Beheading of Catholic priest in Syria highlights fears over arming opposition
The brutal details surrounding the beheading of Father Francois Murad illustrate the complexities faced by Westerners looking to arm rebels
The Vatican has confirmed that a 49 year old Catholic priest from the Franciscan Order was beheaded by Syrian rebels in late June. Father Francois Murad was establishing a monastery in the northern Syrian village of Gassanieh when he apparently fell foul of Islamist opponents of the Assad regime linked to the Jihadi Nusra Front.
In graphic video footage circulated online, Father Murad is seen tied up and pushed to the ground as a man slowly cuts his head off from behind with what appears to be a kitchen knife. Several dozen onlookers, including several children, chant Allah Akhbar (God is Great) as the beheading, which takes about a minute, takes place.
As the priest's severed head is held up, the crowd becomes ever more frenzied. Two other men are beheaded in similarly brutal circumstances. It is not clear whether they were also associated with the Catholic Church.
The report comes at a time of intense controversy in Western countries over whether they should arm opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The debate centres on whether arms sent to opposition groups favoured by the West might end up in the hands of groups of the kind that beheaded Father Murad.
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