BEIRUT: Thirteen nuns who were kidnapped last year from the historic town of Maaloula in Syria were released Sunday, Lebanon's General Security chief said.
“The decision to release them has been made but it is taking [us] some time to resolve logistics obstacles,” Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told a local television station.
“We are working on eliminating these last-minute obstacles in the release case,” he added.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television reported that the handover will take place in the northeastern town of Arsal, where the nuns are expected to be transported to the Masnaa border crossing and on to Damascus.
A convoy of two buses headed to Syria’s Yabroud where the nuns were reportedly held. Ibrahim is expected to accompany the nuns from Arsal to the Masnaa crossing.
President Michel Sleiman followed up the possible release with Ibrahim who was tasked by the government with handling the kidnapping case, the National News Agency reported.
Last year, Ibrahim played a vital role in mediating the release of nine Lebanese hostages between the regime and the opposition.
Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri told The Daily Star that a delegate he had dispatched to Syria to follow up on the case informed him that the current negotiations were between the Syrian government and rebel groups.
Arsal is located in the northeast Bekaa Valley bordering Syria’s Qalamoun region, where rebel groups and regime forces are battling for control.
Meanwhile, the Head of the Qatari Intelligence, Saadeh el-Kbeisi, arrived at the Rafik Hariri International Airport to reportedly follow up on the case.
The nuns were reported missing last year after rebel forces, including radical Islamist groups, seized the town, which is located on the edge of the rugged Qalamoun region, about 60 kilometers northeast of the capital.
Maaloula’s historic value lies in its ancient Christian presence and the fact that some of its residents still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken.