On 9 March, al-Jazeera reported that Islamist insurgents released the nuns that they captured from the ancient Mar Tekla Monastery in Ma’loula in exchange for the Syrian authorities releasing rebels held in Syrian prisons. The liberated prisoners will go to Lebanon. Currently, RT reported that the exchange is underway, monitored by the Qatari and Lebanese special services, directed by Ghanim al-Kubaisi and General Directorate of General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim. Already, the 13 released nuns, headed by Igumena Pelagia arrived in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, where they will go ahead by car on the motorway through the Djeida border checkpoint to Damascus. Last December, Islamist militants attacked the Mar Tekla Monastery in Ma’loula, 55 kilometres north of Damascus. The armed extremists took 13 nuns hostage, and the fate of the nuns became the focus of regional and world media.
9 March 2014
RT reported that the 13 nuns abducted by Jabhat al-Nusra militants from Mar Tekla Monastery in Ma’loula in December 2013 were now free, and are on their way back to Syria. Late Sunday, the nuns arrived at the border checkpoint of Djeida-Judaydat Yabus on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Earlier, the General Directorate of General Security confirmed that the Orthodox nuns were safe and under the control of the Lebanese armed forces. A source told Reuters on Sunday that the militants transferred the nuns to Arsal in western Lebanon earlier this week. Metropolitan Louka al-Khoury told reporters when he met the nuns at the border, “The success of the Syrian forces in Yabrud furthered this process”. It’s not clear why the militants released the nuns now. Earlier reports stipulated that al-Nusra demanded the release of 500 imprisoned rebels in exchange for the nuns.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as well as a rebel source, reported that the militants released the nuns in exchange for imprisoned female rebels. Reuters noted, “Part of the deal was the release of 138 women from prison by Assad”. According to al-Mayadeen, the Syrian authorities released from prison the wife of one of the al-Nusra chieftains, Duleymi al-Saji. The authorities took her with her four children to the Lebanese border town of Arsal for the exchange. ITAR-TASS reported that Igumena Pelagia stated that all 16 nurses captured in Ma’loula are now free, saying to reporters, “We’re terribly tired; we’ll answer questions after the [Easter] holidays”. For his part, Metropolitan Louka pointed up that the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus held a molieben of thanksgiving on 10 March, after the release of the nuns, who were in captivity almost 100 days.
10 March 2014