The story alleges that two of the men posing with McCain were involved in the "kidnapping of 11 Shiite pilgrims one year ago." This is what happens when clueless polticians inject themselves into situations in which they clearly do not belong. What was McCain thinking, sneaking into Syria to meet with jihadists?
Senator McCain went to Syria to meet with the opposition.
The Free Syrian Army and Al Nusrah, the two main armed factions of the Syrian resistance are jihadist groups run by the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda (here).McCain Knows Less About the Syrian Civil War than You Do, Daniel Greenfield
McCain stands in front of Nour, center, during his recent visit to Syria. (Razan Shalab AlSham/Syrian Emergency Task Force/HO)
McCain stands in front of Nour, center, during his recent visit to Syria.(Razan Shalab AlSham/Syrian Emergency Task Force/HO)
BEIRUT: U.S. Senator John McCain was photographed with a known affiliate of the rebel group responsible for the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims one year ago, during a brief and highly publicized visit inside Syria this week.
The U.S. senator became the highest-level American official to enter Syria since the uprising began. A former presidential candidate and staunch opponent of President Barack Obama’s Syria policy, he has been leading calls to better arm moderate opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
During a brief visit to northern Syria from Turkey, confirmed by his office Monday, McCain met with rebel leaders calling for greater support in their fight against Assad. He was accompanied by the chief of staff of the rebel Supreme Military Council, Gen. Salim Idriss.
The pilgrims were kidnapped by armed rebels in Azaz, in Syria’s Aleppo province, in May last year as they were making their way back to Lebanon from Iran.
Two of the kidnapped, Anwar Ibrahim and Hussein Ali Omar were released in August and September but intense negotiations are still underway for the remaining nine, believed to be in the custody of the “Northern Storm” brigade, headed by rebel commander Ammar Al-Dadikhi, aka Abu Ibrahim. The Northern Storm Brigade also claimed responsibility for the kidnap of a Lebanese journalist in October.
Head of Lebanon’s General Security Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim was en route to Turkey Wednesday to continue negotiations for release of the remaining nine pilgrims.
According to families of the remaining captives and one of the released men, Anwar Ibrahim, one of the men standing alongside McCain in photographs released by the senator’s office, is Mohammad Nour, the chief spokesman and photographer for the Northern Storm kidnappers. Nour appears in several shots where McCain is posing with different officials.
Ibrahim and other members of the kidnapped family said they recognized Nour, and another man affiliated with the group, also identified as “Abu Ibrahim,” immediately after seeing the photos, widely circulated by international media following McCain’s visit.
Ibrahim, who had seen Nour multiple times in person during his captivity, said he was a close affiliate of Dadikhi who had photographed him and his fellow captors during the media campaign surrounding his kidnap. Nour has also acted as the spokesman for the kidnappers.
Photographs of Nour with the group of kidnapped pilgrims have been independently verified by The Daily Star. In the photographs released by McCain’s office, he is seen standing holding a camera, behind and in front of the senator as he poses alongside Idriss.
“I recognized him immediately. He was the photographer who was brought in to take our photos [during captivity]. He works with the kidnappers. He knows them very well,” Ibrahim said. “I don’t know anything about why McCain was visiting, or what he wanted, but I was very surprised to see [Mohammad Nour] there.”
A spokesman from McCain’s office said the senator had traveled to Syria with Idriss in coordination with the Syrian Emergency Task Force to meet with two Free Syrian Army commanders, but denied he had met with the two individuals identified by the kidnap victims.
“A number of other Syrian commanders joined the meeting, but none of them identified himself as Mohammad Nour or Abu Ibrahim,” the spokesman for McCain, Brian Rogers, said. “Two members of our organization were present in the meeting, and no one called himself by either name.”
Rogers said the photograph was “regrettable” but said Nour had not communicated with McCain.