Thirteen nuns and three workers kidnapped in late November from a Greek Orthodox monastery in Syria were freed Sunday, a pro-Syrian government news network and Lebanese state media reported.
A convoy of around 30 vehicles picked up the nuns and workers in one part of Syria and took them into Lebanon, the country's National News Agency reported late Sunday. The convoy traveled through Lebanon to another border crossing into Syria, the hillside village of Jdaidet Yabous. There, the group will be met by Greek Orthodox church officials, who will welcome them back into Syria, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
The convoy was at one point delayed several hours for "logistical reasons" but later resumed en route to Jdaidet Yabous, Public Security Director Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told NNA.
When they did arrive overnight, the nuns - some smiling, some solemn and at least one of whom appeared to be being carried - were mobbed by an enthusiastic crowd that included church officials.
Ibrahim said that no money was paid to secure the release of the nuns, adding that it was part of a deal in exchange for 150 females that the Syrian government was holding.
Qatari intelligence chief Saadeh Kobeisi reportedly crossed deep into Syrian territory to obtain the release of the Syrian nuns. He crossed into Syria as part of a Lebanese Internal Security delegation, the state news agency said.
Senior Orthodox Bishop Lucas al-Khoury earlier Sunday spoke to pro-Syrian government Ikhbariya television. He stood on the Syrian side of the border hoping to greet the nuns and said the negotiations for their release took several months because the kidnappers "made false requests intended to stall the process."
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