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Jihad Killings of POWs and Non-Combatants (Continued II) By: Andrew G. Bostom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 09, 2004

John Cameniates provided an eyewitness account of the jihad capture and pillage of Thessaloniki in 904 C.E. Cameniates, his elderly father, and his brother, taken prisoner while they tried to escape by the ramparts, were spared their lives because they promised their captors a large amount of money. They were marched as prisoners through the city, and thus witnessed the terrible carnage of their fellow townspeople who had sough refuge in the church of Saint George. A summary, and excerpts from Cameniates narrative reveals that:

“The Thessalonians tried to escape through the streets, pursued by the Saracens, who were unleashed like wild beasts. In their panic, men. women, the elderly, and children, ‘fell into each other’s arms to give each other one last kiss.’ The enemy hit with no mercy. Parents were killed while trying to defend their children. No one was spared: women, children, the elderly, all were immediately pierced by the sword. The poor wretches ran through the town, or tried to hide inside the caves; some of them, believing they could find refuge inside a church, would seek shelter inside, while others tried to scale the walls of the ramparts, from where they jumped into the void and crashed to the ground. Nuns, petrified with fear, with their hair disheveled, tried to escape, and ended up by the thousands in the hands of the barbarians, who killed the older ones, and sent the younger and more attractive ones into captivity and dishonor… The Saracens also massacred the unfortunate people who had sought refuge inside churches.”

“The church [of Saint George] was full of wretches who had sought safety within it. There were about three hundred of them, as we learned later. A great number of murderous enemies came in. Immediately their leader bounced onto the holy altar, where the divine offices are held by the priests: there, crouching down with his legs crossed, in the manner of the barbarians, he sat, full of rage and arrogance, looking at the crowd of those people, full of the evil spirit of what he intended to commit. After grabbing my father and my brother with his hands, and after ordering that we be guarded in an area near the entrance by some of his men whom he had chosen, he gave a sign to his men to do away with the crowd. Like wild wolves when they meet their prey, they began to massacre the poor creatures quickly and mercilessly, and, overflowing with rage, they inquired with their eyes as to what the terrible judge wished to do with us: but he stopped them from doing anything against us, for the moment… After the end of the massacre of those poor people, the entire floor was covered with bodies, with a lake of blood in the middle. Then, as the murderer could not get out, he ordered that they pile up the bodies one on top of the other, on the two sides of the church; then he quickly jumped down from the altar, came up to us, and grabbed my father and my brother with his hands.” 20 

Professor J.B. Segal reviewed the jihad destruction of the Christian enclave of Edessa in 1144-1146 C.E., during the Crusades, using primary source documentation, including a contemporary account by Michael the Syrian.


“Thirty thousand souls were killed. Women, youths, and children to the number of sixteen thousand were carried into slavery, stripped of their cloths, barefoot, their hands bound, forced to run beside their captors on horses. Those who could not endure were pierced by lances or arrows, or abandoned to wild animals and birds of prey. Priests were killed out of hand or captured; few escaped. The Archbishop of the Armenians was sold at Aleppo…The whole city was given over to looting, ‘..for a whole year..’, resulting in ‘…complete ruin..’. From this disaster the Christian community of Edessa never recovered.” 21


Michael the Syrian (Patriarch of Antioch from 1166-1199) chronicled the two devastating jihad attacks (1144 and 1146 C.E.) by the Seljuk Turks, which included the mass murder of non-combatants, as follows:


“The Turks entered with their swords and blades drawn, drinking the blood of the old and the young, the men and the women, the priests and the deacons, the hermits and the monks, the nuns, the virgins, the infants at the breast, the betrothed men and the women to whom they were betrothed! …Ah! what a bitter tale!  The city of Abgar, the friend of Christ, was trampled underfoot because of our iniquity:  the priests were massacred, the deacons immolated, the subdeacons crushed, the temples pillaged, the altars overturned!  Alas! what a calamity!  Fathers denied their children;  the mother forgot her affection for her little ones!  While the sword was devouring and everyone was fleeing to the mountaintop, some gathered their children, like a hen her chicks, and waited to die together by the sword or else to be led off together into captivity!  Some aged priests, who were carrying the relics of the martyrs, seeing this raging destruction, recited the words of the prophet:  “I will endure the Lord’s wrath, because I have sinned against Him and angered Him.”8  And they did not take flight, nor did they cease praying until the sword rendered them mute.  Then they were found at the same spot, their blood spilled all around them….”


