American photographer tells tale of horror of captivity by al-Nusra group in Syria

A young (and not very bright) American named Matthew Schrier decided to start a freelance photography career by going to Syria seven months ago. After 15 days, he was taken into captivity by an Islamist group connected with al-Nusra who tortured him, assumed his online identity, drained his bank account and wrote emails in his name:

Wearing masks, his jailers led him out, sat him down and forced a car tire over his knees. They slid a wooden rod behind his legs, locking the tire in place. Then they rolled him over. Schrier was face down on a basement floor, he said, legs immobilized, bare feet facing up.
“Give him 115,” one of his captors said in English, as they began whipping his feet with a metal cable.
When the torture ended Mr. Schrier could not walk. His captors, he said, dragged him to his cell. He remembers their parting phrase: “Have you heard of Guantánamo Bay?”

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He escaped through a basement window on July 29 and wandered through Aleppo until he met with more considerate rebels, who drove him to the Turkish border.

Now in the United States, Schrier has returned with a firsthand account of the descent by elements of the anti-Assad forces into sanctimonious hatred and crime. His experience reflects the sharply deteriorated climate for foreigners and moderate Syrians in areas subject to the whims of armed religious groups whose members roam roads, man checkpoints and occupy a constellation of guerrilla bases.

More than fifteen Westerners, mostly journalists, have disappeared in Syria. Schrier is a rare case of one who made it back. His first captors barely spoke English, accused him of being a CIA agent and locked him in a room from which he could hear other prisoners screaming for hours.

Later, the captors brought in interrogators who spoke perfect English; from their accent he thinks they were Canadian. They demanded his Social Security number, credit card information, e-mail and Facebook passwords and the PIN for his personal bank account. They sent emails in his name but his mother was not fooled and reported him to the State Department.

He converted to Islam but this did nothing to improve the situation. He was moved to other locations twice before escaping on July 29.

Are these the type of people we want to give arms to? Full story at The New York Times (limit of 10 free reads per month), condensed version free at Reuters.

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