Omran Daqneesh: Assad claims pictures of five-year-old Aleppo boy pulled from rubble were 'faked'

Syrian president also accuses Nobel Prize-nominated White Helmets of being the face of a terror group

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 20 October 2016 15:40
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Assad believes video of boy covered in rubble is fake

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has claimed the photo of the five-year-old boy which became a haunting symbol of the suffering of civilians in Aleppo, was faked.

Mr Assad alleged the images were "manipulated" and said the viral picture was "forged" by the volunteer rescue group known as the White Helmets.

In an interview with German-language broadcaster SRF, he said: "I want you to go back after my interview and go to the internet to see the same picture of the same child, with his sister."

"They were rescued twice, each one in different incidents, just as part of the publicity of those White Helmets."

The White Helmets, which were nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, are made up of around 3,000 people and operate in rebel-held areas of Syria.

The group estimates to have pulled more than 40,000 people from the rubble of locations hit by regime, and later Russian, air strikes since 2013. The majority of their funding comes from UK and Dutch sources.

In the interview, Mr Assad also accuses the group of being a "facelift" of Islamist rebel-group Jabhat al-Nusra, which recently rebranded itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. A statement on the group's website insists they "do not pledge allegiance to any political party or group".

The video which shows the suffering of the children of Aleppo

Video shot by media activists showed five-year-old Omran Daqneesh being lifted from the ruins of a house by a White Helmets volunteer, who placed him on a seat in an ambulance.

In the footage, Omran appears dazed as he sits alone in the chair, staring blankly ahead before wiping blood from his forehead.

The Syrian regime denied responsibility for the air strike, which killed nine people including Omran's 10-year-old brother.

In the interview, Mr Assad claimed: "None of those incidents were true. You can have it manipulated and it is manipulated.

"I'm going to send you those two pictures. Just to see that this is a forged picture, not a real one."

He added: "We have real pictures of children being harmed. But this one is a forged one."

Mr Assad's claim the single viral image of Omran is faked comes as air strikes kill dozens of civilians in the besieged city of Aleppo each day.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 640 people, including 128 children, have been killed in rebel-held parts of Aleppo and the surrounding rural areas since a truce brokered by the US and Russia collapsed on 19 September.

It also said 88 people, including 14 children, were killed in retaliatory shelling on government-held Aleppo.

Chinese state media have previously suggested images of Omran were faked as part of a "propaganda war" to enable Western intervention in Syria.

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