“The Turks descended from the citadel upon those who had remained in the churches or in other places, whether because of old age, or as a result of some other infirmity, and they tortured them, showing no pity.  Those who had escaped from being suffocated or trampled [in the crush] and had left the city with the Franks were surrounded by the Turks, who rained down upon them a hail of arrows which cruelly pierced them through. 

O cloud of wrath and day without mercy!  In which the scourge of violent wrath once again struck the unfortunate Edessenians.  O night of death, morning of hell, day of perdition! which arose against the citizens of that excellent city.  Alas, my brethren!  Who could recount or hear without tears how the mother and the infant that she carried in her arms were pierced through by the same arrow, without anyone to lift them up or to remove the arrow!  And soon, [as they lay] in that state, the hooves of the horses of those who were pursuing them pounded them furiously!  That whole night they had been pierced by arrows, and at daybreak, which was for them even darker, they were struck by the swords and the lances!... And then the earth shivered with horror at the massacre that took place:  like the sickle on the stalks of grain, or like fire among wood chips, the sword carried off the Christians.  The corpses of priests, deacons, monks, noblemen and the poor were abandoned pell-mell.  Yet, although their death was cruel, they nevertheless did not have as much to suffer as those who remained alive;  for when the latter fell in the midst of the fire and the wrath of the Turks, [those barbarians] stripped them of their clothing and of their footwear. Striking them with rods, they forced them – men and women, naked and with their hands tied behind their backs – to run with the horses;  those perverts pierced the belly of anyone who grew faint and fell to the ground, and left him to die along the road.  And so they became the prey of wild beasts, and then they expired, or else the food of birds of prey, in which case they were tortured.  The air was poisoned with the stench of the corpses;  Assyria was filled with captives.” 22 


Professor H.Z. Hirschberg includes this summary of a contemporary Judeo-Arabic account by Solomon Cohen (which comports with Arab historian Ibn Baydhaq’s sequence of events), from January 1148 C.E, describing the Muslim Almohad conquests in North Africa, and Spain:


“Abd al-Mumin…the leader of the Almohads after the death of Muhammad Ibn Tumart the Mahdi [note: Ibn Tumart was a cleric whose writings bear a striking resemblance to Khomeini’s rhetoric eight centuries later] …captured Tlemcen [in the Maghreb] and killed all those who were in it, including the Jews, except those who embraced Islam…[In Sijilmasa] One hundred and fifty persons were killed for clinging to their [Jewish] faith…All the cities in the Almoravid [dynastic rulers of North Africa and Spain prior to the Almohads] state were conquered by the Almohads. One hundred thousand persons were killed in Fez on that occasion, and 120,000 in Marrakesh. The Jews in all [Maghreb] localities [conquered]…groaned under the heavy yoke of the Almohads; many had been killed, many others converted; none were able to appear in public as Jews [emphasis added]…Large areas between Seville and Tortosa [in Spain] had likewise [emphasis added] fallen into Almohad hands.” 23


The mid-15th century Hindu chronicle Kanhadade Prabandha included descriptions of a wave of jihad attacks at the end of the 13th century, and first three decades of the 14th century. These campaigns vanquished extensive regions [Malwa, Gujarat, Ranthambhor, Siwana, Jalor, Devagiri, Warangal, Ma’bar, and Ramesvaram], and resulted in the death or enslavement of perhaps millions of Hindus.24 The devastating nature of such attacks, which included deliberate targeting of non-combatants, is captured in this account:


“A farman (firman) was now given to Gori Malik (to sack Bhinmal)…The Turkish [Muslim] invaders entered the town making dreadful din and clamor. Orders were issued clear and terrible: ‘The soldiers shall march into the town spreading terror everywhere! Cut down the Brahmanas [Brahman priests], wherever they may be- performing homa or milking cows! Kill the cows- even those which are pregnant or with newly born calves!’ The Turks ransacked Bhinmal and captured everybody in the sleepy town. Thereafter, Gori Malik gleefully set fire to the town in a wanton display of force and meanness.” 25


