Report: kidnapped Jesuit priest alive in Syria

Damascus, Syria, Oct 10, 2013 / 12:53 pm (CNA).- A Jesuit priest missing since July is alive in an area of northern Syria that is controlled by an Islamist opposition group allied with Al-Qaida, one reporter has said.

“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.

Khalaf said the Italian-born priest was seen on Saturday, Oct. 5 in an area controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a group active in both Iraq and Syria. He did not name his sources on the grounds he wanted to protect them from reprisals.

The priest disappeared from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa on July 28. A website favoring the Syrian government previously reported that the priest had been executed, but neither the Vatican nor the Italian government could confirm the claim.

Fr. Dall’Oglio, 58, had been working to restore the Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian in northern Syria for over 30 years. In 2012 the Syrian government expelled him for his criticisms of President Bashar al-Assad and his government, but he regularly returned to rebel-controlled areas.

He last returned to the country to attempt to negotiate peace between Kurdish and Islamist groups, the news site Aleteia reports. He was abducted from the streets of Raqqa.

The Syrian National Coalition, a leading organization of groups opposed to the Syrian government, had called on activists to come forward with any information about the priest.

Since March 2011, over 110,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict and millions have fled their homes as refugees.

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