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Killing of Syrian youth for 'blasphemy' fuels tension in Aleppo

June 11, 2013|By Raja Abdulrahim

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Protesters in the embattled city of Aleppo called for justice in the killing of a 14-year-old boy accused of blasphemy, blaming armed opposition groups for the youth's death.

The killers have not been identified, but some in the city are pointing a finger at armed Islamist groups, an accusation that could ignite tensions among residents, activists and Islamic rebels in the city, about half of which is under opposition control.

Although the Islamist rebels are admired for their fighting ability against government forces, they are also feared for being heavy-handed, even brutal, in implementing their form of justice.

The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham, a unified group of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syrian fighters, denied any part in the teen's death.

Mohammad Qataa was beaten and later shot three times Sunday by three assailants. Witnesses said Qataa was operating his coffee stand when a man asked to buy coffee on credit, according to the Aleppo Media Center.

Qataa reportedly said that "even if Muhammad came down from heaven, I would not give you this coffee on credit."

Armed men in a black vehicle heard Qataa’s words and took him away and beat him. After he was returned to his neighborhood a short time later, he made another statement deemed blasphemous and was shot and killed in front of witnesses, according to the center.

His parents, at home in a nearby apartment, had been told that their son had been taken and heard the gunshots.

“A kid, 14 years old, why would you kill him? Why?” his mother said in an interview posted online. “We are a religious family, we pray, we fast, everyone knows us. We keep to ourselves, we’re not with this side and we’re not with that side.”

The killing is being investigated by two opposition legal authorities, the Unified Judicial Council and the Sharia Authority.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists throughout Syria, condemned the killing, as well as those who justified it based on what Qataa said. “The ugliness of this crime … is refused by all religions, ethics and international laws,” according to the group’s statement.

For the record, 6:20 p.m. June 11: A previous version of this post said the youth had been killed on Saturday. He was killed on Sunday.

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