Christians in Aleppo are seeking information on the wellbeing of two priests, Father Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Father Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), who were abducted on February 9 by a group of armed rebels on the Aleppo-Damascus road. So far, attempts to open channels and negotiations have failed.
Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo said in an interview with the Fides news agency, "The so-called kidnappers phoned the brother of one of the two priests and said only: 'They are with us'. But they did not explain what is behind the 'we', and have not asked for any demands. On our behalf, we have limited the area in which they are held hostage, and we are trying to open a channel of negotiation with the tribal leader of that area. So far our attempts have not had concrete effects. We do not know what is the matrix of the group of kidnappers, if we are dealing with rebels, bandits.... We wonder why this choice of kidnapping the two priests was made, among the many passengers of the bus attacked by the kidnappers. "
Father Kayyal and Father Mahfouz were traveling aboard a public bus, heading to a facility operated by the Salesian order of Catholic priests in Kafrun, On the road to Damascus, 30 kilometres from Aleppo, armed men stopped the vehicle, checked the passengers' documents. Only the two priests were ordered to descend from the bus. The abductors took them away immediately.
Archbishop Marayati could not confirm the rumor that a ransom of 160,000 euros has been demanded for the release of the two priests. The archbishop told said that as of February 14, Aleppo has been the scene of explosions and armed clashes between the government forces and the rebels who are seeking to overthrow the Assad regime.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.