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Daily News Analysis

Syrian nuns released in Lebanon-Qatar mediated prisoner swap

Crescent International

After enduring three months of captivity following their kidnapping by Western-Arab-backed terrorists in Syria, 13 nuns and three of their helpers were finally released today. In return, the Syrian government agreed to release 153 women prisoners. The swap was facilitated by Lebanese and Qatari intelligence agencies. The nuns arrived, exhausted in Syria earlier this evening.

Beirut, Crescent-online
Sunday March 09, 2014, 21:37 DST

A group of Syrian nuns kidnapped by Western and Arab-backed rebels in Syria and held for more than three months have been released. They arrived in Syria from Lebanon today and held a brief press conference thanking all those involved in securing their release.

Appearing totally exhausted, they requested that they did not want to answer any questions at this time but nonetheless thanked Lebanon’s top security official Abbas Ibrahim as well as President Bashar al-Asad for their help in securing the release.

Their release was mediated by Lebanon and Qatar. The 13 nuns and three of their helpers were released in exchange for 153 Syrian imprisoned women whose release was demanded by the rebels.

Lebanon’s top security official Abbas Ibrahim was instrumental in securing the release. Qatar’s acting ambassador, Ali Al-Malki was also involved. In a telephone interview with the Qatari-based Al Jazeera, Al-Malki said today his government was involved with the rebels in convincing them to release the nuns.

The release process was quite involved. The 13 nuns and their three maids were taken to the Lebanese town of Arsal earlier in the week accompanied by the head of a Lebanese security agency and a Qatari intelligence official.

The nuns and their 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.

Kidnapping and killing of Christians as well as people believe to be government supporters are very common in Syria. The rebels have carried out gruesome beheadings in public of some Christians. Mercifully, they did not harm the nuns who appeared in a video shortly after they disappeared last December.

The Jabhat al-Nusra rebels admitted they had taken them as their “guests” and that they would release them “soon”. The nuns in the video said they were in good health although it was not clear under what condition the video was made.

There has been a huge sigh of relief that the nuns have been released without being harmed. The rebels, especially belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are known to be extremely violent and indulge in accusations of takfir.

Beheading people including children is one of their favorite modes of operations to terrorize people into submission. Their brutal tactics, however, have horrified most Syrians and they wish to have nothing to do with these criminals.


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