Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate: " No news of the 13 Ma'aloula nuns, we do not trust the video"

13 greek -orthodox nuns kidnapped Dec. 2 in Maaloula along with some young orphans are still in the hands of the Islamist group al- Ahrar Qalamoun .

After the  video released December 6 by Al- Jazeera there has been no more news of the women religious, despite the speculation about their possible release as early as last December 9.
Contacted by AsiaNews, the Greek - orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch says it "does not have any news on the condition of the nuns and three young orphans from Ma'aloula ." 

The last direct contact was brief phone call to the Patriarch of Antioch Youhanna X a few days after the kidnapping .

"Since then - said a source in the Patriarchate - no one has been in touch with us and most of the news we read on the internet like the rest of the world. We have seen the video released by al- Jazeera , but we have no confirmation on the real condition of the sisters, nor the reasons for their seizure and we think that the video is unreliable and further investigation is required . "In the video the Ma'aloula sisters appeared in good health and denied having been abducted , but only brought to safety. The women were filmed wearing their religious clothing, but without the traditional crucifix.

Fierce fighting is being reported from the region of Qalamoun between the army and Islamist insurgents . The area which incorporates the small village of Yabrud is located about 50 km kilometers northwest of Damascus and is one of the most important strongholds of the rebels. 

In the mountainous area on the border with Lebanon, there are several predominantly Christian villages such as Sadad and Hofar fallen in recent months into the hands of Islamic extremists. Yesterday the army regained control of Nabak , Deir Attiya and Qara .

AsiaNews sources point out that the rebels fighting against Assad belong to different factions, each taking advantage of abductions for various purposes . Some groups, such as the authors of the seizure of the Sisters of Maaloula, trying to distance themselves from extremist and violent kidnappings say the abductions are " humanitarian actions aimed at the protection of civilians ." 

The most intransigent and violent use the hostages as human shields and as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Assad 's army . The last case concerns two Spanish journalists , Javier Espinosa ( El Mundo ) and Ricardo Garcia ( freelance photographer ) , who disappeared September 16 in the province of Raqqa ( Turkish border ) , who are reportedly in the hands of the militia of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant . The two were in Syria just to document the positive aspects of the rebellion against Assad.

According to El Mundo - which in recent months has silenced the news to deal with the kidnappers - the two journalists were kidnapped along with four fighters of the Free Syrian Army. The militiamen were released after 12 days, but not the two Spaniards . Today Monica Prieto , wife of Javier Espinosa , has appealed to the kidnappers : " Javier and Ricardo are not your enemies. Please honor the revolution that they have protected and free them ." 

There are also several Syrian anti- Assad activists in the hands of groups of kidnappers, not yet been identified . Today, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the disappearance of Razan Zaytouna , winner of the Anna Politkovskaya Award 2011. 

The woman was kidnapped in the suburb of Douma east of Damascus along with other activists by armed men. They raided the headquarters of the Centre for the documentation of human rights violations linked to the rebellion. Zaytouna had admitted receiving death threats from Islamic extremist groups .

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