading of three Franciscan friars in Al-Ghassaniyah by suspected al Nusra militants.
A Catholic local source told AsiaNews that there is no evidence of the execution because "there are no Franciscans in the area."
Reports about the incident were first made by the Christian Middle East News Agency (MCN Direct), which were picked up today by Radio France International.
Both cite a video posted on Youtube by the terrorists themselves, showing Fr Franҫois Mourad, the Syrian monk killed a few days ago during an attack against the monastery of al-Ghassaniyah, and two other hostages. The agencies claim that the two other hostages are friars, including a bishop.
In the video, the extremists explain in detail the identity of the three hostages and the reasons for their execution. One of the alleged friars, whom they claim to be F Mourad, supposedly had the phone number of a Syrian army officer on his mobile phone.
This version runs counter to statements issued by the Custody of the Holy Land, which said that Fr Mourad was killed at the convent.
Sources told AsiaNews that Franciscans from the Custody and Sisters of the Rosary in Al-Ghassaniyah confirmed that the monk's body was taken from the monastery to a convent in Latakia, where they held a funeral for him on Tuesday.
In an official statement, the Custody denied the death of the three brothers, urging all Catholics to pray for Syria, and calling on the international community to work to end the violence in that country. Members of the Greek Orthodox communities deny the presence of Orthodox bishops or priests in the video spread by the rebels.