Al Qaeda-linked fighters in a rebel-held eastern Syrian city on Monday abducted a prominent Italian Jesuit priest who championed the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant kidnapped father Paolo Dall’Oglio while he was walking in Raqqa, which fell to militant Islamist brigades in March, the sources in Raqqa province told Reuters.
Syrian authorities expelled Dall’Oglio from the country last year for helping victims of Assad’s military crackdown while he served at a sixth-century monastery in the Anti-Lebanon mountains north of Damascus.
This attack was executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But it isn’t the first reported instance of an al Qaeda affiliate targeting priests in Syria.
The Vatican previously confirmed that a Syrian priest, Francois Murad, was kidnapped by fighters “linked” to the Al Nusrah Front on June 23 and killed, though the “circumstances of the death are not fully understood.” A video surfaced, however, purportedly showing this priest being beheaded. [See LWJ report, Syrian jihadists behead Catholic priest, 2 others.] Subsequently, there were conflicting reports that the man being beheaded was “another cleric,” and Murad was instead shot to death.
In any event, al Qaeda’s affiliates are targeting priests in Syria.