Rome (AsiaNews) – Nothing is known about the fate of Fr Jacques Mourad, a Catholic priest who was kidnapped two days ago by unknown armed men. A young man “who heard noises and went to see what was happening was also taken away, in a car, with the clergyman,” said Mgr Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria.
“Who did it? Islamic extremists, terrorists, the Islamic State, common criminals, the al Nusra Front: take your pick. It is anyone’s guess,” he explained.
“Still, we know that several groups could be involved, which are often at loggerheads with each other. Hence, it is difficult to deal with the issue, because we do not know who to talk to. Anything is possible and we have no clue.”
“Lest we forget,” he added, “two bishops and four priests have disappeared in the past four years. But the total number of the missing is 20,000. Out of 220,000 people who have died so far, four are priests.”
"I think the Archeparchy of Homs, the patriarch and the community of Mar Musa have activated all channels to make contact with the kidnappers, but without success so far,” Mgr Zenari said.
“He was taken from the monastery two days ago, on Thursday, at about 2 pm. He was the target; they came for him. The place is 140 km northeast of Damascus, on the road to Palmyra. That is where the monastery is located.”
"I'm truly sorry for Fr Jacques Mourad’s abduction,” the nuncio said. “I know him very well. He is an excellent priest from the Syrian Catholic Eparchy of Homs and a monk at Mar Musa, the same community as that Fr dall'Oglio ".
"It is hard to find words to describe the situation in the country,” the prelate said. “We must fight against pessimism and remain confident.”
“In Damascus, the situation varies,” he added. “Some neighbourhoods are quiet, but at five kilometres from here the tragedy of the Palestinian refugee camp, with 15,000 people under siege, continues."
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Deacon Boutros Hanna was abducted along with Fr Mourad.
Meanwhile, reports continue to come in about killings in Palmyra as more and more residents flee the city conquered by jihadists.
Likewise, the Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bomb attack at a mosque in Saudi Arabia's eastern Province of Qatif.
In a statement, IS said that "the soldiers of the Caliphate" carried out Friday's attack when a suicide bomber "detonated an explosives belt" at a mosque in the predominantly Shia city of Qatif.
The group identified the bomber as Abu Amer al-Najdi, and published his picture.
Last night, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry announced that at least 21 were killed and 50 wounded in the attack, the first claimed by IS in the country.
Qatif of is the only Saudi province with a Shia majority. For years, it has been at the centre of protests against religious discrimination.