The village of Maaloula has been taken over by Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, who have stormed the Christian center and offered local Christians a choice: conversion or death. A resident of the town said the rebels shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as they moved through the village, and proceeded to assault Christian homes and churches.
“They shot and killed people,” he said. “I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village. Where is President Obama to see what has befallen us?” Another witness stated, “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, ‘Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.’”
The village is located just 25 miles from Damascus, and sites within the village are dedicated as United Nations world heritage sites. Residents still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The rebels who took over the city are associated with the al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-associated Islamist group. Villagers reported foreign dialects ranging from Tunisian to Libyan, from Moroccan to Chechen.