THE LEVANT – A priest kidnapped by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in northwestern Syria was released on Thursday, the Franciscan Order said, days after his abduction alongside 20 other Christians.
“Father Hanna Jallouf has been released this morning… he is under house arrest at the convent of Qunyeh,” the order said in a statement, without providing further details.
Rebels linked to Al-Nusra Front — Al-Qaeda’s Syria branch — abducted Jallouf along with 20 Christians on Sunday in the village of Qunyeh, near the Turkish border, the order said.
A local Syrian activist said Al-Nusra had been trying to take charge of some of the Franciscan properties in Qunyeh, prompting Jallouf to complain to a religious court late last week.
Al-Nusra rebels have seized control of several Christian and Muslim villages in the area during the course of Syria’s three-and-a-half-year civil war.
The Franciscans, a religious order within the Catholic Church, have 19 people working across Syria, where the order has operated for 800 years. They have been working in Qunyeh for 125 years, the activist said.
Kidnapping is rife in Syria, with all sides accused of abducting people.
Civilians have often been targeted for ransoms, while extremist groups such as Al-Nusra and the Islamic State organisation have held journalists, aid workers and soldiers, as well as civilians and rival opposition fighters.
In August, rebels on the Syrian-held sector of the Golan Heights, including Al-Nusra, kidnapped more than 40 Fijian UN peacekeepers. They were released two weeks later.