Thirteen Syrian nuns held captive for three months are finally free.
A crowd gave the nuns a warm welcome early Monday morning. After crossing the Syrian border with Lebanon overnight, the women arrived by minibus in Damascus. (Via Euronews)
The Greek Orthodox nuns, along with their three maids, were abducted in December when Syrian rebels overran the Christian town of Maaloula. (Via The Times of Israel)
For three months, their whereabouts were unknown. In February, they did appear in this video, saying they were in good health — but it was unclear who did the filming or where it was filmed. (Via AlManar Channel)
According to some reports, the women were freed as part of a rare prisoner swap, in which the Syrian regime agreed to release nearly 150 female prisoners in exchange for the nuns.
Al Jazeera makes an interesting observation — noting that Syrian state TV heavily played video of the nuns returning home but made no mention of a prisoner exchange.
It also wasn’t entirely clear who did the kidnapping, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — a monitoring group that backs the opposition — blamed Al- Nusra Front. It's a jihadist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda. (Via BBC)
One of the nuns seemed to confirm this, telling reporters: "I have to be truthful, the Front treated us well." (Via The Wall Street Journal)
Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's population. For the most part, they've stayed out of the country’s civil war — though many have sided with the Assad regime, fearing of persecution should the rebels take power. (Via RT)
The nuns' release came on the heels of a report from Amnesty International that claimed the Syrian army is using systematic starvation as a weapon against civilians.