Syria: Jesuit Dall’Oglio abducted by Al Qaida-linked militia

Activists report. Italian Foreign Ministry verifying

30 July, 17:35

    Father Paolo Dall'Oglio Father Paolo Dall'Oglio

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, JULY 30 - Expelled last year from Syria, where he had spent 30 years of his life, openly opposed the regime and worked for a peaceful solution to the conflict, Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall'Oglio was allegedly kidnapped on Monday by a militant group close to Al Qaida which is part of the uprising against President Bashar al- Assad.

    Activists in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, which is controlled by insurgents, told Reuters news agency that the priest was abducted while he was walking in the street. The Italian foreign ministry has said it is verifying the information.

    According to the sources cited by Reuters, the abductors are members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an organization linked to Al Qaida and Syrian jihadist groups fighting the regime.

    The only certainty is that Dall'Oglio is not answering his phones, as verified by ANSA - neither his Syrian number, where voicemail says the device is switched off, nor his Italian number which gives no signal.

    After he was expelled by Syrian authorities in June 2012, Father Dall'Oglio had returned at least once in rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

    It is not the first time Christian priests end up hostages of rebels in northern Syria. On April 22 two Orthodox bishops were abducted near Aleppo as they were returning to the Syrian city from the Turkish border after they had gone on a mission the details of which are still unknown. They are Syriac Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazij, who according to sources with the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo were abducted by jihadists from Chechnya, one of many nationalities of fundamentalists who are fighting a 'holy war' in Syria against President Bashar al Assad. No news yet on the two priests.

    One of the reasons that could help understand the action against the two prelates is the apparent support to the Assad regime provided by Orthodox Churches which fear a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist regime in Damascus if Assad is ousted.

    It is instead unclear why insurgents would kidnap Father Paolo, who has promoted inter-faith dialogue between Muslims and Christians for decades while he was in Syria and has openly sided against the regime.

    On July 24 the Jesuit, a native of Rome, had personally called on Pope Francis to promote an 'urgent and inclusive diplomatic initiative for Syria' to ensure 'the end of a regime which tortures and is responsible for massacres'.

    There is also no news from Syria of another Italian, La Spampa journalist Domenico Quirico who has been missing since April 9. On June 6 he called his wife and told her during a brief conversation that he was fine. But nobody has heard from him ever since.

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