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Nuncio in Damascus: Fate of Orthodox nuns kidnapped by Islamists still uncertain

by AsiaNews, December 03, 2013.

Posted: Tuesday, December 03, 2013 at 02:35 PM UT

Msgr . Zenari tells AsiaNews: "There are no reports of the religious of St. Thecla in Maaloula , in the continuing clashes between the army and rebels ." Navi Pillay , UN High Commissioner for Human Rights : "Assad also guilty of war crimes ."

Damascus (AsiaNews) - The fate of the 12 Orthodox nuns of the monastery of Santa Tecla in Maaloula, seized yesterday afternoon by a group of Islamist insurgents is still uncertain says Mgr. Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus speaking to AsiaNews. "We have no other news - says the Vatican representative in Syria - since last night. We can confirm that the nuns were forced to leave the monastery and follow these armed people."

The 12 nuns of the monastery of St. Thecla were abducted yesterday afternoon. According to latest reports, the nuns were being marched by a contingent of Islamist rebels towards Yabrud, about 80 km north of the capital.

For two days Maaloula has been the scene of violent clashes between the army and rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), in whose ranks many members of the al-Qaeda linked extremist Jabat al-Nousra militia are fighting. Archbishop Zenari points out that "the whole area is in tumult". The attacks occur mainly in the upper part of the city - the oldest - where the monasteries of St. Thecla and the Greek - Catholic Saints Sergius and Bacchus are located. On 5 September the village was invaded by the rebels, who defeated government troops.

Meanwhile, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said yesterday that the war crimes committed in Syria were also authorized by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Citing an inquiry conducted by the United Nations, Pillai said that "there is ample evidence of very serious crimes. Crimes of war, crimes against humanity. <...> The brutality of the abuses perpetrated by elements on both sides defies imagination. Responsibility lies with the highest levels of government, including the head of state."

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