(ANSAmed) - ROME - ''There is no news at the moment. The priest's death has not been confirmed,'' Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino answered Affariitaliani.it with regards to Jesuit Father Paolo dall'Oglio, who disappeared in Syria on July 29.
The president of the Syrian National Coalition, George Sabra, also said he has no news about Dall'Oglio. ''Nothing right now indicates that he has died,'' he added. He went on to confirm that politician Lama al-Atasi, who announced the death of the Italian priest, is not a member of the Syrian National Coalition. Th
''We have no information on this matter,'' Vatican press office deputy director Ciro Benedettini told reporters. The Holy See is monitoring the situation through its Papal Nuncio in Damascus as well as the Jesuit Curia.
The report was denied by Syrian opposition member Salam Kawakibi, the deputy director of Arab Reform Initiative think tank. Father Dall'Oglio is alive, and the ''guest'' of an al-Qaeda front group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Kawakibi told ANSAmed citing information gathered ''a few hours ago'' from a ''reliable'' source within ''revolutionary groups'' in Raqqa.
Also on Monday, a source from a Beirut-based NGO that is in contact with activists who accompanied Father Dall'Oglio in Syria told ANSAmed there is ''no confirmation one way or another'' from channels on the ground there, so ''there is hope'' the Jesuit may still be alive. (ANSAmed).
''What we fear the most is not who is holding (Father Paolo) Dall'Oglio, but that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could use him in a prisoner exchange with the ferocious Assad regime,'' National Syrian Coalition and Council representative Feisal al-Mohammad told ANSAmed on Monday. Mohammad, who is a doctor and an Italian citizen, is also in charge of international relations for the progressive and social democratic Free Popular Current, and a spokesman for the Rome-based Association for a Free and Democratic Syria.
He knows the kidnapped Jesuit well, having organized some initiatives with him. He is from Raqqa, the city now under Syrian rebel control where Dall'Oglio was seen for the last time before his July 29 disappearance. Raqqa on Saturday was blasted by a government air force raid that left 13 civilians dead, seven of them children. But Islamic State positions ''are never hit,'' Mohammad pointed out. This relative impunity is due to collaboration with the Assad regime, which fostered Sunni terrorist groups acting against the US in Iraq. These same elements, Mohammad explained, now make up the hard core of Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front branch which has declared its affiliation with al-Qaeda.
Dall'Oglio was heading to a meeting with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the day he told his friends in Raqqa to let him go on alone. His aim was to negotiate a hostage release, which he had done successfully in the past, and to mediate a ceasefire with Kurdish militias. ''Dall'Oglio is not lacking in courage, either as a man or as a believer,'' said Mohammed. The same courage with which the Jesuit months ago called on intellectuals from the world's three great monotheistic religions to make ''a theological effort'' and engage with the most extreme jihadist fringes. There are two kinds of jihadism, Dall'Oglio told ANSAmed in an interview at the time: ''One is open to dialogue, the other is rigidly dogmatic, a swamp festering with all kinds of elements, from secret services to organized crime to extremists. We must pull young people, our children, out of that swamp: they are religious young people, who need to talk about religion, something they certainly won't find in places like Guantanamo prison.'' (ANSAmed).