Skip to main content

2 kidnapped Syrian bishops remain missing

From Saad Abedine, CNN
April 24, 2013 -- Updated 1459 GMT (2259 HKT)
Enthroanment in Damascus of Yuhanna X Yazigi as the Patriarch of Antioch, on February 10, 2013.
Enthroanment in Damascus of Yuhanna X Yazigi as the Patriarch of Antioch, on February 10, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two prominent Syrian Orthodox bishops have been missing for two days
  • The opposition and the government each blame others for the kidnapping
  • Another bishop tells the Vatican news service that money, not politics, is the motivation

(CNN) -- Two Syrian Orthodox bishops remain missing two days after being kidnapped, with each side in the civil war blaming others for the snatching.

The whereabouts of the two prominent clergymen, Greek Orthodox Bishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop John Ibrahim, remain unknown, despite some reports to the contrary, Greek Orthodox Bishop Mousa Khoury told CNN.

There have been several kidnappings of Christian clergymen in Syria but the two bishops are the most senior church figures who have been abducted since the beginning of the uprising.

The Syrian regime's Ministry of Religious Endowment issued a statement blaming "this brutal act" on Chechen mercenaries operating under the mantle of Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. The government did not provide evidence to back up the claim.

Israel: Syria used chemical weapons
A Syrian town ruled by rebels
Reports: Massacre near Damascus

A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said the government itself could be behind the kidnappings.

"The timing is very suspicious and we believe the Assad regime is behind the kidnapping," Louay Almokdad told CNN.

Another opposition figure, Rami Abdurrahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, elaborated, saying they believe that non-Arab foreign fighters are behind the kidnappings.

"We know that there are foreign fighters who are infiltrated by the regime and the Assad regime is well known for being a ventriloquist of proxy groups that they set up in order to spread chaos, strife and to divide the ranks of the opposition," he said.

CNN cannot independently confirm the claims by either side.

Earlier, there were conflicting reports about the status of the bishops.

"The bishops were supposed to be released by the armed group yesterday evening; then we expected them to head back to their churches. But they didn't, so we are still carrying out all efforts to figure out what happened," Abdel Ahad Steifo, a prominent Syriac member of Syria's main opposition group, told CNN.

Steifo, who is in charge of the negotiations for the release of the clergymen, says he does not know the identity of the kidnappers. But they are not part of the opposition, he said.

In an interview with the Vatican's Fides News Agency, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said that at the root of the "scourge of kidnapping" is not politics, but "the pursuit of money on behalf of armed gangs."

Recent incidents of clergymen being kidnapped ended with their release after ransoms of thousands of dollars were paid, he said.

On Tuesday, the director of the Holy See press office, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Pope Francis is closely following the events in Syria.

The pope is "praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops," Lombardi said.

A number of Muslim clerics have also been killed and kidnapped in Syria, including a top Sunni cleric and longtime supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti, who was killed in a suspicious blast while teaching religious class in Damascus. Rebels and regime officials blamed each other for the assassination of al-Bouti.

READ MORE: Israel says Syria used chemical weapons; Russia warns of 'Iraqi scenario'

READ MORE: Rights group accuses Syrian military of targeting civilians

READ MORE: Syria rebel group's dangerous tie to al Qaeda

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0120 GMT (0920 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT