04/23/2013, 00.00
SYRIA

Two Orthodox Bishops abducted by an armed group on the road to Aleppo

They are the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji. Their driver was killed on the outskirts of the city. State television accuses "terrorist groups", but the identity of the kidnappers is not clear. Some time ago, Msgr. Ibrahim had dennounced kidnappings and violence against Christians.

Beirut (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek-orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji were kidnapped yesterday by a group of armed men on the road to Aleppo. The northern Syrian city has been the scene of clashes between rebels and regular soldiers for months.

Bishop Ibrahim (left in photo), was travelling in his car with a deacon at the wheel and had collected Msgr. Yaziji from Bab al-Hawa, from a village near the Turkish border.

Arriving at the outskirts of Aleppo, an armed group stopped the vehicle and forced the two prelates to get out of the car. After killing the deacon driver, they abducted the two bishops.

The identity of the kidnappers is not yet clear. State TV accuses "armed terrorist group" of having kidnapped the two leaders, who were carrying out "humanitarian work in the countryside outside Aleppo". Abdulahad Steifo, a representative of the Syrian National Coalition, said that the two prelates were kidnapped on the road near Kafr Dael, after passing Bab al-Hawa, an area in rebel hands, but pointed out that the identity of the kidnappers "all possibilities are still open".

Last September, Msgr. Ibrahim, speaking to Reuters, said that hundreds of Christian families had fled from Aleppo because of clashes between rebels and regular soldiers for control of the city. "Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways and their relatives have had to pay large sums of money for their release."

Aleppo is Syria's largest city and the financial capital of the Middle Eastern country. Christians make up 10% of the population, the majority are Sunni Muslims. At present, the city is divided under the control of one or the other group and the population suffers persecution from both sides (see 28/03/2013: "Weariness and resignation" among the civilians in war-torn Aleppo).

According to the UN, during the two years of civil war, at least 70 thousand people have been killed, one million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

 

 

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