Syrian rebels want to trade prisoners for kidnapped nuns

Mar Takla monastery

Rebels who seized 12 nuns earlier this month from a Syrian convent are demanding the government release hundreds of imprisoned women activists in exchange for their freedom, reports AP in The Huffington Post.

Reports of local cease-fires and other short-term deals have become more common as Syria's three-year-old civil war drags on, but talks leading to prisoner exchanges still appear to be rare.

There was no immediate government comment. Calls to the Lebanon-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate which oversees the convent went unanswered.

A spokesman for the rebel brigade al-Habib al-Moustafa said that so far government officials had refused the demand to release prisoners. The spokesman, who used the alias of Abu Nidal for security reasons, said a mediator was speaking to both parties. He said his group wasn't involved in negotiations, but was relaying information from other fighters.

The negotiations were also confirmed by a Syrian opposition activist who requested anonymity, as he was discussing talks conducted by other parties. He said the rebels were also demanding the release of imprisoned Saudi Arabian nationals captured while fighting for the opposition.

The activist said negotiations began immediately after the nuns were seized from their convent of Mar Takla in the village of Maloula, north of Damascus on December 6 when rebels overran the area. At least another three women were also seized from the convent's orphanage. They were taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud, activists say.

Photo: Mar Takla, where the nuns were seized 

FULL STORY Syrian rebels want to trade prisoners for kidnapped nuns

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