Pro-Assad gunmen severely beat a popular Syrian political cartoonist Thursday, breaking both his hands as a warning to anti-government protesters that dissent is not welcome.

The attack, carried out as Ali Ferzat, 60, left his studio around 4 a.m., came just days after a cartoon Ferzat published equated Bashar al-Assad with Moammar Gadhafi. Photos of a battered Ferzat have been passed around the Internet, sparking an outpouring of support for him and the anti-government uprising. –BF

The Associated Press:

Ferzat has said he had great hopes for Assad when he became president in 2000 after inheriting power from his late father. But in recent years Ferzat has become a vehement critic of the regime, particularly as the military launches a brutal crackdown on the country’s protest movement.

This week, he published a cartoon on his website showing Assad with a packed suitcase, hitching a ride with a fleeing Gadhafi. Many of his cartoons directly criticize Assad, even though caricatures of the president are forbidden.

Ferzat’s website, where he published his cartoons and satirical commentary, was inaccessible Thursday after the attack. “This account has been suspended,” reads a message in Arabic on the website,

“There are two things in this life that cannot be crushed — the will of God and the will of the people,” Ferzat told the AP this month during a telephone interview from Damascus.

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See some of Ferzat’s cartoons in the video below.

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