17 Sep 2012

The Syrian town caught between Assad and al-Qaeda

Exclusive: French photo-journalist Mani meets Syrians from the town of Latamneh who are preparing suicide belts and bombs after two “massacres” which they say were carried out by government forces.

He is perhaps 11 years old. He is one of the few survivors of a terrible massacre in the Syrian town of Latamneh, writes Jon Snow.

He reels off the identities of some of the 26 members of his extended family who were wiped out systematically, at play, at work, and at home.

The massacre was forensic. The reason was clear. A member of the boy’s family was a defector from Assad’s army.

The French photo-journalist Mani went to Latamneh to piece together what happened. His film, which I report tonight, is bookended by children.

The closing sequence depicts a desperate father, frustrated by the failures of the opposition, yet burning with anger against the Assad regime.

He points to his young son and swears: “If things continue like this, I will send him myself to fight for al-Qaeda.”

The same man also complains of the numerous “foreign fighters” now engaging in Syria. They fear an influx of foreigners and they fear they will change the nature of this war.

“We’ll have big problems when Assad falls – the growing numbers are frightening.”