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ICC Note: A Syrian priest and twenty other Christians were kidnapped earlier this month in northern Syria by militants of the Al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. This latest incident highlights the continuing threat that Christians face living in areas controlled by Islamic extremist groups across Syria.

10/20/2014 Syria (World) – A Syrian priest has been released by his abductors and is “optimistic” even though he is not allowed to leave the country until he has met with an Islamic religious leader.

Militants connected to al-Nusra Front kidnapped Father Hanna Jallouf, a Franciscan priest, along with about 20 of his parishioners in Knayeh, Syria, on Oct. 5, Asia News reported. Jallouf was the last of the group to be freed.

While his kidnappers did not explain why they abducted him, Agence France Presse (AFP) said one source claimed the rebels were upset by the priest’s refusal to give them part of the convent’s harvest. AFP also reported Jallouf had complained to a religious court about al-Nusra trying to take Franciscan property.

Although Jallouf cannot leave the country, he can travel freely within Syrian territory. “Father Hanna is responsible for several parishes, which he can visit since he can travel freely and is not under house arrest,” said Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins, who has been in contact with Jallouf since his release.

Al-Nusra is al-Qaeda’s official representative in Syria and one of the groups fighting against President Bashar al Assad’s government. During Jallouf’s time as a hostage, “there was no interrogation,” Abou Khazen told Asia News. “He spent his time in a room, separated from most of the group, praying.”

Control of Knayeh, in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, has changed throughout the Syrian conflict between Assad’s regime and opposition groups that include extremists with al-Nusra and the Islamic State (ISIS). Although both al-Nusra and ISIS oppose Assad, they are not allies and have clashed over territory in Syria.

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