The 12 nuns kidnapped three months ago in the Syrian town of Maalula by a rebel group were released on Sunday and are in Lebanon, the president of the Lebanese Orthodox Congress, Robert Eid, said.

The 12 women, who passed from Syria into Lebanon via the Masnaa border crossing, are in good health after they disappeared from the St. Tecla convent when the rebels took over the Christian-majority town of Maalula, north of Damascus, on Dec. 2.

Officials with the Vatican Nunciature and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus told Efe by telephone that they had information that the nuns had been released, but they are waiting until they receive official confirmation or some proof that they are.

The regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad said at the time that "terrorists" had kidnapped the nuns, who later were taken to the town of Yabrud, near the border with Lebanon.

The rebel group that was holding the nuns demanded in January that about 200 prisoners being held by the Syrian regime be freed in exchange for the release of the women.

Eid said then that the nuns were in good health and were being held by an insurgent organization whose leader was a Kuwaiti national calling himself Abu Anyan.

Contact with the kidnappers was lost last Wednesday after a series of aerial bombardments by the Syrian regime against Yabrud, the most important town in the Al Qalamun region that has still not been retaken by the authorities.

At least 14 Islamist combatants died in fighting with government troops in Yabrud and its environs Saturday in the offensive launched by the regime to cut off the entry of supplies to the rebels from Lebanon. EFE