(news.va) Greek-Orthodox nuns that went missing in December after Islamist fighters took the ancient quarter of the Christian town of Maaloula north of Damascus have been set free. The release of the nuns on March 9 had been agreed as part of a swap in which the government would free 153 women prisoners from Assad’s prisons. The nuns were released thanks to the mediation of the intelligence apparatus in Lebanon and Qatar.
The news about the end of the kidnapping bounced on the Arabs network already in the early morning of Sunday, but kidnappers had tried to add additional conditions to the release, and this caused a further delay. In the end the nuns -who were held hostage in the city of Yabroud, controlled by the rebels – were released on the outskirts of the north-eastern Lebanese city of Arsal, only to be transported in the early hours of Monday, March 10 to the town of Jdaidet Yabouss, where they were welcomed by General Abbas Ibrahim, head of the Lebanese security and main strategist of their liberation. One of the nuns, Mother Aghiah, said in a statement that during the kidnapping all those kidnapped were treated well and that the kidnappers “were very sweet and gentle”.
As part of the confidential negotiations put in place to secure the release of the nuns there were also direct contacts between Syrian officials and Qataris, although Qatar is recognized as one of the main sponsors of the anti-Assad opposition.
According to sources of the security apparatus, the chief of the Intelligence Service of the Qatar Saadeh al-Kbeisi met with his Syrian counterpart General Ali Mamlouk in Damascus to discuss the release of the nuns.