German intelligence: al-Qaeda all
over Syria By John Rosenthal
German intelligence estimates that "around
90" terror attacks that "can be attributed to
organizations that are close to al-Qaeda or
jihadist groups" were carried out in Syria between
the end of December and the beginning of July, as
reported by the German daily Die Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) . This was revealed
by the German government in a
response to a parliamentary question.
response to the same question, the German
government admitted that it had received several
reports from the German foreign intelligence
service, the BND, on the May 25 massacre in the
Syrian town of Houla. But it noted that the
content of these reports was to remain classified
"by reason of national interest", Like many other
Western governments, Germany expelled Syria's
ambassador in the immediate aftermath of the
massacre, holding the Syrian government
responsible for the violence.
at least three major German newspapers - Die Welt,
the FAZ, and the mass-market tabloid Bild - have
published reports attributing responsibility for
the massacre to anti-government rebel forces or
treating this as the most probable scenario.
Writing in Bild,  longtime German war
correspondent Jurgen Todenhofer accused the rebels
of "deliberately killing civilians and then
presenting them as victims of the government". He
described this "massacre-marketing strategy" as
being "among the most disgusting things that I
have ever experienced in an armed conflict".
Todenhofer had recently been to Damascus, where he
interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for
Germany's ARD public television.
Die Welt , Alfred Hackensberger noted that Taldo,
the sub-district of Houla where the massacre
occurred, has been under rebel control since
December 2011 and is in an open plain, making it
unlikely that "hundreds of soldiers and Assad
supporters" could have entered the village to
commit the massacre. (An abridged version of
Hackenberger's report also appeared in Die
Berliner Morgenpost.) Hackensberger visited Houla
to conduct investigations for his report.
He also interviewed an alleged eyewitness
- identified simply by the pseudonym "Jibril" - at
the Saint James Monastery in Qara, Syria. In
contrast to an earlier report in the FAZ , which
had claimed that the victims were largely Shi'ites
and Alawis, Jibril told Hackensberger that all of
the victims were Sunnis "like everybody here". By
his account, they were killed for refusing to
support the rebellion. Jibril added that "a lot of
people in Houla know what really happened" but
would not say so out of fear for their lives.
"Whoever says something," he explained, "can only
repeat the rebels' version. Anything else is
While traveling in the
region of Homs, Hackensberger heard similar
stories about the conduct of the rebels. One - now
former - resident of the city of Qusayr told him
that not only were Christians like himself
expelled from the town, but that anyone who
refused to enroll their children in the Free
Syrian Army had been shot. Hackensberger's source
held foreign Islamists responsible for the
atrocities. "I have seen them with my own eyes,"
he said, "Pakistanis, Libyans, Tunisians and also
Lebanese. They call Osama bin Laden their sheikh."
A Sunni resident of Homs told
Hackensberger that he had witnessed how an armed
group stopped a bus: "The passengers were divided
into two groups: on the one side, Sunnis; on the
other, Alawis." According to Hackenberger's
source, the insurgents then proceeded to
decapitate the nine Alawi passengers.
the German government would cite national interest
in refusing to disclose its information concerning
the circumstances of the Houla massacre is
particularly notable in light of Germany's support
for the rebellion and its political arm, the
Syrian National Council (SNC).
France, the United Kingdom, and the United States
have figured as the most visible Western powers
supporting the rebellion, Germany has been quietly
playing a major role behind the scenes. According
to a new report in the FAZ , the German foreign
office is working with representatives of the
Syrian opposition to develop "concrete plans" for
a "political transition" in Syria following the
fall of Assad.