Syrian rebels demand hostage swap for nuns
BEIRUT - Reuters
Visitors pray in a Christian Orthodox monastery in Maaloula in this 2009 photo.A Syrian rebel group calling itself “Free Qalamoun” has claimed the kidnapping of 12 nuns and said it wants to trade them for a thousand female detainees held by the government, a pan-Arab newspaper reported Dec. 6.
Rebel spokesman Mohannad Abu al-Fidaa told Asharq al-Awsat that the nuns were safe but “will not be released until several demands have been implemented, most importantly, the release of 1,000 Syrian women held in regime prisons.” An official at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus said the nuns were safe but would not comment on which group had taken them.Islamist fighters who captured the Christian village of Maaloula north of Damascus moved the nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Thecla to the nearby town of Yabrud on Dec. 2.
The fighting, which pits al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front fighters and other rebels against Assad’s forces, is part of a wider struggle for control of the Damascus-Homs highway in central Syria.