-- ZENIT.org News Agency
Two Priests in Syria Kidnapped By Armed Rebels
Christian Community Attempting to Contact Abductors in Attempt to Negotiate
ALEPPO, February 19, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Christians in the Syrian town of Aleppo are trying to contact the kidnappers responsible for the abduction of two priests: Fr. Michel Kayyal of the Armenian Catholic Church and Fr. Maher Mahfouz of the Greek Orthodox Church. Both were kidnapped on February 9thby a group of armed rebels patrolling the road that leads from Aleppo to Damascus. Attempts at contact with the abductors, however, have failed so far.
In an interview with Fides News Agency, Archbishop Bourtros Marayati, the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, has said that the kidnappers had contacted the brother of one of the abductees.
"The so-called kidnappers phoned the brother of one of the two priests and said only: 'They are with us'," Archbishop Marayati said. "But they did not explain what is behind the 'we', and have not asked for any demands. On our behalf, we have limited the area in which they are held hostage, and we are trying to open a channel of negotiation with the tribal leader of that area. So far our attempts have not had concrete effects.
"We do not know what the matrix [of the group] of kidnappers is," he continued, "if we are dealing with rebels, bandits. We wonder why this choice of kidnapping the two priests was made, among the many passengers of the bus attacked by the kidnappers. "
Father Kayyal and Father Mahfouz were traveling aboard a public bus, heading to the Salesian house in Kafrun. Thirty kilometers from Aleppo, the kidnappers stopped the vehicle, checked the passengers' documents and only then did they ask the two priests to get off, taking them away immediately.
Archbishop Marayati did not confirm rumors that the priests are being held for a ransom of 160,000 euros. The Archbishop of Aleppo told Fides that since yesterday the area of Aleppo where he resides and the pastoral settlements of the Armenian Catholic community are at the heart of explosions and armed clashes between the loyalist army and rebels.
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