Father Jallouf is reported to be restricted by local Islamic court
Father Hanna Jallouf, the Franciscan parish priest kidnapped on Sunday night by a group of armed militants of the jihadist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, has been released, according to Fides news agency.
But the pastor has been placed under "house arrest" at St. Joseph’s Friary in the village of Qunyeh, according to a brief statement issued by the Custody of the Holy Land. Local sources told Fides that the measure was ordered by "the Islamic Court."
In addition, several women who were among the group of local parishioners kidnapped with Father Jallouf, were let go.
"We know that he is well, and this is important, but there is no news of the release of the men who were kidnapped with him," said Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo for the Catholics of the Latin rite.
Agence France-Presse on Tuesday reported that Qunyeh is a village of several hundred people in Idlib province, and lies some five miles from the Turkish border.
The French news agency quoted Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, as saying the 62-year-old Syrian priest, who has worked in Qunyeh for 12 years after serving in Amman, Jordan, was seized along with 20 villagers.
“They are accusing them of being collaborators” with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said, insisting that this was not true.
AFP learned from a source linked to the Franciscan Order in Aleppo that Al-Nusra rebels had forced their way into the friary and “looted everything.” The source said Al-Nusra rebels were “angry with Father Hanna because he refused to give them some of the olives harvested from trees on the convent’s [friary’s] land.”
Al-Nusra Front, which fights alongside rebels battling Assad’s regime, is the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda.
The AFP report continued:
Al-Nusra rebels had seized control of many different Christian and Muslim villages in the area in the past few years, he said.
Local sources confirm that the kidnappers were armed, Fides said. So far, they have not sent any messages to the hostages’ relatives and friends.
Bishop Abou Khazen said after the release of the four women who had been held in captivity with Father Hanna that the kidnappers did not ask them any questions. He spoke of the esteem that many Syrians have for the Catholic community of Qunyeh, singling out Sister Patrizia Guarino, of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
"Sister Patrizia is venerated by all," said Bishop Abou Khazen. "She is the village nurse, and everyone sees her as a spiritual guide, who helps to heal not only diseases, but also the suffering of the soul"