Maronite head asks Qatar help to free Syria bishops

AFP , Thursday 24 Oct 2013

The patriarch of the Maronite Church asks Qatar to help secure the release of two bishops abducted in Syria in April

The patriarch of the Maronite Church, Bechara Boutros Rai, said Thursday he has asked for Qatari mediation to help secure the release of two bishops abducted in Syria.

His request came after Qatar, which backs Syrian rebels, played a key role in Saturday's release of nine Lebanese Shiite hostages held for 17 months by a rebel group in northern Syria in exchange for two Turkish pilots abducted in Lebanon in August.

"We thanked Qatar for all it had done to press for the release of the Lebanese (citizens) abducted" in Syria, the Lebanese patriarch told reporters in Doha after he held talks on Wednesday with the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

"We hoped they will work to help clarify the fate of two bishops and three priests kidnapped in February, March and April," the patriarch said.

Aleppo's Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were seized by armed men in April near the northern city of Aleppo.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, but sources at the Greek Orthodox Church have said the kidnappers were "Chechen jihadists."

Christians account for around five percent of Syria's population.

They have become increasingly vulnerable to attack and abductions in the lawlessness that has engulfed much of the country since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted two years ago.

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