[QODLink]
Middle East

Nuns kidnapped by rebels in Syria freed

Nuns seized from town of Maaloula released as part of female prisoner exchange secured by Lebanese-Qatari mediation.

Last updated: 10 Mar 2014 15:01
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

A group of nuns held by rebels in Syria for more than three months have been released following Lebanese-Qatari mediation and are on their way to Damascus via Lebanon.

A Lebanese security source said the nuns had been taken to the Lebanese town of Arsal earlier in the week and were headed to Syria on Sunday accompanied by the head of a Lebanese security agency and a Qatari intelligence official.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, and a rebel source in the area, said the release of the nuns had been agreed as part of a swap in which the government would free about 150 women prisoners.

The 13 nuns and three maids were kidnapped from the Christian town of Maaloula north of Damascus in December and taken to the nearby Syrian rebel-held town of Yabroud, where they are believed to have been held by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Shortly after the nuns disappeared, rebel fighters said they had taken them as their "guests" and that they would release them soon.

In December, the nuns appeared in a video obtained by Al Jazeera, saying they were in good health, but it was not clear under what conditions the video had been filmed.

Syrian state television devoted significant coverage to the release earlier on Sunday, but made no mention of any prisoner exchange agreement. It aired live video from the Lebanese border and interviews with church officials.

A montage of Christian religious imagery including churches, a statue of the Virgin Mary and murals of Jesus was set against dramatic music and described Syria as a "cradle of the monotheistic faiths".

Syria's Christian minority has broadly tried to stay on the sidelines of the three-year-old-conflict, which has killed more than 140,000 people and which has become increasingly sectarian.

312

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Anti-government secrecy organisation struggling for relevance without Julian Assange at the helm.
After decades of overfishing, Japan is taking aim at increasing the number of bluefin tuna in the ocean.
Chinese scientists are designing a particle-smashing collider so massive it could encircle a city.
Critics say the government is going full-steam ahead on economic recovery at the expense of human rights.
Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.
join our mailing list