DAMASCUS (AP) — Syrian Christians offered prayers Sunday for a group of more than a dozen nuns and orphanage workers held by rebels for nearly a week, fueling fears in the minority community that they are being targeted by extremists among the fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.
The seizure of the 12 Greek Orthodox nuns and at least three other women is the latest attack to spark panic among Syria’s Christians over the strength of al-Qaida-linked militants and other Islamic radicals in the nearly 3-year-old revolt against Assad’s government. A priest and two bishops previously kidnapped by rebels remain missing, and extremists are accused of vandalizing churches in areas they have captured.
Rebels seized the nuns on Monday from the Greek Orthodox Mar Takla convent when fighters overran Maaloula, a mainly Christian village north of Damascus that lies on a key highway and has changed hands several times in fierce fighting between rebels and government forces. The group, along with three women — themselves orphans — who work in the convent’s orphanage were taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.
The eldest of the nuns is nearly 90 years old, and the youngest of the orphanage workers is in her mid-teens, according to Mother Superior Febronia Nabhan, head of the Saidnaya Convent.
CAIRO (AP) – Al-Qaida‘s leader on Friday marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by calling on Muslims to strike inside the United States, with big attacks or small, using any opportunity they can to “bleed” America financially.
In an audio message released two days after the 12th anniversary of the attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri said America is not a “mythic power” and that the mujahedeen – Islamic holy warriors – can defeat it with attacks “on its own soil.”
Al-Zawahri, the successor to Osama bin Laden, used the anniversary to argue that the United States can be defeated by targeting its economy. At the same time, he also addressed the ongoing upheaval in the Arab world. Pointing to a power struggle going on within the rebellion against Syria’s regime, he warned jihadi fighters in that country’s civil war not “compromise” with more secular or moderate rebel factions, who he said would eventually turn against the al-Qaida-linked radicals.
The message’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a militant website commonly used by al-Qaida.
Seal of the United States Department of State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WASHINGTON – The United States issued a global travel alert today, citing an al-Qaida threat that also caused the State Department to close 21 embassies and consulates this weekend in the Muslim world.
The State Department warned American citizens of the potential for terrorism particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, with a possible attack occurring or coming from the Arabian Peninsula.
“Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the statement said.
It urged American travelers to take extra precautions when traveling overseas and suggested they sign up for State Department alerts and register with U.S. consulates in the countries they are visiting.