Ibn Battuta (1304- 1368/ ? 1377), one of the world’s most famous travelogue writers, witnessed this display of murderous brutality towards Hindu prisoners, and their non-combatant wives and children, during a jihad campaign in southern India in the mid 14th century conducted by the Sultan Ghayasuddin:


“All the infidels found in the jungle were taken prisoners; they had stakes sharpened at both ends and made the prisoners carry them on their shoulders. Each was accompanied by his wife and children, and they were thus led to the camp… In the morning, the Hindus who had been made prisoners the day before, were divided into four groups, and each of these was led to one of the four gates of the main enclosure. There they were impaled on the posts they had themselves carried. Afterwards their wives were butchered and tied to the stakes by their hair. The children were massacred on the bosoms of their mothers, and their corpses left there. Then they struck camp and started cutting down trees in another forest, and all the Hindus who were made captive were treated in the same manner.” 26


Both Turkish and Christian chroniclers provide graphic evidence of the wanton pillage and slaughter of non-combatants following the Ottoman jihad conquest of Constantinople in 1453. First from the Turkish sources:


“Sultan Mehmed (in order to) arouse greater zeal for the way of God issued an order (that the city was to be) plundered. And from all directions they (gazis) came forcefully and violently (to join) the army. They entered the city, they passed the infidels over the sword (i.e. slew them) and…they pillage and looted, they took captive the youths and maidens, and they took their goods and valuables whatever there was of them…” [Urudj] 27


“The gazis entered the city, cut off the head of the emperor, captured Kyr Loukas and his family…and they slew the miserable common people..They placed people and families in chains and placed metal rings on their necks.” [Neshri] 28


And Vryonis summarizes the key contents of letters sent by Sultan Mehmed himself to various Muslim potentates of the Near East:


“In his letter to the sultan of Egypt, Mehmed writes that his army killed many of the inhabitants, enslaved many others (those that remained), plundered the treasures of the city, ‘cleaned out’ the priests and took over the churches…To the Sherif of Mecca he writes that they killed the ruler of Constantinople, they killed the ‘pagan’ inhabitants and destroyed their houses. The soldiers smashed the crosses, looted the wealth and properties and enslaved their children and youths. ‘They cleared these places of their monkish filth and Christian impurity’…In yet another letter he informs Cihan Shah Mirza of Iran that the inhabitants of the city have become food for the swords and arrows of the gazis; that they plundered their children, possessions and houses; that those men and women who survived the massacre were thrown into chains.” 29


The Christian sources, include this narrative by Ducas who gathered eyewitness accounts, and visited Constantinople shortly after its conquest:


“(Then) the Turks arrived at the church [the great church of St. Sophia], pillaging, slaughtering, and enslaving. They enslaved all those that survived. They smashed the icons in the church, took their adornments as well as all that was moveable in the church…Those of (the Greeks) who went off to their houses were captured before arriving there. Others upon reaching their houses found them empty of children, wives, and possessions and before (they began) wailing and weeping were themselves bound with their hands behind them. Others coming to their houses and having found their wife and children being led off, were tied and bound with their most beloved…They (the Turks) slew mercilessly all the elderly, both men and women, in (their) homes, who were not able to leave their homes because of illness or old age. The newborn infants were thrown into the streets…And as many of the (Greek) aristocrats and nobles of the officials of the palace that he (Mehmed) ransomed, sending them all to the ‘speculatora’ he executed them. He selected their wives and children, the beautiful daughters and shapely youths and turned them over to the head eunuch to guard them, and the remaining captives he turned over to others to guard over them…And the entire city was to be seen in the tents of the army, and the city lay deserted, naked, mute, having neither form nor beauty.” 30


And finally from the contemporary 15th century historian Critobulus of Imbros:


“Then a great slaughter occurred of those who happened to be there: some of them were on the streets, for they had already left the houses and were running toward the tumult when they fell unexpectedly on the swords of the soldiers; others were in their own homes and fell victims to the violence of the Janissaries and other soldiers, without any rhyme or reason; others were resisting relying on their own courage; still others were fleeing to the churches and making supplication- men, women, and children, everyone, for there was no quarter given…The soldiers fell on them with anger and great wrath…Now in general they killed so as to frighten all the City, and terrorize and enslave all by the slaughter.” 31


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Andrew G. Bostom is a frequent contributor to Frontpage Magazine.com, and the author of The Legacy of Jihad, and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.

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