General Security Team, Qatari Delegation Meet Representatives of Nuns Abductors
General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim on Monday said that officers from his directorate met with representatives of the kidnappers of the Maalula nuns, in the presence of a Qatari delegation, as part of efforts to release the abducted women.
In an interview with An Nahar newspaper, of which excerpts were published in the afternoon, Ibrahim said he held talks at his office with the Qatari team that is tasked with following up on the ongoing negotiations.
“General Security officers who are following up on the procedural negotiations on the ground have met with representatives of the kidnappers, in the presence of the Qatari delegation,” Ibrahim added.
Asked whether the release of the nuns was imminent, Ibrahim said “the negotiations are on the right track.”
Al-Akhbar newspaper had reported earlier on Monday that a Qatari delegation was headed for Yabrud in the Syrian region of Qalamoun via the Lebanese border town of Arsal with the aim of holding talks with the kidnappers on the expected date to release the nuns -- who are “in good health.”
Around 3:00 p.m., OTV reported that the Qatari team was still in Syria's Yabrud.
Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said “a high-ranking Qatari delegation visited Arsal and met with representatives of the Syrian opposition to inquire about the health of the abducted Maalula nuns and the developments of the negotiations.”
LBCI television said the abductors are demanding the release of a number of Islamist inmates from the Roumieh prison in return for the freeing of two Lebanese nuns who are among the ranks of the kidnapped women.
“Several Lebanese officials are working on the case of the Maalula nuns and reports said the negotiations are complicated,” LBCI said.
In December, Ibrahim traveled to Qatar to tackle the case of the nuns. He told LBCI that he was tasked by President Michel Suleiman to address the case in the Arab Gulf state.
LBCI said at the time that the General Security chief had contacted Al-Jazeera television to inquire about the source of the videotape in which the nuns had appeared.
Jihadists and opposition fighters on Monday entered the Syrian Christian town of Maalula and took 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns from the Mar Takla Monastery to the Yabrud area in Qalamoun, near Damascus.
The 12 nuns join two bishops and a priest who are already believed to be held by hardline rebels, deepening concerns that extremists in the opposition's ranks are targeting Christians.
The abducted nuns have appeared in a video broadcast by Al-Jazeera, in which they reassured that they are in good health.