Kidnapped Christian nuns arrive in Damascus

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A group of Christian nuns held by an al-Qaeda backed terrorist group in Syria has arrived in Damascus following a prisoner exchange deal between the government and rebel group.

The group of 13 Greek Orthodox nuns and three maids arrived in Damascus on Monday, as part of a swap deal in which Damascus freed more than 150 female prisoners in return.

Militants from the al-Nusra Front kidnapped the women from the Mar Takla Orthodox orphanage in the ancient town of Ma’loula north of Damascus on December 2, 2013.

The women’s whereabouts and conditions had been unknown for nearly three months,

The militants had given a list of demands to negotiators, including the release of all female prisoners in Syria’s jails.

The militants fighting against the Syrian government also attacked Ma’loula, which is regarded as a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria, last September. However, they have been pushed out of the town by the Syrian troops.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011.

According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

Some 1.8 million Christians reside in Syria, making up about 10 percent of the country’s population. The religious minority has been subjected to numerous attacks by extremist groups since the outbreak of violence in the country.