REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Ordeal ends for Syria nuns, part of prisoners deal

Comment: Off

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns who were freed after being held by rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2013. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns who were freed after being held by rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2013. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns who were freed after being held by Syrian rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2013. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns, who were freed after being held by Syrian rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2013. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns, who were freed after being held by Syrian rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a nun who was freed after being held by Syrian rebels, is greeted by a church official at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian militants released Monday a group of Greek Orthodox nuns in exchange for dozens of women held in government prisons — a rare deal between Damascus and al-Qaida-linked rebels that was mediated by Qatari and Lebanese officials.

The dramatic scene of the nuns being freed from vehicles in the dead of night along the Lebanese-Syrian border, bidding their captors a surprisingly friendly farewell, ended the women’s three-month ordeal. The nuns were captured as opposition fighters overran a Christian village and were held in a border town. They were released as government-backed forces battled their way into the strategic border town in which they were held.

It provided an unusual example of regional actors cooperating to reach across the Syrian civil war’s sectarian and ideological fault lines, which have sharply split the Middle East.

The energy-rich Gulf nation of Qatar, a chief backer of the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, was involved in the mediation. Lebanon’s General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, a powerful figure trusted by the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group and its Syrian government allies, was on hand to receive the nuns early Monday.

The 13 women said they were treated well by their captors, members of the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front. In a video released by the militant group, they appeared healthy saved for one elderly nun who was carried by a masked gunman to a waiting vehicle.

The video, posted by the Nusra Front on the internet Monday, showed the nuns and their captors chatting affectionately as they bid each other farewell.

An off-camera rebel voice told the nuns that God will reward them for their suffering. “May God reward every person who sought to resolve this problem,” replied one nun.

As the women reach the car, the unseen rebel says, “I was so happy to be in communication with you and I hope that we can stay in communication, if God decides that. Please say hello to your families for me, and I hope you arrive safely.”

The video appeared genuine and consistent with The Associated Press’ reporting.

The Damascus-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for Antioch and All The East hailed the nuns’ release Monday, saying

Comments

comments

About the Author