Syria’s Orthodox Patriarch has issued a call for the release of 12 nuns and three other women who were kidnapped during the weekend fighting over the Christian town of Maaloula. They were taken by fighters from al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, which seized the town before being ousted by the military.
The women were taken from the Mar Takla convent in Maaloula, and initially moved to the rebel-held town of Yabroud. Where they’ve gone since then remains unclear, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says they can’t even confirm if they’re still alive.
The rebels claimed they “evacuated” the nuns at gunpoint for their own safety during the fighting over the town, but that seems like an unlikely scenario, and doesn’t explain why they haven’t since been freed.
Syrian state media showed footage of a special church service in Damascus held by Christians calling for the release of the nuns, as well as two bishops who were kidnapped by another rebel faction in April, and likewise remain missing.