Nuns, who were freed after being held by rebels for over three months, arrive at the Syrian border with Lebanon at the Jdaydeh Yaboos crossing, early yesterday.
DOHA: The Foreign Minister, H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, yesterday said Qatari mediation had secured the release of 13 Orthodox nuns who were abducted last December from the monastery of Mar Takla in the town of Maaloula in Syria.
Under the directives of the Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar had been making efforts since last December for the release of the nuns. In a prisoner exchange, 153 female Syrian prisoners were freed from state prisons, Qatar News Agency reported yesterday.
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. Qatar worked together with Lebanese mediators to secure their release. They were released at the Jadidah Yabous check post on the Syrian-Lebanon border.
The 13 nuns and three maids were kidnapped from the Christian town of Maaloula, some 60km 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.
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, Al Jazeera reported.
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.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate welcomed the nuns’ return and called for the release of all remaining prisoners in Syria, including two prominent Syrian bishops who were abducted in Aleppo province last April.
An online video showed the nuns being transported in 4x4 vehicles by masked gunmen waving the banner of the Al Nusra Front. In another video, one of the nuns said the rebels took care of them and did not subject them to any mistreatment, Reuters reported.