Two Bishops Kidnapped in Syria in 2013 ‘Safe’

SYRIA-CONFLICT-RELIGION-KIDNAP-FILES

Two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria in April 2013 are doing well and in a safe area away from the intense clashes between the Islamic State group, rebels and the forces of President Bashar Assad’s regime.

According to a report published in al-Akhbar newspaper on Saturday, the whereabouts of the two bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, remain unknown as the IS militants continuously changed their location “for reasons related to secrecy and to protect them from the surrounding fighting and shelling.”

However, a source confirmed to the daily that they are “in an area under the control of the IS.”

The two bishops were kidnapped at the end of April, reportedly near the rebel-held town of Kafr Dael, near Aleppo in northern Syria.

The al-Qaida-affiliated Asbat al-Ansar was allegedly the group behind the abduction of the two bishops.

Media reports had said that the group, which was loyal to al-Nusra Front, became discreetly loyal to ISIL.

No group has officially claimed responsibility for their kidnap.

A committee was recently established by Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, to follow up the case.

The daily reported that some agents “contacted the committee claiming to have valuable information on the two bishops and demanded approximately $100,000 in return.”

The newspaper said that the committee

dealt seriously with the agents, who failed to answer personal questions about the two bishops, indicating that they are lying.

It assumed that the IS considers the bishops a chance to receive funding, however, the group didn’t attempt to make any demands so far.

Christians constitute some five percent of Syria’s population, a patchwork of religious and ethnic groups.

Rights groups say Christians are especially vulnerable in the chaos that has engulfed Syria ever since the outbreak of a conflict in March 2011.

H.K.

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