19 October 2010: (Milan/e.p.) – Hopes are rising of a possible imminent deal to release two orthodox bishops who have been missing since being kidnapped earlier this year near Aleppo.
According to Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, the bishops – Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim – could be released as part of efforts to free nine kidnapped Lebanese in the country.
The bishops were kidnapped in April at gunpoint and have not been seen of since, although they are thought to still be alive.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security, met Saturday with Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, brother of one of the bishops, and discussed the continuing efforts to secure their release.
He said their release is “imminent” and that “things are heading to a solution in the short run.”
The nine Lebanese are Shiite pilgrims, kidnapped by rebels while making their way from Iran to Syria on May 22 of last year. Two of the party have been released so far.
Ibrahim has been placed in charge of resolving both cases, and has reportedly been in contact with Syrian, Qatari, Turkish and Palestinian sides to secure the release of both of the bishops and the Lebanese captives.
Meanwhile, a kidnapped Italian Jesuit missing since July is reported to be alive in an area of northern Syria, controlled by an Islamist opposition group allied with al-Qaida. “Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive and is being treated well by his kidnappers,” Khalaf Ali Khalaf, a reporter and activist opposed to the Syrian government, told Aki-Adnkronos International news agency. Fr. Dall’Oglio was reportedly last seen Oct. 5, but there is still no sign of his release.
Meanwhile, fear of capture is warning off journalists after dozens of kidnappings since the war began in 2011.
On Oct. 17, Sky News Arabia said a team of its reporters has gone missing, also in Aleppo. The channel said the crew of three was on assignment, primarily to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict in Aleppo.
Their disappearance is just the latest in dozens of reporters kidnapped or killed in the country. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says at least 25 professional journalists and 70 citizen journalists have lost their lives in the conflict.
Foreign aid workers have also been targeted, and Syrian journalists have been arrested by the regime or abducted by forces from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), AFP reports.
Media companies are beginning to shy away from Syria also because of the difficulty in obtaining media visas from the government. As a result, journalists covering the rebel side have entered the country through borders with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The kidnappings have been carried out by both sides in the conflict.
AFP reports that the deteriorating conditions have prompted many international media organisations to suspend sending reporters to rebel-held areas.
Observers fear the lack a media presence will probably lead to further human rights violations.