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A Franciscan priest kidnapped over the weekend by al-Qaeda-linked rebels from a Syrian village near Turkey has been freed.
“Father Hanna Jallouf has been released this morning… he is under house arrest at the convent of Qunyeh,” the Franciscan order said in a statement.
Catholic officials in Syria and Israel confirmed the abduction, according to Reuters news agency.
The Islamic Nusra Front, a rebel group affiliated with al Qaeda, took the priest from the Christian village of Knayeh on Oct. 5.
Twenty other believers, including young boys and girls, were also taken and there’s been no word of them since.
Islamic fighters in Syria are targeting Christians and other religious minorities.
According to Sham Times and other Arabic websites, jihadi social media networks posted the above picture of a child sitting on the ground while surrounded by armed men pointing their rifles at him. The caption appearing with the picture, purportedly posted by a supporter of the Free Syrian Army, is “Our youngest hostage from among the hostile sects of Kessab.”
Kessab is a predominantly Christian Armenian village in Syria near the Turkish border. Earlier it was invaded by jihadis, who terrorized, pillaged churches, and prompted some 2000 residents to flee. Initial reports had stated that about a dozen families remained as hostages.
Since the picture appeared on Arabic social media, many have expressed shock and outrage, condemning the Syrian “rebels,” while others cast doubt on the authenticity of the picture.
Of course, those wondering what the jihadis have to gain from taking such a picture and making it public would do well to remember that these are the same “rebels” who decapitate people and wave their severed and bloodied heads in front of cameras while smiling; these are the same “freedom fighters” who literally eat their victims on camera.
Surely “teasing” an infidel toddler – a subhuman – with their rifles and sharing it with their sadistic comrades via the Internet for a “laugh” should not be too surprising?
At any rate, the fact remains: the “Free Syrian Army,” along with other “rebel” groups operating in Syria, are guilty of countless barbaric crimes against humanity — including against women and children.
By Ray Ibrahim
These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mother’s womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers’ eyes. Doing it before the mothers’ eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. Here is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They’ve planned a diversion: they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby’s face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby’s face and blows out its brains. Artistic, wasn’t it? By the way, Turks are particularly fond of sweet things, they say.
Investigative Report: By VOP Foreign Correspondent, Nigeria.
An overview of the village
Ngoshe Samma is located in the hills and mountainous region of the Mandara Mountains in Gwoza local government area of Borno State, Nigeria. The people living in this area were the first reached by missionaries with a vision for church planting. The outreach was very successful and many traditional herbalists, native authorities and the people practicing paganism were converted. Churches were quickly built and the work of the missionaries expanded. Multitudes found their way to the new churches and accepted Christ as their personal savior. Close to 90% of the indigenous people converted to Christianity.
Ngoshe Samma is sometimes mistaken for Ngoshe Glavda village. The two villages were originally called Ngoshe, but later separated with Ngoshe Samma located at the top of the mountains and Ngoshe Glavda located on surface land. Fifty percent of the Ngoshe Glavda population was Christian.
The Christian communities continued to grow and expand. They built sturdy houses, sent their children to school and specialized in large scale farming and other various businesses. Ngoshe Samma had over 400 Christian families, the majority attended the Church of Christ (COCIN) and the Church of Brethren, (EYN).
But the Muslims in the area grew intolerant of them and their Christian faith.
MAJOR ATTACK ON THE NGOSHE SAMMA VILLAGE: (FIRST DAY)
Sharing his experience with our correspondent, Mr. Irmiya Dangawa (52 yrs) lamented on the situation as not only persecution, but rated the destruction as a deliberate agenda by the Muslim community to force out Christianity from the entire Gwoza local government. Other eye witnesses of the three day terror operation spoke on the same issues. They said on the first day of attacks, about 34 insurgents came around 6:45pm with heavy weapons such as AK-47’s and explosives. They stormed into the town and started shooting into the air chanting, “Allahu Akbar” meaning Allah is great. They separated to different areas of the villages, killing, looting anything of value, destroying and burning houses and the churches. Their operations were well staged and organized, as they carried out their attacks systematically, one after another.
Stage One (November/17/2013)
The first stage of the operation started from Angwan Lawan, which was also called (Ngalamaham) ward. They set explosive devices and bombed the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), they killed two Christians and broke into houses looting any valuable property inside. Afterwards, they set the houses ablaze. They proceeded to Kololo ward, ransacked all the houses, removed everything and set the houses on fire. Eluding the terrorists was extremely difficult for the villagers. Most had to crawl face down on their stomachs to escape.
The rebels invaded Ngulok ward and captured two young men, slaughtered them and threw their remains into a cave. They searched all the houses and removed all their contents. They ransacked Christian shops and took any money that was found. This concluded their first phase of the attacks and the Christians were left in pools of blood and serious agony.
Stage Two (November/17/2013)
After the insurgents had rested, they stockpiled the looted items and headed to Zerande Village. They stormed into the ward, burnt houses and shot at anyone who came out, including animals. They separated into two groups; the first group went to COCIN church, the other went to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN). While chanting, “Allahu Akbar” they threw bombs into the churches. The explosions brought down the church buildings, which collapsed and destroyed the many food items and documents stored inside.
