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Syrian Priest Reportedly Kidnapped as ISIS Moves Beyond Palmyra

Father Ziad Hilal, SJ/Aid to the Church in Need

John Burger - published on 05/21/15

"He appeals for funds to help them to bring water tanks, generators, agricultural tools so that these people can return home," said Braendle, who works with The Friends of Mar Moussa, quoted bythe Swiss newspaper Le Temps. "Father Jacques is deeply Syrian in that he believes in the coexistence of all. Purposeful, bright, he is guided by the love of people."

The news outlet said that several months ago, Father Mourad went to negotiate with the Al-Nusra Front for the release of a young man that another Islamist group held hostage.

According to Le Temps, after the kidnapping, a small community of monks, fearing the worst, abandoned the monastery and took refuge in private homes.

The paper speculated that the removal of Father Mourad is a signal that ISIS wants to advance towards the city of Homs. It quoted another priest in the region, who spoke of the activation of sleeper cells and a pattern of local sympathizers and other rebel groups as ISIS moves in. This, he said, is often accompanied by the disappearance of local figures: politicians, village leaders and churchmen, who until then have helped block the advance.

Father Mourad’s abduction comes during a week which saw significant gains for ISIS, including the fall of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syra. The BBC reported Friday that the Islamist group has now taken over the last government-controlled border crossing from Syria to Iraq: "Government forces withdrew from al-Tanf—known as al-Waleed in Iraq—crossing as IS advanced, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said."

The UK-based SOHR says the Islamic State now controls more than 50% of the country’s territory, dominating the provinces of Deir al-Zour and Raqqa and with a strong presence in Hasakeh, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

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Islamist MilitantsSyria
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