Lebanese officials familiar with the situation say that the release of 13 nuns by al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra came in no small part because of a Syrian military offensive against western Syria.
The officials say months of efforts to secure the release of the nuns suddenly started making fast progress when the offensive began, as the rebels were losing the areas around where the nuns were being held and faced the prospect of making a deal or risking losing them entirely.
The nuns were transferred to Lebanese officials over the weekend in return for Syria’s release of 153 female prisoners, and a ransom payment to the fighters who originally kidnapped the nuns.
The nuns are believed to have been held in Yabroud, along the border with Lebanon, but as Syria’s offensive has taken more and more of the area and surrounded Yabroud itself, it was clear the region was falling out of their sphere of influence.
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