Syria: priest and 20 others abducted, Italian nun escaped

Kobane to fall, airstrikes not enough against ISIS, Erdogan

07 October, 18:46

    Smoke rises after an apparent airstrike by allied forces against  Islamic State targets in the west of Kobani Smoke rises after an apparent airstrike by allied forces against Islamic State targets in the west of Kobani

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - A Syrian parish priest and some 20 other Christians have been abducted in the northern Syrian village of Knayeh close to the border with Turkey, Catholic news agency Fides reported on Tuesday, quoting bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for Latin rite Catholics.

    The bishop was quoted by the news agency as confirming the abduction of Father Hanna Jallouf OFM, Syrian parish priest in the village of Knayeh, who has been kidnapped with some 20 Christians. The collective abduction, Khazen added, occurred in the night between Sunday, October 5 and Monday, October 6.

    A Franciscan nun, Sister Patrizia Guarino, is among clerics living in the village of Knayeh, the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria Mario Zenari told ANSA on Tuesday. But 80-year-old nun is reported as safe and residing with a family in the village of Knayeh, sources from Rome's General House of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary announced on Tuesday.

    Father Hanna Jallouf, the abducted Syrian priest, was one of two parish priests in the area of Knayeh, where some 700 Catholic families live. Three Franciscan nuns, like the priests, also live in the village and are in charge of a youth centre and a dispensary. Among them is Sister Patrizia.

    Up until last Christmas, Knayeh was under the control of ISIS militants, who had imposed a number of limitations on Christians, including the removal of crosses over churches, a ban on ringing church bells, covering statues and an obligation for women to cover up with the Islamic veil. Then Islamic State jihadists then moved further east and were replaced by al Qaeda militants from Al Nusra. Recently, militants in charge of the village had seized Father Jallouf's passport.

    The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land confirmed allegations claiming the abduction of Hanna Jallouf was carried out by jihadist brigades linked with the al Nusra front. ''Nuns at the convent found shelter in some village homes'', said a statement of the Custody quoted by Fides. The Custody confirmed that no information is currently available on where the hostages are being held and that attempts to contact the abductors and abductees have so far failed.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Kurdish-Syran border city Kobane is "on the verge of falling" into the hands of Islamic state jihadists ISIS and feels a ground invasion in Syria and Iraq is necessary.

    Turkish newspaper Hurryet reported Erdogan as saying that Kobane "is about to fall" in the hands of the jihadist, while visiting a refugee camp in Gaziantep, southern Turkey. "The air strikes will not stop the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]. We need a no-fly zone, safe havens and to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria," Erdogan added. Approximately three weeks ago, the self-styled ISIS militants began to advance towards Kobane, quickly capturing surrounding villages and forcing approximately 186 thousand Syrian Kurds to seek refuge across the Turkish border.

    Turkish parliament recently approved military intervention by Turkey, and is evaluating with the United States the role it can play in the campaign against ISIS. But, according to Hurriyet, Ankara insists on the need for a complete plan which also includes striking out at the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu emphasized Turkish position in a Monday interview with CNN. "We are ready to do everything if there is a clear strategy that after ISIS, we can be sure that our border will be protected. We don't want the regime anymore on our border pushing people against -towards Turkey. We don't want other terrorist organizations to be active there", Davutoglu said. "If al-Assad stays in power and ISIL goes then another radical organization may come in. Our approach should be comprehensive, inclusive and combined", he added. In recent years and following its split with Turkey, the Turkish government has been accused by many of having supported, or at least encouraged, Islamic militias (including jihadists) in Syria placed at the inside of an anti-Assad front. (ANSAmed).

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