Middle East

Syrian opposition condemns killing of boy in Aleppo

A image grab taken from a video from the Aleppo Media Centre on purportedly shows a picture of Mohammed Qataa
Image caption Mohammed (right) sold coffee to support the family as his father was ill, his mother has said

Syrian rebels and activists have condemned the killing of a 14-year-old boy, allegedly by al-Qaeda-linked fighters who accused him of blasphemy.

Residents of the northern city of Aleppo say Mohammed Qataa was shot dead after being accused of misusing the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

A spokesman for the main rebel grouping, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), called it an act of "terrorism".

Louay Meqdad stressed that those responsible were not linked to the FSA.

The killing had "no justification" and those responsible should hand themselves over to the "legitimate authorities" in Aleppo, Mr Meqdad told the Al-Jazeera TV station.

A statement from the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists inside Syria, called the killing a "heinous crime" and said those responsible must face justice.

The LCC said it also held the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the umbrella group for the Istanbul-based opposition, responsible "for failing to manage liberated areas and maintaining the security of its citizens".

'Blasphemy' accusation

Mohammed Qataa was reportedly selling coffee on the street on Sunday when someone asked to buy some on credit.

He is said to have replied: "Even if Muhammad came down from heaven, I would not give you this coffee on credit."

According to one account, three men - one of whom had been the man who asked for the coffee - declared that he had committed blasphemy by insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Mohammed was taken away in a car and was returned half an hour later too badly beaten to walk.

Witnesses say he was then thrown on the pavement and shot dead.

A crowd of men and the boy's mother were all present but were too scared to intervene, reports say.

The UK-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) posted videos of Mohammed's parents and another eyewitness to the killing.

The parents said that one of the men was from Aleppo, but they others spoke standard Arabic, suggesting they may not be Syrian.

The FSA and the SOHR have both blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a group which was the result of a merger between Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq and some Syrian Islamist militants.

The mood in Aleppo has changed since the beginning of the year when inhabitants compared Islamist brigades favourably to the FSA, which was was often perceived as corrupt, the BBC's Paul Wood reports.

Now there are signs of discontent in the city against the Islamists, he says.