His photo of a shell shocked 5-year-old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh – caught in the country's hellish civil war and the ongoing Aleppo siege – captured the attention and tugged at the heartstrings of millions of social media users and netizens around the world on Thursday.
However, global audiences may even be more shocked about the photographer, Mahmous Raslan, and the company that he allegedly keeps.
Photos circulated on social media and published on LiveLeak appear to show the photographer posing with the child-killing rebels of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement. The U.S.-backed Salafist group – allied with the Levant Conquest Front (LCF), an al-Qaida affiliate formerly known as the Nusra Front – gained notoreity recently after a video similarly went viral depicting the fighters beheading a Palestinian boy who they accused of being a fighter loyal to President Bashar al-Assad..
In the photo currently circulating online, Raslan is seen posing with the very same militant group who captured and beheaded the 12-year-old Palestinian boy in Aleppo.
The alleged connection between the photojournalist and the Salafist fighters has led to claims by those supportive of the embattled Syrian government that the material depicting the shell-shocked and wounded Syrian boy was staged in an attempt to implement a "humanitarian ceasefire" in which rebels would be resupplied, presumably by backers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.
The emerging controversy regarding Raslan's background illustrates the problem of sifting through the propagandistic and often fabricated information emanating from all sides of the 5-year-old Syrian civil war.