Syrian rebels seeking release of abducted bishops

Ankara, April 25 (IANS/AKI) The rebel Free Syrian Army is working to release two Orthodox bishops kidnapped near the northern city of Aleppo. The whereabouts of the two bishops remained unclear despite a report saying they had been freed.

The rebel group has denied its involvement in the abductions.

The whereabouts of Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji remained unclear Wednesday despite a report on the Zenit.org interfaith website that they had been freed after being abducted Monday.

Ibrahim is the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, while Yaziji leads the Greek Orthodox Church.

“I cannot provide details given the delicate nature of the case, but negotiations are taking place,” its spokesman Louay Muqdad told AKI.

“I hope that the two priests reach safety in the coming hours,” he said, claiming the Syrian government was behind the kidnappings.

“It is an act to be condemned in the strongest terms. We from the Free Syrian Army having nothing to do with these abductions,” Muqdad said.

The two bishops are the most senior Christian clerics caught up directly in the war.

Christians comprise about 10 percent of the mainly Sunni Muslim population in Syria.

Abdulahad Steifo, a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, has alleged that the bishops were kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al-Hawa crossing, close to the Turkish town of Reyhanli.

–IANS/AKI

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