Trails of an American rebel

John McCain thought it would be a media coup. He’d form a clandestine partnership with members of the Syrian opposition. Then he’d slip across the Turkish border to chat revolution and take a few pictures.

U.S. Senator John McCain was photographed with a known affiliate of the rebel group responsible for the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims one year ago, during a brief and highly publicized visit inside Syria this week.

But McCain’s rebel buddy is an international criminal. He’s holding hostages.

According to families of the remaining captives and one of the released men, Anwar Ibrahim, one of the men standing alongside McCain in photographs released by the senator’s office is Mohammad Nour, the chief spokesman and photographer for the Northern Storm kidnappers. Nour appears in several shots where McCain is posing with different officials.

Ibrahim and other members of the kidnapped family said they recognized Nour, and another man affiliated with the group, also identified as “Abu Ibrahim,” immediately after seeing the photos, widely circulated by international media following McCain’s visit.

In America, kidnappers who would do their victims harm get the death penalty. In Syria, they get a public relations bonanza thanks to a U.S. Senator.