The jihadist group that grabbed 13 nuns from a convent in northern Syria more than a month ago is demanding that President Bashar Assad's government release some 200 prisoners, a mediator told Efe Thursday.
Efforts are under way to secure the release of the roughly 200 government opponents seized by regime forces in the central province of Hama, according to Robert Abiad, head of the Lebanese Orthodox Council.
A faction led by a Kuwaiti national calling himself Abu Anyan is holding the nuns at a residence in Yabrud, north of Damascus, Abiad said.
"The sisters are fine and in good health, the problem is that they are not free," the mediator said.
The women have been able to telephone their families, he said.
Abiad met Thursday with Lebanon's national security chief, Gen. Abas Ibrahim, to discuss the plight of the nuns as well as the situation of two bishops kidnapped last April in northern Syria.
Accompanied by family members of the nuns, Abiad presented Ibrahim with a letter from the Lebanese Orthodox Council, the archdiocese of Beirut and the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Damascus requesting Lebanon's assistance in freeing the hostages.
The general's reaction was "positive," Abiad said, acknowledging that negotiations for the captives' release are also taking place inside Syria.
The sisters from the Santa Takla convent disappeared Dec. 2 after a rebel contingent that included jihadi elements overran Maaloula, an historic Christian community where the biblical language can still be heard.
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-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last month.
The figure includes deaths that occurred from the first protests against 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