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Thursday, July 4, 2013
WND Pushes Discredited Claim About Death of Priest in Syria
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Garth Kant writes in a July 1 WorldNetDaily article:

The Vatican has confirmed the beheading of a Catholic priest in Syria.

Franciscan Father Francois Murad was killed by Syrian jihadists on June 23.

Catholic Online reports jihadits accused Father Francois of collaborating with the Assad regime.

The publication has obtained this video it believes shows his beheading.

The first sign that something is wrong with this story is a few paragraphs laters, when Kant's quoting of the Vatican is much less confirming than Kant portrays it:

The news release states, “The circumstances of the death are not fully understood. According to local sources, the monastery where Fr. Murad was staying was attacked by militants linked to the jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Meanwhile, at the same time WND was publishing Kant's article, the video purportedly of Murad's beheading -- which WND luridly touts as "extremely graphic footage" -- was determined to be something else entirely. The UK Telegraph reports:

The footage posted on YouTube shows three men kneeling on the ground surrounded by a group of foreign jihadists, now thought to be a group of Chechen rebels. The crowd whips itself into frenzy and screaming "God is great" some of the rebels slaughter two of the prisoners.

The film is too grainy to be able to confirm the identity of either of the victims as Father Francois. While the video's title refers to the killing of a priest and a bishop, none of the participants in the actual video refer to any such actions, and only accuse the victims of being collaborators and 'shabiha', a reference to pro-government militia members.

Father Pizzaballa, a colleague in the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, to which Father Francois belonged, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that none of their priests were the victims in the video.

"None of our priests have died in this manner. All our priests are alive. Reading the reports circulating in the media I conclude that they have mixed up events," he said.

Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director for Human Rights Watch said: "Confusion may have arisen because of the appearance of this video around the same time that the news came out that Father Francois had been killed.

"Human Rights Watch has been conducting an in-depth investigation into this video, and it looks like it may have been filmed in a different location several months ago, long before Father Francois was reportedly killed."

Yasser, a Syrian activist who has been researching the killings in the video said that the incident took place "months" before the priest's death.

The Telegraph goes on to report that Murad was shot to death while defending a monestary from being ransacked by Islamist fighters. He was not beheaded.

Meanwhile, the International Business Times reported that the first user to upload the video on YouTube was a group known for its support of the  regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. That dovetails nicely with WND's previous support of the Assad regime.

We'd ask when WND will issue a correction of Kant's inaccurate article, but propaganda is more important to them than accuracy.

UPDATE: Kant wrote a WND article the next day admitting his original article was inaccurate -- while trying to spin things away from his shoddy reporting by claiming that "A resounding silence is the reaction of those supporting the U.S. arming of Syrian rebels after the murder of a priest by rebels." Kant also whitewashes is original inaccuracies by declaring, "To be sure, the circumstances of the killing are murky but not the fact the priest was murdered by rebels."

Kant's original article, meanwhile, remains posted and uncorrected.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, July 4, 2013 10:08 AM EDT

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