By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BosNewsLife)– Some 20 Christians kidnapped by fighters linked to terror group al-Qaida in Syria have been released but their priest remained under house arrest Monday, October 13, awaiting an Islamic court trial, church sources said.
Hanna Jallouf, a 62-year-old Franciscan priest, and the other believers were abducted October 5 by the Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syria branch, in the northwestern village of Qunyeh, near the Turkish border, his church said.
The Franciscans, a Roman Catholic religious order, operated in Syria for more than eight centuries and at least 125 years in Qunyeh, according to activists familiar with the situation.
All but five men had been freed by October 9, but the church said later that the remaining men were released on October 13.
However Catholic sources said Islamic authorities “had confined” Jallouf to his home in Qunyeh as he faces an Islamic court on charges of collaborating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
It was not immediately clear whether the court would also hear Jallouf’s complain about Al-Nusra raiding Franciscan properties in Qunyeh.
Several nuns apparently managed to take refuge with local people.
Reports of kidnappings come amid a wider crackdown on Christians in the region.
In April, Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt was killed after he refused to leave the war-torn Syrian city of Homs. Fellow believers confirmed that he was killed by “unidentified assassins” in his garden.
Additionally Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio remains missing after being kidnapped by suspected Islamic State (IS) group militants in July 2013, though he is believed to be still alive.
Christians have also expressed concern over the whereabouts of two senior Aleppo clerics –Archbishop Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, abducted in April last year.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians have already fled Syria and Iraq amid abductions, rapes and widespread killings by Islamic militants. In recent months IS crucified or otherwise killed Christians and others it didn’t like, while also beheading at least two journalists, both American, and two British aid workers.
In August, rebels that included Al-Nusra kidnapped more than 40 Fijian UN peacekeepers in the Syrian-held sector of the Golan Heights, but they were released two weeks later.
IS and its supporters have made clear they want the establish a huge ‘caliphate’, a state based on their strict interpretation of Islam, led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph.
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