Friday, August 23, 2013

Twitter Links -- August 23 -- Syria, Lebanon

This is what happened when an American photo-journalist was taken prisoner in Syria, not by the regime but by so-called "Rebel forces" seeking to overthrow the regime. This story illustrates why "helping the Rebels" is a simplistic idea. These are people we do not want to help. This NY Times account of Matthew Schrier's experience has more details, but it opens with his worst treatment. His name is a hot link to his photography Web page. 
American Tells of Odyssey as Prisoner of Syrian Rebels
August 22, 2013

Wearing masks, his jailers led him out, sat him down and forced a car tire over his knees. They slid a wooden rod behind his legs, locking the tire in place. Then they rolled him over. Mr. Schrier was face down on a basement floor, he said, legs immobilized, bare feet facing up. 
“Give him 115,” one of his captors said in English, as they began whipping his feet with a metal cable. 
When the torture ended Mr. Schrier could not walk. His captors, he said, dragged him to his cell. He remembers their parting phrase: “Have you heard of Guantánamo Bay?” 
For seven months, Mr. Schrier, 35, was a prisoner in Syria of jihadi fighters opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Held in bases and prisons run by two Islamist rebel groups, he said, he was robbed, beaten and accused of being an American spy by men who then assumed his identity online. 
His captors drained one of his bank accounts. They shopped in his name on eBay. They sent messages from his e-mail account to his mother and his best friend assuring them he was fine, but had extended his trip to do more work. 
“I’m doing good man,” read an e-mail to the friend on Feb. 2. “I have access to Internet for like 5 minutes or so, and I will not be able to log in my e-mail for at least the next few weeks.”

Smoke is seen above people gathering outside a mosque
on the site of a powerful explosion in the northern
Lebanese city of Tripoli on August 23, 2013.
Photo by AFP via Haaretz, text below.
At least 20 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in two explosions outside mosques in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli on Friday, security sources and witnesses said.

The explosions, which appeared to be coordinated, went off outside two mosques as Friday prayers ended in the largely Sunni Muslim city.

"I see seven bodies inside several burned cars," said a Reuters witness, speaking from near the Taqwa mosque, which is frequented by Sunni Islamist hardliners, where the first blast occurred.

A security source said several people were killed in the second blast outside al-Salam mosque.

Ambulances rushed to the scene and heavy black smoke covered the sky. Television footage showed crushed cars with their windows smashed. Some cars were burning. People ran through the streets carrying a woman whose face was obscured by blood.

Two bodies could be seen on the ground and apartment blocks had their windows smashed.

"There are many casualties in the two mosques, we still do not have a clear idea of the figures," a security source said.

The explosions came a week after a huge blast killed at least 24 people in a southern suburb of Beirut, a Shi'ite Hezbollah militant group stronghold.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said Israel was behind the blast. "The fingerprints of the Israeli terrorism are all over it. Their goal is to destabilize the region and undermine the steadfastness of the Lebanese people." Druze leader Walid Jumblatt also attributed the blast to Israel, as did a former Hezbollah MP.

However, a Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for the explosion, saying it targeted the militant group Hezbollah, and promised more attacks.

Sectarian tension in Lebanon is being stoked by the conflict in neighboring Syria. Many of Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslims support Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is fighting a largely Sunni insurgency against his rule.

Last week's blast was the second such incident in just over a month in south Beirut. Groups opposed to Assad have threatened to retaliate against Hezbollah for intervening on behalf of his regime in the Syrian civil war.

The explosion occurred on a bustling commercial and residential street in the Rweiss district, a heavily Shiite area and one of Hezbollah's bastions of support. In July, a car bomb exploded in the nearby Beir al-Abed district, wounding more than 50 people.

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