A teenage boy from the Syrian city of Aleppo is reported to have been executed in front of his family by an Islamist rebel group, which accused him of blasphemy.
Graphic images of 15 year-old Mohammad Kattaa, a coffee seller in the war torn city, appeared on the internet yesterday. They appeared to show that the boy had been shot in the mouth and through the neck.
Several reports suggest that he was found arguing with another boy on Saturday, during which he used the name of the Prophet Mohammed flippantly. One report suggested that the other boy had attempted to get a free coffee, leading to Mr Kattaa to say that, “even if Muhammad comes down, I will not give it as debt.”
He was later said to have been detained by an extremist group in the area, beaten and then shot when his mother and father had been found so that they could be forced to witness the execution.
“An unidentified Islamist rebel group shot dead a 15-year-old child who worked as a coffee seller in Aleppo, after they accused him of blasphemy,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
“They spoke classical Arabic, not Syrian dialect. They shot the boy twice, once in the mouth, another in his neck, in front of his mother, his father and his siblings,” he said.
Later reports suggested that the group that is said to have carried out the killing had links to a number of al-Qa'ida cells operating in Syria.
According to the AFP news agency, Syrian government forces are likely to target the area around Aleppo after taking the rebel-held town of Qusair last week. With support from the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, Syrian forces have made significant gains in recent weeks and now have rebel strongholds in the north of the country in their sights.
“It is likely the battle for Aleppo will start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages in the province,” the source told AFP.