THE WORLDPOST
06/10/2013 02:06 pm ET

Muhammad al-Qatta, 15-Year-Old Boy, Reportedly Executed By Syrian Rebel Group For Blasphemy

Facebook/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

A 15-year-old boy was reportedly shot in front of his family by Syrian rebels because he used the prophet Muhammad's name in an offensive manner.

Coffee vender Muhammad al-Qatta was abducted by rebels in the Syrian city of Aleppo Saturday night and was later returned alive with torture marks, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group with observers in Aleppo.

The gunmen then shot the boy in the head and in the neck with an automatic rifle in front of a crowd that included Qatta's mother and father, the monitoring group added. Before shooting him, the rebels reportedly announced that cursing the prophet is a terrible vice and that others who did so would be similarly punished.

According to the organization, rebels targeted the boy because he had said he wouldn't lend money to someone "even if [Muhammad] comes back to life." The saying -- or at least a variation of it -- is a common phrase used by Syrians, Al Jazeera notes.

The gunmen are believed to be members of a rebel group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, according to Reuters. They spoke a classical Arabic dialect rather than a local Syrian one, a factor that indicates they may be foreign fighters, reports added.

Qatta's parents said the boy had taken part in pro-democracy protests in Aleppo.

At least 94,000 people have died since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, although the actual number of casualties is likely as high as 120,000. Last week, Syrian security forces dealt an important blow to rebel fighters by capturing the strategic city of al-Qusair.

(h/t Ahmed Shihab-Eldin)

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