Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Paul Kagame visits UNESCO HQ in Paris

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Flamboyant US Congressman's Instagram Lands Him in Bother

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Compromise buys Greece time and Jihadi John is unmasked (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Compromise buys Greece time and Jihadi John is unmasked (part 1)

Read more

#TECH 24

Drone vs. drone

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

The future of agriculture

Read more

REVISITED

Yalta, the symbol of a new Cold War?

Read more

#THE 51%

Women in the workforce: IMF says closing the gender gap makes economic sense

Read more

ENCORE!

Taryn Simon, the hottest property in art photography

Read more

Middle east

Nuns kidnapped in Syria three months ago released

© LBCI screen grab

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-10

About a dozen nuns held in Syria for more than three months have been released and are on their way to the capital Damascus via neighbouring Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said on Sunday.

The nuns had been transferred to the Lebanese town of Arsal earlier in the week, the source said, and were now on their way back to Syria.

A monitoring group said the release was secured in exchange for some 150 women prisoners who were being held in Syria's regime jails.

The 13 nuns and three maids were kidnapped from the famed Christian hamlet of Maaloula and taken to the nearby Syrian rebel town of Yabrud, where they were held by an al Qaeda-affiliated group, al Nusra Front.

The nuns arrived at Jdeidet Yabus after midnight on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, after an arduous nine-hour journey that took them from Yabrud into Lebanon, then back into Syria via the official crossing.

An AFP journalist at Jdeidet Yabus said the nuns appeared exhausted, and that one of them had to be carried out of the vehicle transporting them.

Speaking to reporters at the border, one of the nuns said: "We want to thank God, who made it possible for us to be here now. We thank President Bashar al-Assad for being in contact with the emir of Qatar (Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani).

"We will not forget the honest mediator, Abbas Ibrahim," she added, in reference to Lebanon's general security agency director.

The nuns went missing in December after Islamist fighters took the ancient quarter of the Christian town of Maaloula, north of Damascus.

After being held in the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Thecla in Maaloula, they were reportedly moved to the town of Yabroud, about 20 km (13 miles) to the north, which is now the focus of a government military operation.

It was unclear why they had been released.

In December, the nuns showed up in a video obtained by Al Jazeera television, saying they were in good health, but it was not clear who filmed the video, where it was made or under what conditions.

Syria’s Christian community has broadly tried to stay on the sidelines of the country’s three-year-old-conflict, which has killed over 140,000 and displaced millions.

But the rise of hardline Islamists among the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim opposition has alarmed many, as the fighting in Syria has become increasingly sectarian.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-09

  • Syria

    Syrian rebels take control of Christian town Maaloula

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Syrian rebels to retreat from Christian town of Maaloula

    Read more

COMMENT(S)