Italian priest kidnapped in Syria

Italian priest kidnapped in Syria
Paolo Dall'Oglio, who lived in Syria for 30 years, is thought to have been kidnapped. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP
An Italian Jesuit priest who was thrown out of Syria by President Bashar al-Assad has been kidnapped after re-entering the country, according to media reports on Tuesday.

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio was walking in the rebel-held city of Raqqa in the east of Syria when he was abducted by a group linked to al-Qaeda, Reuters reported.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were angered by the priest’s criticism of violence against Kurds on the Turkish border, Reuters said.

On Monday night Kristyan Benedict, a campaign manager for Amnesty International, said a source had informed him that the priest was safe. The priest would update his Facebook page within 30 minutes, Benedict said on Twitter, although no news has been posted to date.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Local it was currently looking into the reported kidnapping.

Dall’Oglio was expelled from Syria by the Assad regime in June 2012 after holding a memorial service for an opposition activist. It is not known when he re-entered the country, although a number of people have been smuggled across the Lebanese border in recent months.

The priest is also known to be an outspoken critic of the regime and its reaction to the two-year uprising, which has left 100,000 people dead.

“How can we stay silent? We are in solidarity with the repression, not only because we don’t denounce the repression, but also because we negate there is repression,” he told The New York Times after being kicked out of the country.

In December he was awarded a peace prize by the region of Lombardy for his efforts to foster dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Syria.

Dall’Oglio lived in Syria for more than 30 years and is widely praised for his efforts to restore the Deir Mar Musa monastery north of Damascus.

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