Syrian Rebels Swap Crosses Atop Churches for Al Qaeda Flags

By Alissa Tabirian | October 10, 2013 | 1:54pm EDT

Al Qaeda flag flies from Armenian Orthodox Martyrs' Church in Raqqa, Syria on Sept. 26, 2013. (Twitter/Jenan Moussa/Al Aan TV)

 

(CNSNews.com)-- A Syrian rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda desecrated two Christian churches in Northern Syria late last month, replacing their crosses with the symbolic black flag of jihad.

The rebels also destroyed relics, painting and statues allegedly in response to the city’s anti-sectarian protests against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“We in the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights strongly condemn such sectarian actions that contradict the Syrian people's demands in justice, freedom, democracy and equality,” the group said.

Dubai-based al-Aan TV broadcast exclusive footage of members of the ISIS attacking the al-Shuhada Armenian Orthodox Church, also known as the Martyrs’ Church,  and the Sayida al-Bishara Catholic Church in the Islamist-held city of Raqqa.

The video, posted on YouTube, shows a jihadist on the roof of the church throwing a crucifix to the ground below, where it is kicked by an onlooker.

 

The conflict between U.S.-backed rebel groups and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has so far resulted in about 100,000 casualties, has also had grave consequences for the country’s vulnerable Christian minority.

Although Christians in Syria have been hesitant to take sides in the ongoing civil war, they are considered sympathetic to Assad, making them targets for rebel-led violence.

As CNSNews previously reported, the patriarchal vicar of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Jordan warned that Christians “will be massacred” if the Syrian Army were to leave Christian-populated cities.

After an August chemical weapons attack near Damascus led to talks of U.S. military intervention, an agreement brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin was reached that called for a careful accounting of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

International chemical weapons inspectors began destroying Syria’s chemical stockpile earlier this week.

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