Syria: Dall'Oglio in Raqaa to mediate for hostages, rebels

Holy See and Foreign ministry cannot confirm kidnapping

30 July, 18:25

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JULY 30 - Italian Jesuit priest Paolo Dall'Oglio went to Raqqa to negotiate for the release of the Orient television crew with the head of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reports a member of the Syrian opposition with whom the priest has worked with.

    The claim has been corroborated by several sites run by Syrian rebel groups, which reconstructed the last known movements of the Italian priest before his disappearance. A video posted on Youtube and dated July 28 shows Father Dall'Oglio at the Armenian church in Raqqa, in northern Syria, speaking to a crowd of applauding youths. The priest states during the meeting that Raqqa, a city in which both Kurds and Arabs as well as Muslims and Christians are found, should become the symbol of the liberation of Syria.

    Opposition sites report that Dall'Oglio had an appointment in Raqqa with the jihadists to mediate for the release of a crew of Syrian journalists and technicians taken hostage a few days ago in the Aleppo region. The first attempt reportedly fell through, while in the second the priest was picked up and taken away.

    At this point in the story the versions diverge: some say he was taken hostage and other say he is involved in negotiations.

    However, except for the Youtube video, no concrete confirmation has emerged. ''So far there has been neither confirmation nor denial of the kidnapping. The information is puzzling and should be greeted with skepticism,'' ANSAmed was told by a diplomatic source following the case of Father Dall'Oglio.

    The source said that what makes the incident even more mysterious is that this is the first time that the Italian priest has gone into Syria without letting the Italian foreign service or the Damascus apostolic nunciature know ahead of time, unlike the several other times he visited the rebel-held territory in the northern part of the country over the past few months. The Holy See has said that it cannot confirm whether a kidnapping has occurred, while the Foreign Ministry states that it cannot confirm rumors making the rounds on Twitter Tuesday that the priest has been released.

    ''The conditions of the hostage taking he was reportedly subjected to yesterday have yet to be verified,'' Foreign Ministry sources told ANSAmed. (ANSAmed).

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