The Syrian boy who drew worldwide attention last August after he was bloodied by an airstrike in Aleppo has resurfaced looking like any other healthy 5-year-old. But some are cautioning that looks can be deceiving. In interviews with pro-government outlets—including reporter Kinana Allouche, who once shared a selfie with the bodies of rebel fighters—Omran Daqneesh is seen next to his father as the older man accuses rebels of using Omran as a propaganda tool. "They wanted to trade in his blood and published his photos," he says, per the BBC. Mohamad Daqneesh, who lost an older son in the airstrike, adds he refused rebel offers to leave Aleppo because the rebels only seek to hurt the reputation of the Syrian Army, per Mashable.
Allouche notes "those who tried to shed Syrian blood mislead the news that he was hit by the Syrian Arab Army. Here he now lives in the Syrian state with its army, its leader and its people." The interview marks a decided turn for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who last year said the photo of Omran in an ambulance was "forged." But a rep for the Syria Institute suspects a propaganda campaign has only just begun and says the family was "probably" coerced. Since rebels withdrew from Aleppo in December, "they are under government control now and this is a government that we know arrests and tortures anyone that speaks out against it," the rep tells Reuters. The Assad regime is known to offer incentives to those who speak out against rebels, reports the Guardian. (Read more Syria stories.)