Franciscans Report Attacks in Syria

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Franciscans ministering in a village along the Syrian border with Turkey said four people, including three Christian youths, were kidnapped and beaten before being released as the civil war surged in their community.

In a brief message Oct. 4 to Franciscan officials in Rome, Franciscans in Knayeh reported that the kidnappings were carried out by individuals identified only as “terrorists.”

“We had to pay a considerable sum to free them, and they have returned after being badly beaten and tortured,” said the message from an unidentified Franciscan.

The fourth victim was Alawite, a member of a Middle Eastern religion founded in the 10th century. Its members revere Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

Refugees from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, about 50 miles away, also were fleeing into Knayeh and nearby Yacoubieh, the Franciscans reported. The road between Knayeh and the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour was reported to be mined, with explosions reported daily, the Franciscans said.

They said no religious personnel had been injured. Catholic News Service attempts to reach St. Joseph Convent in Knayeh, where the Franciscans are based, were unsuccessful.

In Ghassanieh, the Franciscans described the situation as “not well.” Rebels attacked a nearby Christian village and two Alawite villages Oct. 1 before engaging Syrian troops in a fierce battle. One Franciscan employee reported that about 1,200 rebels entered Ghassanieh and spread throughout the town as residents fled to surrounding communities.

From Aleppo, a Franciscan brother wrote that life had become “increasingly difficult.” He described moderate damaged from a mortar that landed Aug. 31 on one friary and serious damage to a school, which had since been taken over by the Syrian government. The government repaired the doors and windows damaged in the explosion, he said. A second friary and church in Aleppo’s al-Azizieh district also was struck by a mortar, causing minimal damage, the brother said.

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