The nuns taken by Syrian rebels two days ago from a convent in the mainly Christian village of Maaloula, not far from this capital, have been transferred to the neighboring town of Yabroud, the papal nuncio told Efe on Wednesday.

"The mother superior was able yesterday night to speak by telephone with the Greek Orthodox patriarchy in Damascus and she told them that the nuns were fine," Monsignor Mario Zenari said.

The 13 women are in the hands of an unknown insurgent brigade "probably" in Yabroud, the nuncio said.

The nuns, who live at the Santa Takla convent, disappeared Monday during the assault by armed Islamists on Maaloula, a predominantly Christian community where Aramaic, a biblical language, is still spoken.

Syrian authorities accused "terrorist groups" of invading the convent and kidnapping the nuns.

The spokesman for the opposition Military Council for Damascus and environs, Musab al Khair, told Efe via e-mail that during the taking of Maaloula the rebels "promised the relocation of the residents to other parts of the Al Qalamun zone, including Yabroud."

Pope Francis asked for the nuns' release at the end of his regular Wednesday audience, saying "We are praying now for these nuns, for these sisters and for all people kidnapped because of a conflict under way. We continue praying and working together for peace."

At least 125,835 people, including more than 11,000 women and children, have died in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week.

The figure includes deaths that occurred from the first protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime on March 18, 2011, to Dec. 1, the London-based group, which has a large network of activists on the ground across Syria, said. EFE