They then went to the Christian Dispensary which had been established for many years. They removed medical equipment, pharmaceutical drugs and apparatus, planted two bombs and the building came down in a pile of ashes. Not far away, a clinic quarters that was built for the hospital workers, was also destroyed by multiple bomb blasts.
Stage Three (November 17, 2013)
After securing all the looted items, they proceeded to Ngarale ward. They first packed up all the Christians belongings, then set their homes on fire. From there, they went to Angwon Dangwawuhw, but most of the Christians had already fled. The insurgents shot the animals, burnt the houses and dragged away goods.
A resident wishing to remain anonymous, was hiding and watching the event take place. He told our correspondent, the insurgents could not carry away all the items and wanted to enslave some of the Christians to carry the heavy load. They started running after the villagers, but were unsuccessful to capture anyone. Out of their frustration and anger, they slaughtered 22 goats. He added, “It was only God that kept me hidden from the insurgents, or else they could have set fire to my location and killed me.”
He grieved, “I saw them with my own eyes. The animals and livestock were shot and killed, because they could not find any of us to carry their loads.” The rebels ransacked homes and confiscated 13 motorcycles. Everything was either taken or destroyed. As night fell, they sent some of their members to take the looted goods to their camps in the hills. Others stayed behind and slept in the village waiting for daybreak. In the morning, they gathered more livestock and sent them to their camps.
CHRISTIANS NEGLECTED AFTER REPORTING ATTACKS TO AUTHORITIES
While the attacks, looting and killings continued; some of the Christians ran to the District head of Gwoza (Alh. Ibrahim Abbas ) pleading for help. They begged for security men to be deployed to the area. They were given lame excuses that the Military and Police were not in joint operation. He said even if they were informed, they would never go to end the violent attacks. Desparate, the villagers reported the matter to the Emir of Gwoza ( Alhaji Shehu Idrisa Timta) who sympathized with them and said to seek protection from the Cameroon government. He remarked that the Nigerian security would only delay and not come to their immediate aid. Even so, he advised them to report to the military checkpoint with their request for help. The military men said security forces could not be deployed, because Ngoshe Samma was not part of their jurisdiction. Crushed, they left disillusioned and abandoned by those they had thought were there to protect them.
With no where else to turn, they mounted up the courage to travel through an area where insurgents had waited to ambush them. One insurgent on guard and tired, was unexpectedly caught by the returning villagers and they severely beat him. They tied him up and took him to the Army men, who executed him when bullets were found in his pocket. Elsewhere, the insurgents were busy planning their second attack for the following morning.
MAJOR ATTACK – DAY 2 (November/18/2013)
Before the rebels restarted their attacks, they designated an area of the village as an emergency Mosque to pray and thank Allah for giving them success over the Christians. The villagers hiding nearby, said the rebels vowed to carry out a three day operation. They claimed with confidence that no security forces or their weapons could stop them, because Allah was leading their mission. They even invited the security forces to come and attack them. Emboldened, they set out to begin their planned attacks to be carried out phase by phase on the Christian communities.
Phase One (November/18/2013 )
The rebels started with a house of HAMSA, packed up all the property and set it ablaze. They advanced to the house of a wealthy, prominent christian who spoke for Believers in the community. They took some of his belonging and burnt the rest. They chanted, “Allahu Akbar” in the centre of the village, while roaming about with the Christian’s property. When they discovered most of the Christians had evacuated, they set over 100 houses ablaze hoping to flush out those in hiding and shoot them.
Phase Two (November/18/2013)
They detonated explosives in strategic locations and set up an ambush for security men, expecting to engage them in battle. They waited for the forces to show up, but they never arrived. They took livestock, food items and anything of value, then sent them to their camps. Before leaving they set off bombs which burnt 6 churches, killed 4 people and set fire to the entire village where 400 families had resided.
THE SITUATION FOR CHRISTIANS AFTER THE ATTACK
It was heart wrenching when our correspondent interacted with some of the women and children, now homeless and displaced in the open cold weather. The majority had nothing to eat and many were sick with no medical attention, because everything had been destroyed.
Our reporter’s investigation revealed that all in the Christian community had been scattered. Some fled to the Cameroon refugee camps, others stayed in the Nigerian camps. Most who spoke to our reporter believed that God Almighty had helped them to forgive their enemy. With all the persecution they had endured, the Christians were not holding it against the attackers.
Their village head equally displaced, visited all the camps on 11/19/2013. Accompanied by a Christian brother called Irmiya, they went together to sympathize with the refugees, as they considered it all as a test of faith. They also thanked the Cameroon authority for keeping the refugees in a safe area.
CAMEROON INTENTIONS FOR THE CHRISTIAN REFUGEES
Due to the terrible attacks on the villages and perpetual hunger that bewildered the people, they were taken to refugee camps in Cameroon. They were taking care of the woman and children and assured their safety. They fed them daily and provided drugs for the sick.
