Syrian rebels free nuns in rare prisoner swap


JDEIDET YABUS: A group of nuns kidnapped in a Syrian village were freed on Monday, part of a rare prisoner swap in a three-year war whose brutality is highlighted in a new Amnesty report.

Jihadists seized the 13 nuns and three maids on December 3 from the famed Christian village of Maalula—where residents still speak the ancient Aramaic of Jesus Christ—and took them to the nearby town of Yabrud.

The women, who arrived after midnight at the regime-held town of Jdeidet Yabus near the border with Lebanon, were exhausted but full of praise for those who negotiated their release.

“We want to thank God, who made it possible for us to be here now. We thank [Syria’s] President Bashar al-Assad for being in contact with the emir of Qatar” Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, one of the nuns told reporters.

“We will not forget the honest mediator, Abbas Ibrahim,” she added, in reference to Lebanon’s General Security agency director.

Seated as she spoke, and dressed in her black religious habit, the nun said all 16 hostages were treated “well” in captivity.

The kidnappers, Islamist fighters from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, “were giving us everything we asked for,” she said.

A Britain-based monitoring group said meanwhile that some 150 women who had been held in Syria’s jails were on board four buses at the Lebanese-Syrian border, after being set free in exchange for the nuns.

“A woman and her four children who had been in jail were freed first and reached Yabrud,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, describing the initial release as “a gesture of goodwill” by Assad’s regime.



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