Dec 4 2013
SYRIA: Obama-backed FSA rebels and al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra invade ancient Maaloula again and abduct as many as 12 nuns and several orphans from St. Thecla Convent
After the first joint terrorist raid in early September by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front) on the ancient Syrian town of Maaloula, known for its special Christian heritage with Aramaic still being spoken by its residents today, and that ended up with the Syrian Army expelling the terrorists from the town, a repeated scenario has taken place over the last couple of days.
Syrian Free Press The rebels, including jihadis from the Al-Nusra Front, sent tires packed with explosives rolling down from positions in the cliffs above the town, the source said. Syrian state news agency SANA said the rebels had entered the Orthodox Mar Takla convent, in the middle of the city, which had previously been controlled by the army. The convent is home to some 40 nuns and orphans, some of the few residents of the town who remained after rebels first entered in September, prompting fierce fighting with the army. The picturesque town is considered a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria, and its 5,000 residents are among the few in the world who speak Aramaic.
The sisters were abducted this afternoon when a group of armed men stormed the monastery. For Vatican nuncio Mgr Mario Zenari and the Greek Orthodox Church, the rebels have taken the nuns to Yabrud, a city 80 km from Damascus.
“Armed men burst in the monastery of St Thecla in Maaloula this afternoon. From there, they forcibly took 12 women religious,” Mgr Zenari said, citing a statement from Patriarchate. The group of Islamist rebels has apparently taken them to Yabrud, some 80 km north of the capital. Neither the nuncio nor the church Greek Orthodox Church know reason behind the kidnapping.
Islamist Rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had invaded the small town on 5 September after driving out regime troops with the support of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Brigades. After taking control of the city, they went on a rampage against Christian buildings, killing three young Catholic men.
More than 3,000 people, the town’s entire Christian population, fled their homes seeking refuge in Bab Touma, the Christian quarter of Damascus. Some found shelter with relatives in Lebanon or in local Greek-Catholic convents.
Only Muslims were left in town, plus 40 nuns at the St Thecla Monastery who stayed to help care for dozens of orphaned children.
Fighting is intensifying, sources told AsiaNews. ”The army is trying to regain control over the villages north of Damascus. For this purpose, it has launched a major offensive against the Obama-backed rebels, who are trying to hold government forces back through a scorched earth policy in the areas under their control.”