BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora denounced Tuesday the abduction of a group of nuns earlier this month in Syria and called for their immediate release.
Separately, a source from the General Security told The Daily Star that the agency’s head, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, had met with Qatari officials over the weekend as part of ongoing efforts to secure the release of the 13 women who went missing last Monday.
“We denounce assaults against religious sites,” Siniora, who headed a delegation of Future Movement MPs, told reporters after meeting with Beirut Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Elias Aoudeh.
“The attacks were not only limited to religious sites but they also targeted people who exist only to serve humanity, such as the kidnapping of the two dear bishops [Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim] and the nuns,” he said.
“We hope that anyone able to help will exert efforts to release the nuns and bishops because keeping them in captivity does not serve the Syrian cause and doesn’t help overthrow the oppressive regime in Syria but leads to more violence,” he added.
A source confirmed General Security’s Ibrahim paid a visit to Qatar seeking the Arab state’s assistance in the case of the nuns. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Ibrahim may visit Qatar once again if it is deemed necessary.
Last week, 13 nuns were taken by Syrian rebels from their convent in the historic Christian town of Maaloula. They appeared in video footage last week and said fierce shelling and bombardment had forced them to leave the convent with rebels. There have been conflicting reports over whether they were moved under duress or not.
In April, armed men kidnapped Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim while the two were traveling to Aleppo from the Turkish border.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi has appealed to the international community to exert efforts to secure the release of the nuns.
“I appeal to the international community to exert all efforts to help secure the release of the abducted nuns from Mar Taqla Monastery in Maaloula,” Yazigi said in a televized news conference at the University of Balamand, adding that he had been informed the rebels had taken the nuns to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.
Yazigi said there was an urgent need for “concrete actions, not words.”