• In this image posted on the Twitter page of Ahrar al-Sham on Aug. 8, 2015, a fighter from the al-Qaida-linked Ahrar al-Sham fires his weapon against pro-government fighters in the northwestern village of Foua in Idlib province, Syria. In an effort to improve its image in the West, the group's self-styled foreign affairs director has written opinion pieces in the Washington Post and Britain's Daily Telegraph to present his group as a moderate alternative and potential partner for Western governments. (Ahrar al-Sham Twitter page via AP)

    Syrian militant group recasts itself as moderate option

    BEIRUT (AP) — The militants brought the two men into a square in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, then announced their punishment for failing to attend Friday prayers: 25 lashes delivered by a hose-wielding militant that left their backs covered in welts and dark bruises.