Damascus (AsiaNews) - Fr Dhiya Azziz, a Franciscan born in Mosul, has been released. This was announced by the Custody of the Holy Land with a statement posted yesterday on the site. "The Custody - the statement said - had had no news of the Fr. Dihya since Saturday, July 4, in the late afternoon. Conflicting news had nevertheless led people to believe that he had been taken by jihadists affiliated to Al-Nusra Jabhat, which administers the emirate in the sector " The priest "was treated well during his abduction."
However, the statement continues, the Al-Nusra Front " has denied any involvement in his kidnapping and allegedly led the police investigation in neighboring villages which led to his liberation".
Fr. Dhiya " was allegedly abducted by another group jihadists eager to profit on his release. In the region, there are a plethora of groups that operate with varied interests”.
The Custody of the Holy Land " thanks those around the world who prayed for a successful outcome to this trial that Fr. Dhiya endured, as well as the faithful of Yacoubieh, of which he is the pastor, his religious family and his family in Iraq".
Despite the joy at the release of the priest, "the Custody does not forget that other religious are still missing in Syria and it invites everyone to continue praying for peace in this country."
Since the start of the Syrian conflict, militia groups and jihadi fighters have seized several prominent Christian leaders, including two bishops, Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi (of the Orthodox Church of Antioch), and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim (of the Syriac Orthodox Church), both abducted on 22 April 2013.
On 9 July 2013, Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit priest from Italy, was also kidnapped, along with two other priests and some lay volunteers.
Last year, Jihadis also abducted 13 nuns, north of Damascus, eventually releasing them after a few months in a prisoner exchange.