A prominent leader of the village told the VOP correspondent, that some of the refugees were taken from the nearest camp on the Cameroon border to almost 120 km towards Mokolo Town in Cameroon. Their explanation for doing this action was that they were free to change their citizenship, if they were willing. When the leader of the displaced villagers heard the news, he warned that the Christians wanted to one day return home. The refugees have refused the proposal to become Cameroon citizens.
GOVERNMENT’S NEGLECT OF THE REFUGEES IN GWOZA
When the devastating attacks became overwhelming, the Gwoza Christian Community Association (GCCA) petitioned the Governor in an open letter about plight of over 14,000 displaced Christians. Instead of the governor looking into the matter for a proper assessment, he neglected the association and inaugurated a committee of twenty Muslims, including two Christians. The committee was under a state legislator who was known as a fanatic who supported the rebel insurgency. Another prominent committee member was the Commissioner of Commerce in Borno state, who had converted to Islam. Though her father is a Christian, she was cited to be bias in dealing with the Christian community.
Part of the responsibility of the committee was to look into plight of the Christians and disburse ₦100,000,000 ($626,364.83) to the affected Christians. Concerned, the Christians questioned how Muslims can effectively chair a committee that affects a Christian community. Not a single Pastor or church leader was among them. To pacify the people for Christian representation, the two Christian political figures were added to the committee. Some members of the community told our correspondent that the two Christians were not known for strong faith, and were being used to achieve a malicious agenda.
AGENDA OF THE COMMITTEE
While the committee was compiling the list of villages affected, they deliberately omitted the name of Ngoshe-Samma and other badly affected Christian villages. They were recommending only Muslim areas who had been looting the Christian properties, while they had been displaced.
This action provoked the Christians of Ngoshe Samma to call a meeting. Irmiya Dangwa blasted the committee with insults, accusing them of self centeredness with a motive to push the Christians out of the area. In his speech, he assured them that nobody abuses Christians without being accountable to God, including the committee members. He as well lambasted the so-called Christians that joined the committee, telling them to their faces that God would also judge them. Afterwards, they asked him to give them some time to reconsider the options.
Later, they apologized to him and promised they would review the plan. They also contributed ₦100,000 ($626.00) out of their own pockets and bought 20 bags of maize for him to take back to his people, before the final decision was made. It was later noted that the State Governor dissolved the committee for a reason unknown to the populace. As of this date, nothing has been given to Christian communities.
PRESENT SITUATION OF THE CHRISTIANS
Our correspondent who visited the five refugee camps, was able to gather that the Christians were seriously suffering and receiving no type of help. They are appealing to international organizations to come to their aid, to give the displaced Christians a little comfort and means for survival.
Article/photos may be reprinted with link to original work and credit to VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED
Sadad, SYRIA (Agenzia Fides reports) – The Christian city of Sadad, situated in a strategic area along the road that joins Homs to Damascus, has been at the center of the battle between the army of Assad and rebel militias hegemonized by Islamist groups.
The assault of Sadad by rebel militias took place on Monday afternoon, October 21. According to local sources, also re-launched by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, the raid took place in a similar way to that suffered a month ago in the historic Christian village of Maalula. Several hundred men distributed among the elements of the brigades al-Faruk and Islamists of the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the East entered in Sadad from three directions, with thirty military vehicles, targeting initially the city hospital and seizing government buildings.
On Tuesday, the army began a counteroffensive, intervening in support of the local police forces. Meanwhile, some of the 15 thousand inhabitants – mostly Orthodox Christians and Catholics of the Syro rite – began its exodus in the direction of the artery link between Damascus and Homs, which is 15 kilometers.
The biblical city of Sadad, cited in the Book of Numbers and the Book of Ezekiel, is 95 kilometers from Damascus and sixty from Homs. The city is home to two churches dedicated to St. Sergius and St. Theodore, famous for their frescoes.
Syrian Orthodox Bishop: a humanitarian corridor to save civilians of Sadad is needed
(Agenzia Fides) The Metropolitan Silwanos Boutros Alnemeh, titular of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Homs and Hama, has launched an appeal to institutions and international humanitarian organizations on behalf of the civilian population – about 3 thousand people – have remained besieged in the villages of Sadad and Hofar, in the region of Qualamun, about a hundred kilometers north-east of Damascus, where another front of the conflict between the government army and anti-Assad militias has opened.
Those responsible of the siege – the Bishop explains in his message must “facilitate the departure of the population safely in any direction, both towards the monastery of Al-Attieh, and in the direction of the city of Homs, where we could welcome them”. Metropolitan Silwanos begs international organizations, recipients of his appeal, to avoid “statements that may compromise the safety of the residents of the besieged cities and residents in Syria”.
As sources of the Syrian Orthodox Church explains to Fides, over a thousand militiamen largely linked to Islamist factions, with thirty military vehicles, equipped with machine guns, have invaded the city occupying the police station, government centers, public facilities, the hospital, post office, causing three deaths among local Christians and damage to several churches. The civilian population has begun the exodus towards Homs and the airport in Damascus.
Sadad has a historical, archaeological and religious importance and is mentioned more than once in the Bible. According to Fides sources, its people – mostly Christians – had refused to form armed “popular committees of defense”.