03/07/2014, 00.00
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All contact lost with Ma'aloula nuns. Syria will sink further into war for another 10 years

by Paul Dakiki
The kidnappers belong to Al Nusra Front, linked to Al Qaeda. In addition to the release of political prisoners they are demanding food for the rebels and that the Syrian army clear out from all Christian sites. No news on fate of abducted Orthodox bishops, or Fr. Dell'Oglio. All humanitarian corridors blocked.

Beirut ( AsiaNews) - A group of negotiators who tried to free the 13 Ma'aloula nuns, kidnapped last year, have lost contact with the kidnappers who have probably transferred the nuns to a new hiding place. Meanwhile, the situation in Syria is becoming increasingly hard for the population, devastated by hunger. Some experts estimate that the war between the Assad regime and the rebels will last at least another 10 years.

The 13 nuns were kidnapped last December along with three girls who were their guests and moved from the Ma'aloula monastery to Yabrud , a town under the control of the rebels in the north- east of Damascus, near the border with Lebanon . The kidnappers released two videos of their captives. In exchange for their release, they initially demanded freedom for all women prisoners in Syria , then for all political prisoners. Recently they stepped up their demands to include food for the city under rebel rule and the army to clear out from all Christian religious sites .

According to some sources, the rebels belong to a group affiliated to Al Nusra Front, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, whose leader is Abu Malek al- Kuwaiti .

AsiaNews sources in Damascus confirm that there ha been no news of the sisters, nor of the two Orthodox bishops abducted last April, nor Italian Jesuit priest Fr. Paolo dall'Oglio .

The situation in the country has steadily worsened after the failure of peace talks in Geneva.

The fighting and the bombing on the two fronts, combined with the destruction of three years of war and the huge number of displaced people - an estimated 9 million Syrians - have led to chronic food and water shortages. Because of the violent clashes humanitarian organizations are unable to bring help. While in Geneva Damascus and the rebels had agreed to open humanitarian corridors, trucks of food and medicine are blocked or looted.

According to the analyst Daveed Gartenstein -Ross, the war in Syria - which enters its fourth year on March 15 - could last "10 years or more".

The situation is further complicated by Russia and Iran's strong support for Assad on the one hand an opposition - backed by the West and Saudi Arabia - frayed and torn between the "secularists" of the Free Syrian Army and radical Islamists who are fighting each other for supremacy.


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