02/10/2014, 00.00
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New video of abducted Ma'aloula nuns, calling for the release of "all detainees" in Syria

The video was broadcast by Al Jazeera. This time the sisters do not speak and there is only a voiceover. The sisters are a bargaining chip: the rebels want the release of all detainees in Syria.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies ) - A new video showing the religious sisters kidnapped from the Christian town of Ma'aloula 55 km north of Damascus, was released yesterday afternoon by Qatar based Al Jazeera television.

The nuns were abducted December 2 from the Greek - orthodox monastery of St. Thecla , and so far all that was known was that they had been transported to Yabroud, in the north, by a group of rebels.

In the video, the sisters do not speak, but a voiceover says: "They say they are in good health, have not been abused and are waiting to be released to return to their convent". Nothing is said about where they are being held but they are described as having been "kidnapped" and that the sisters are both "Syrian and Lebanese".

In a video also released by the Qatari television on December 6, the sisters said they had not been kidnapped, but carried from Maaloula to escape the bombing in order to ensure their safety and that they would return in a couple of days.

At the time Syrian media had accused the rebels of using the nuns as human shields, and now it is evident that instead they will use them as a bargaining chip.

In the last sequence of yesterday's video the voiceover says that "the sisters would like to thank everyone who trying to obtain their release and demand the release of all detainees".

Their abduction was claimed by the Islamist brigades of al- Ahrar Qalamoun who demanded the release of "a thousand women detained in Syrian prisons of the Syrian regime" in exchange for the release of the sisters.

Pope Francis and Orthodox bishops have appealed for the nuns' release. Lebanese authorities and the Emir of Qatar has also tried in vain to secure their liberation.

Maaloula, Christian majority town, is famous for being one of the few remaining places where locals still speak the ancient Aramaic, the language of Jesus' time.  However in the past few months it has been the scene of a long battle between the army and rebels. The city was invaded several times by Islamist insurgents who have desecrated churches and monasteries, and killed several Christians.


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