A photograph and video of a small Syrian boy who apparently survived a bombing attack by forces of the Assad regime has made the rounds worldwide this week.
News outlets around the world have carried the images, prompting sympathy and a demand for more involvement by the United States and its allies in the conflict that has wracked the Middle East for several years.
The injured tyke has been identified as Omran Daqneesh, and is shown in the video as being taken from a bombed out building along with two other children and an elderly man. Omran, although covered in blood and mire, appears impassive or in shock as he is placed in a waiting ambulance. Omran lived with his parents and three siblings, all of whom were injured in an attack, ostensibly by Syrian government forces.
A Twitter page for "Walid" identifies Mahmoud Raslan of the Aleppo Media Center as having appeared in the video and taken photos of the boy that have circulated around the world. The front pages of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as many other newspapers have carried the touching photograph as commentators have stirred up debate as to whether the United States and its allies should become involved in a ground war in Syria.
In a series of tweets with accompanying photographs, "Walid" asserted that Raslan has been seen in videos and photographs depicting anti-Assad combatants and the murder of a boy this past June. Raslan appears in photos with men who closely resemble those who appear in a video that was taken just moments before a unit of the Zenki terrorist organization in Aleppo cut off the head of a boy they had accused of fighting for the government of Syrian president Bashr Al-Assad. The Zenki terrorist group has long been based in Aleppo and has been accused of the boy’s death, as well as the abduction, torture, and murder of several journalists. “Walid’s” Twitter page shows selfies Raslan took with members of the Zenki terrorist group where he is seen relaxed and smiling with the terrorists.
In one photograph, standing behind Raslan are two men who closely resemble men who appear in a video of the beheading of a Palestinian boy by Zenki combatants in Syria.
In the above photograph, Raslan appears in the same shirt he was wearing when he took the photograph of Omran and the top of this page.
WARNING: here follows a link to a very graphic video of the beheading of the boy. It belies some accounts that contend that he was dead before the beheading.
The widely heralded photo of little Omran is credited to the Aleppo Media Center which is described by the New York Times as “a longstanding group of antigovernment activists and citizen journalists who document the conflict.” It has regularly reported on battles fought by the Zenki organization, leading some observers to theorize that it is embedded with the terrorists.
On Twitter, Maria Engstrom provided a photo that appeared to depict a male makeup artist apply materials to the face of a young girl that made her appear to have suffered a horrific gash. “Making another child ‘victims’ to sell ‘Regime Change’ to Western Liberal Audience.” The various sides of the conflict in Syria, Iraq, and lebanon have been frequently accused of staging photographs or mislabeling photographs of death and destruction taken at other times and in other conflicts that they then attribute to their enemies. On his Twitter feed, "Walid" accuses the Aleppo Media group of similar deception in the photograph of little Omran.
According to the Amnesty International, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, along with the 16th Division, the Levant Front, Ahrar al-Sham, and the al-Nusra Front, were involved in the abduction and torture of journalists and humanitarian workers in rebel-held Aleppo in 2014 and 2015. It was in June of this year that the video appeared that depicted the beheading of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy: Abdullah Tayseer Al Issa. They claimed that he had been fighting alongside the Liwa al-Quds and Syrian government forces. The Liwa al-Quds denied the accusation and claimed that the murdered boy was a Palestinian refugee who had been abducted.
While the Zenki organization condemned the killing and purportedly arrested those involved, if the photographs provided by "Walid" are correct, they were taken with the photographer Raslan just a few days later.
Meanwhile, new photographs are coming out of the conflict that add further confusion. Rebels continue to attack government forces and vice versa, while each side accuses the other of killing civilians and destroying civilian residences and businesses.
Syrian boy from SW Aleppo (gov't side). His picture didn't 'go viral' because U.S.-backed 'rebels' did this to him. pic.twitter.com/F20VukSaby— Navstéva (@Navsteva) August 18, 2016