Maalula Nuns Freed after Hours of Delay for Logistical Reasons

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

A group of nuns abducted from the Syrian town of Maalula in December were released on Sunday evening and handed over to a Lebanese General Security delegation in the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Arsal.

"The Maalula nuns have been freed and they are now in our custody," General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told LBCI television.

Lebanon's National News Agency also confirmed that "the Maalula nuns have become in the custody of Lebanese General Security."

"The General Security convoy that is carrying the freed Maalula nuns has left Arsal towards the international highway that leads to the al-Masnaa border crossing" between Lebanon and Syria, NNA said.

Ibrahim later appeared at the Syrian border post of Jdeidet Yabous where the nuns were supposed to arrive.

"The nuns will arrive here in an hour," he told reporters.

Earlier on Sunday, Ibrahim confirmed that the nuns would be released within hours after the process was “delayed by logistical obstacles related to the region's geography.”

For his part, Qatar's charges d'affaires in Beirut Ali al-Maliki confirmed to Al-Jazeera TV that the nuns would be released but noted that the issue "will take some time and maybe hours."

"Negotiations have resumed between Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and the abductors of the Maalula nuns after having bogged down for unclear reasons," al-Jadeed television said earlier in the day.

LBCI said that after having left the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Arsal, a Lebanese General Security delegation returned to the town to prepare for receiving the nuns.

"The General Security convoy has returned to the Aqabat al-Jurd area in Arsal," MTV said.

Earlier, Lebanon's National News Agency said a large convoy consisting of around 30 vehicles had arrived in the al-Rahweh area in Arsal's outskirts to receive the nuns.

It later reported that “a new convoy consisting of 3 cars has crossed the army checkpoint at Arsal's entrance and headed to the point where the first convoy is waiting to pick up the Maalula nuns."

NNA had reported that Qatar's intelligence chief and a Lebanese General Security team crossed into Syria from Arsal to receive the nuns.

“Qatari intelligence chief Ghanim al-Kubaisi and a General Security delegation have crossed Arsal towards the Syrian border ahead of the release of the Maalula nuns,” NNA said.

Meanwhile, local and regional TV networks aired footage showing heavy presence by General Security agents and reporters at the al-Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria.

A number of Christian and Muslim clergymen were also spotted in the border area of Jdeidet Yabous.

MTV had reported that it was not clear whether the nuns' convoy would take the Yabrud-Arsal-Masnaa route or the road from Yabrud towards Syria's al-Zabadani and Damascus ahead of traveling towards al-Masnaa.

The Qatar-based, pan-Arab Al-Jazeera TV had earlier reported that "the process of releasing the nuns has started."

In remarks to LBCI television, Nouhad al-Jabr, sister of abducted nun Mariam al-Jabr, said: "The lawyer Robert al-Abyad called me an hour ago and asked me to head to al-Masnaa to receive my sister."

Several reporters had said the process would take several hours due to "the rugged road between Yabrud and Arsal" or even the long road from Yabrud to Damascus.

Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said "the Bekaa is witnessing intensive movements by security convoys in preparation for the release of the Maalula nuns."

Sky News Arabia said the deal involves the release of 153 detainees from the prisons of the Syrian regime. Other reports said a number of women prisoners will be freed.

"A number of Syrian women prisoners have arrived at a location facing Jdeidet Yabous on the Lebanese border and they will enter Lebanon," Al-Jazeera reported.

Earlier on Sunday, the head of the Greek Orthodox Council Robert Abyad announced that the nuns were expected to be released later during the day.

“We thank all the forces that helped ensure their release,” he said.

Qatar's intelligence chief al-Kubaisi had arrived in Lebanon from Istanbul in order to follow up on the case, said NNA.

Moreover, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim also returned to Lebanon from Syria in order to follow up on the release.

He held talks with President Michel Suleiman to that end, reported NNA.

Head of the Mar Yaacoub monastery in Syria, Sister Agnes, told VDL that the Syrian Information Ministry had requested that journalists head to the Lebanese-Syrian border “because a surprise awaits them there.”

The nuns, from both Syria and Lebanon, were kidnapped from a convent in Maalula in December, as regime and rebel forces battled for control in the surrounding Qalamoun region.

They were moved to Yabrud, a rebel stronghold that has become the last opposition holdout in the Qalamun region and now at the center of a fierce regime campaign.

