Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pushed back on a report claiming that the Syrian rebels he was photographed with last weekend were involved in kidnapping Lebanese Shiite pilgrims a year ago, saying none of the men identified themselves by the names used in the article.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 28, 2013
The Beirut Daily Star reported Thursday that according to family members of the kidnapped pilgrims and one released captive, two of the men in pictures taken with McCain are Anwar Ibrahim and Mohammad Nour.
The senator traveled to Syria last weekend to meet with rebels fighting in the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country since the conflict started. He has called on the Obama administration to provide weapons to the rebels.
In a statement, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said it would be "regrettable" if the senator was accidentally photographed with Nour.
"A number of the Syrians who greeted Senator McCain upon his arrival in Syria asked to take pictures with him, and as always, the Senator complied," Rogers said. "If the individual photographed with Senator McCain is in fact Mohamed Nour, that is regrettable. But it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Senator in any way condones the kidnapping of Lebanese Shia pilgrims or has any communication with those responsible."
No U.S. news organization has confirmed the identities of the men in the photograph. None of the rebels he was scheduled to meet or the ones who joined his meeting with Free Syrian Army commanders identified themselves as Nour or Ibrahim.
"Senator McCain did not go to Syria to meet with anyone named Mohamad Nour or Abu Ibrahim," the American non-profit Syrian Emergency Task Force said in a statement. "Two members of our organization were present in the meeting, and no one called himself by either name."