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Syrian opposition activist goes missing

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

One of the most prominent figures in the peaceful protest movement that swept Syria early in the country's uprising was reported missing on Tuesday from a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus, prompting suspicions that she is among the scores of civilian activists and journalists who have been detained by Islamist extremists in recent months.

Razan Zaitouneh, 36, a human-rights lawyer, disappeared from her apartment with her husband and two other activists overnight Monday and had received threats from Islamists, according to the opposition group of which she was a founder, the Local Coordination Committees.

A friend who lives in the same building had visited the activists on Monday night and found them gone on Tuesday morning. He said the apartment had been ransacked and laptops and files taken, but money and valuables were not touched.

The apparent targeting of a woman so closely associated with the peaceful origins of the revolt ricocheted through the demoralized activist community, drawing condemnations on Twitter and Facebook, as well as soul-searching.

“Razan's kidnapping is like the slap in the face we need to wake up and acknowledge what this conflict has become,” said Rami Nakhla, an LCC co-founder who now lives in Istanbul. “It's become a regional sectarian war using the cover of our legitimate demands for democracy — a giant, bloody monster.”

Scores of the activists who helped shape the initial uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule have been detained by extremists in rebel-held areas in recent months, exposing the gulf that has emerged between those advocating democratic reforms and the Islamist radicals who have eclipsed them. Most have disappeared in the north of the country, where the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has gained ascendancy over more moderate rebel units.

Dozens of foreign journalists and aid workers have been abducted in northern Syria. On Wednesday, the families of two Spanish journalists missing for nearly three months publicized their disappearance for the first time.

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