(AsiaNews) - Islamist rebels have kidnapped a group of nuns from the Greek Orthodox
monastery of St Thecla (Mar Taqla) in Maaloula (north of Damascus). Mgr Mario
Zenari, the Vatican nuncio in Damascus, confirmed the information after
speaking with the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate. Through the Vatican diplomat,
the latter "calls on all Catholics to pray for the women religious."
"Armed men burst
in the monastery of St Thecla in Maaloula this afternoon. From there, they forcibly
took 12 women religious," Mgr Zenari
said, citing a statement from Patriarchate. The group of Islamist rebels has apparently
taken them to Yabrud, some 80 km north of the capital. Neither
the nuncio nor the church Greek Orthodox Church know reason behind the
from the Free
Syrian Army (FSA) had invaded the small town on 5 September after driving
out regime troops with the support of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Brigades. After
taking control of the city, they went on a rampage against Christian buildings,
killing three young Catholic men.
More than 3,000 people,
the town's entire Christian population, fled their homes seeking refuge in Bab
Touma, the Christian quarter of Damascus. Some found shelter with relatives in
Lebanon or in local Greek-Catholic convents.
Only Muslims were
left in town, plus 40 nuns at the St Thecla Monastery who stayed to help care for
dozens of orphaned children.
yesterday, Maaloula became again the scene of heavy fighting between the army
and Syrian rebels, including many members of the extremist Jabat-al-Nusra militia.
are concentrated mostly in the upper, oldest part of the town, where the St
Thecla Greek-Orthodox and the Sts Sergius and Bacchus Greek-Catholic
monasteries are located.
the rebels have launched repeated attacks against army positions in the lower
part of town.
is intensifying, sources told AsiaNews.
"The army is trying to regain control over the villages
north of Damascus. For this purpose, it has launched a major offensive against
the rebels, who are trying to hold government forces back through a scorched
earth policy in the areas under their control."