Rebels working with Syrian government to exchange 12 hostage nuns for jailed female activists
Many fear agreement will further endanger Christian minority in Syria
Syrian rebels, demanding the release of imprisoned female activists, are now working with the Syrian government towards a possible "prison swap." They are now negotiating the exchange of 12 nuns, who were kidnapped at a convent north of Damascus last month in exchange of the release of the activists.
There has been no official comments from the Syrian government in regards to this proposal, and calls to the Lebanon-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, which oversees the convent have not made a public response at this time.
Government officials had refused the demand to release prisoners, according to a spokesman for the rebel brigade al-Habib al-Moustafa said. Using the alias of Abu Nidal, the spokesman did admit that a mediator was speaking to both parties. He said his group wasn't involved in negotiations, but was relaying information from other fighters.
A Syrian opposition activist who requested anonymity also confirmed the negotiations. He says that the rebels were also demanding the release of imprisoned Saudi Arabian nationals who were captured while fighting for the opposition.
In addition, the activist said that negotiations began immediately after the nuns were seized from their convent of Mar Takla in the village of Maloula, north of Damascus on December 6 when rebels overran the area. He says that at least another three women were captured from the convent's orphanage and have been taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.
One woman captive appeared on a video shortly after their capture saying they were alive and well. The group that released the video remains anonymous.
As of yet, no faction has announced that it has control of the women. Both Syrian opposition activists and Church officials say that the Al-Qaida-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, is holding them.
This recent kidnapping has fanned fears among Syria's Christian minority that Al-Qaida-linked militants and other extremists, who are increasingly prominent in rebel ranks, are targeting them.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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