By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
US Rep. Michael Grimm said he was shocked and horrified by the recent assassination of a Catholic priest in war-torn Syria and warned that the Obama Administration had better be careful of which elements of the rebel forces it aids.
The Rev. Francois Murad, a 49-year-old Franciscan, was beheaded on June 23 in northern Syria where he had been setting up a monastery. The group responsible is reported to be Jabhat al-Nusra, a designated terrorist organization with links to Al-Qaeda, Grimm said. The Vatican confirmed the priest’s death on June 24.
“The beheading of a Catholic priest in Syria is a horrifying atrocity,” said Grimm (R-C-Brooklyn-Staten Island), who is Catholic.
The New York Daily News reported on July 1 that Fr. Murad was executed in a field outside the convent where he had been staying in Edlib in northern Syria by rebels who suspected him of collaborating with President Bashar Assad’s regime. The News also reported that many in the crowd of people standing around him as he was being killed ghoulishly recorded the assassination on their cell phones and posted the gruesome videos online.
“As the U.S. moves forward in providing aid to the Syrian rebels, we must take precautions to ensure that any assistance we provide does not fall into the hands of fringe, extremist groups with ulterior motives. If this attack was indeed committed at the hands of Al-Qaeda linked militants, then it serves as a reminder that we must remain vigilant in our quest to combat Islamic terrorism and work closely with our trusted allies in the Middle East to bring peace to the region,” the congressman said.
“Furthermore, the promotion of the video by the group responsible is truly despicable. I fully condemn this gruesome act and urge the mainstream leaders within the Syrian opposition to denounce those responsible,” Grimm said.
The priest had moved to the convent after his monastery was bombed, the BBC reported on its website.
“My thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Father François Murad, and as a member of the Catholic community, I join in mourning his loss,” Grimm said.