Comments 17
Thumb Mystic 09 March 2014, 15:05

Good news to hear the nuns are still alive, despite rumors. May they stay safe from harm.

Missing cedars 10 March 2014, 00:32

Thanks to Imad Mughnieh for his irreplaceable teachings.

Thumb ex-fpm 09 March 2014, 16:01

Excellent popeye!!!

Default-user-icon hanoun (Guest) 09 March 2014, 16:03

good news and 3a2bel el moutranein

Thumb arzak-ya-libnan 09 March 2014, 16:50

Regardless of what, how, where and who. Let us rejoice at the release of people who have nothing to do with this conflict.

Missing beirutbastard00 09 March 2014, 17:10

so it took the turkish intelligence to free the pilgrims, and the qatari intelligence to free the nuns... I hate living in the middle east.

Thumb cityboy 09 March 2014, 17:50

Great news by the way, may God bless and protect the nuns and all innocents caught in the needless conflict in Syria.

Thumb cityboy 09 March 2014, 18:39

thefact, I am sure there is a lot more to the deal then is being told. the $4 million is just a red herring, I am sure you are aware that is chump change to Qatar, money was never an issue and neither was 153 people being released from prison. Seems like Qatar and Turkey are trying to free themselves from the webs of their stupid engagement in Syria.

Missing 09 March 2014, 18:51

Mystic - the women in Syrian prisons (some being freed in exchange for the nuns) are mostly hostages used as pressure against relatives who are part of the opposition.

Default-user-icon Adam Neira (Guest) 09 March 2014, 20:30

This is good news for the nuns, but to make sure, confirmation is needed. There must have been a deal done with their captors, i.e. $4 mill. plus safe passage, divide and rule etc. However, triumphalism over their release in any way, shape or form by the Assad Regime for any reason in the current circumstances is terribly misplaced. The last three years has seen so much bloodshed in the ancient land it is remarkable. Credit must also be given to some of the "Opposition" forces who probably in their humanity allowed the nuns to leave. It looks like the nuns were squirreled out of Yabroud so that the town can now be destroyed and thousands more can die. The supreme goal for all decent people and groups with an interest in the welfare of the Syrian people, including the Vatican, is for a ceasefire to take root nationwide. Yabroud,(like Yarmouk, the Old City of Homs, Aleppo etc.) is a microcosm.

Prayers for Syria.

Thumb -phoenix1 09 March 2014, 20:55

Latest news confirm the nuns inside Lebanon. I thank the Almighty God for bringing this painful episode to an end.

Thumb -phoenix1 10 March 2014, 14:50

If most of the posts here had any political content to them, then I could understand the thumbs down, but since many of them have been posted in good faith and in solidarity with the nuns' safe return and without any trace of political content, then I can only say that whoever are those people that thumbed down such post are utter idiots, imbeciles composted by sheer hatred. What bloody imbeciles really, for lack of having anything better to do with their useless lives. Tfeh 3ala heyk 7ayawenet.

Default-user-icon josephani (Guest) 09 March 2014, 21:23

Thank Gad for their safe return. We can now agree that the Takafiri extrmist supported by Qatar were responsible for this abduction and incursion on our Christian brothers and sisters in Ma'llula. The evidence is in plain view. Why is a Qatari official part of the negotiation...

Missing cedars 10 March 2014, 00:29

The difference between your savage takfiris and Assad regime, the former you can negotiate with, the latter can't even tell us about the Lebanese Army soldiers from Aoun's ranks that disappeared from Baabda/Dahr Wahesh and are in the Syrian prisons.
Your picture was the first orchestrating machine of foreign hostages in Lebanon.
Does that ring any bells?

Thumb popeye 10 March 2014, 08:48

Thanks cedre! It was touching to see the Syrian old women and the nuns released. I could not believe how this criminal regime could detain old women and for what reason. I was also very happy for the nuns who seemed so wonderful. May we all have peace

Thumb cedre 10 March 2014, 10:52

popeye tbh, it seems that the regime detained them at no time, lets wait for their debriefing...

Thumb zahle1 10 March 2014, 15:15

What happened to our two bishops? How come nobody is making a big deal about this? I cannot support anyone who is even loosely allied with these filthy animals. This is why I cannot support M14. I do not support HA in Syria or Syria arms. But I would rather have Assad stay in Syria, out of Lebanon, and run Syria only. The west better be careful of what it wishes for just like what happened in Iraq. It is worse now. Look at these ISIL wackos that run around now.