Abducted Orthodox priest found dead

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 Fadi Haddad was abducted and his body found north of Damascus. Rebel government sources are accusing each other

The lifeless body of a Syrian Orthodox priest (pope) was found this morning north of the city of Damascus, not far from the place where he had been abducted in recent days by an unidentified armed group. The news was reported by residents of Qatana, a northern suburb of Damascus. Fr. Fadi Haddad was parish priest of Church of Saint Elias in Qatana

Qatana’s inhabitants had reported the priest’s disappearance in recent days, accusing loyalist forces in the area and around the residential centre of abducting him, making the crime look as though it was committed by Muslim fundamentalists and “sparking a civil war among the local community

Other sources closet o the government in Damascus pointed the finger at armed groups who were close to the anti-regime rebels who had asked for a ransom in exchange for the release of Fr. Haddad. A statement released this morning by Qatana residents who support the anti-regime revolt read: “We condemn this horrible criminal act committed by Assad’s gangs who are not stopping in front of anything sacred

According to sources of Vatican news agency Fides, the abductors had asked the priest’s family and his church for a ransom of 50 million Syrian pounds (over 550 thousand Euros). This exorbitant sum, however, could not be gathered. One of Fides’ sources criticised “the terrible practice, present for months in this dirty war, of kidnapping and then killing innocent civilians

The Greek Orthodox community is the largest of the various Christian communities present in Syria (it has about 500 thousand faithful) and is concentrated mainly in the western part of the country and in Damascus

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