Mediation by Qatar and Lebanon has succeeded in obtaining the release of 12 Orthodox nuns who were abducted from the Mar Takla monastery in the ancient city of Maaloula in Syria in December. The agreement was announced by Qatar's Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah. The Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for abducting the nuns. They demanded the release of 153 women being held by the Syrian regime.
Qatar's State News Agency said that the gulf stat's Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, supervised the negotiations personally. He instructed all of his country's relevant agencies to leave no stone unturned to obtain the nuns' release.
The Director-General of the Lebanese General Security Agency, General Abbas Ibrahim, said that the nuns were released from their captivity in Yabrud and will return to Damascus. "They are in good health," he reassured reporters. "Lebanese security forces and Qatar's intelligence chief, Saadeh Al-Qubaisi, who had arrived in Beirut from Istanbul, welcomed the nuns to Lebanon near the border with Syria." The exchange was delayed, added Ibrahim, because the kidnappers tried to change the terms of the deal at the last minute. Sixteen people were released; the 12 nuns and four others believed to be employees of the convent.
The Syrian government agreed to release more than 150 female prisoners, said Ibrahim. He confirmed that no money has changed hands as part of the release deal.
According to Lebanon's state media agency, Ibrahim pointed out that his country is also working to release two kidnapped bishops and Lebanese photographer Samir Kassab along with his Mauritanian colleague.