(The Hill) – A spokesman for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday that it would be “regrettable” if the lawmaker had posed for a photograph with Syrian rebels involved in kidnapping Lebanese Shiite pilgrims.
The spokesman cautioned, however, that no one had identified themselves by the alleged kidnappers’ names during McCain’s meetings with opposition forces in Syria over the weekend.
The Lebanon Daily Star reported Thursday that McCain took a photo with Mohammad Nour and Abu Ibrahim, who were identified by a freed captive as Syrian rebels who took part in the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims a year ago.
McCain, who tweeted a picture from his visit that allegedly included the kidnappers, was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria since the two-year civil war began.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in a statement that none of the individuals McCain planned to meet were named Mohammad Nour or Abu Ibrahim.
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(AlAkhbar) – The Obama administration said it knew in advance of a trip to Syria by John McCain, a visit that raised questions over whether the Republican senator met with the kidnappers of a group of Lebanese pilgrims held hostage for the past year. US officials had little to say about the trip by McCain, an outspoken advocate for US military aid to the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
McCain’s office said his visit was organized by the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a non-profit group that backs the Syrian opposition and is based in the United States. The Republican senator crossed into northern Syria from the country’s border with Turkey on Monday and stayed there several hours in a surprise visit.
McCain saw General Salim Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army coalition of rebel groups, as well as 18 commanders of Free Syrian Army battalions from all of Syria, the SETF website said.
“While meeting with Senator McCain, General Idris and FSA commanders asked that the United States increase its aid to the Free Syrian Army in the form of heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and air strikes on Hezbollah,” the SETF website said, referring to the Lebanese resistance group backing Assad.