Syria: rebels propose 1,000 prisoner-12 hostage nuns swap

But local activists deny Saudi pan-Arab newspaper report

06 December, 18:26

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, DECEMBER 6 - Rebels from the Qalamoun region north-east of the Syrian capital of Damascus have proposed exchanging 12 kidnapped Orthodox nuns with 1,000 female Syrian political prisoners, pan-Arab Saudi newspaper ash Sharq al Awsat reported in its online edition on Friday.

    The ''Free Qalamoun'' brigade claimed responsibility for the recent abduction of the Syrian and Lebanese nuns from the Saint Tecla Orthodox monastery in the predominantly Christian town of Maaloula, in the southern Qalamoun region.

    ''The nuns are in a safe place, and will only be freed in exchange for the liberation of 1,000 women prisoners from regime jails'', the daily quoted brigade spokesman Muhannad Abul Fida as saying.

    The spokesman, who said the swap offer is being made jointly with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat an Nusra militia, reportedly claimed the proposal has already been transmitted to the regime via the Vatican ''after Saint Tecla Mother Superior Pelagia Sayyaf spoke to the Holy See on a satellite phone''.

    Activist Amer al-Qalamuni, who runs a media center covering the region north of Damascus in which the nuns are allegedly being held, denied that any such deal has been offered.

    ''Let no one think they can speculate on the fate of the nuns'', he told ANSAmed in a Skype interview.

    ''There is no such rebel group as the 'Free Qalamoun Brigade''', he asserted, echoing what many other activists from the same area are saying on social networks.

    The media activist has for weeks proved to be a reliable source on what is happening on the ground in the mountainous Qalamoun region on the border with Lebanon, which has been the theater of many battles between rebels and loyalists. (ANSAmed).

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