Syrian rebels forcibly evacuated 12 nuns including the mother superior Pelagia Sayyaf from the Saint Tecla Orthodox convent in Maaloula (Reuters)
A group calling itself the Free Qalamoun Battalion is demanding the release of 1,000 Syrian women detainees as part of a swap deal to secure the release of 12 nuns seized earlier this month from a convent in Syria.
“The nuns are in a safe place, but they will not be released until several demands have been implemented, most notably the release of 1,000 Syrian [women] held in the prisons of the Syrian regime,” the group’s spokesman, Mohannad Abu al-Fidaa, said in comments to pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat published Friday.
Fidaa said the group’s demands were conveyed to the Syrian regime through the Vatican after establishing contact between the head of the Mar Takla monastery, Mother Pelagia Sayyaf, and the Vatican by a satellite-operated phone.
He said the demands were made jointly by the Free Qalamoun Brigades and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.
The nuns along, with several orphans, were feared kidnapped on Monday after Syrian rebels, including fighters from the Nusra Front, recaptured the Christian town of Maaloula, located north of Damascus, from Assad’s forces after three days of heavy clashes.