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Funeral for Christians abducted four years ago

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(25 Apr 2017) LEADIN:A funeral for five Christian men killed by al-Qaida-linked militants has been held in Damascus.The victims were abducted around four years ago but their bodies were only recently discovered.STORYLINE:The bells toll at Zaitoun Church. Their sombre chimes are for the funeral of five Christians who were kidnapped four years ago by al-Qaida-linked militants. The men were taken from the ancient Christian town of Maaloula by al-Qaida-linked militants. Their bodies were only recently discovered by the Lebanese army in a remote area near the Lebanese-Syrian border.Today, their relatives are joined by both Muslim and Christian clergy for the funeral mass."We gather today to pray for our honoured martyrs, who watered the soil of Syria with their blood. We thought they were lost before their bodies appeared," says priest Antoine Yazeji.Photographs of the dead are carried by weeping relatives through the streets of Old Damascus.One relative says the men were killed due to foreign religious extremists entering Syria."We do not blame the stranger who came to our country, but those citizens who adopted such ideologies," he says.The men's coffins would later be taken to St. George's Church in Maaoula for burial in the village. The Christian village, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of Damascus, has changed hands several times during the Syrian civil war. The historic churches were pillaged by jihadi militants from the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's branch in Syria, who overran the town in 2013. Many were kidnapped. Ancient icons were stolen. The jihadis also abducted the local nuns, who were later freed for ransom.The government recaptured it from militants in early 2014 in an important propaganda victory for President Bashar Assad's government in its quest to be seen as a protector of religious minorities.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4093180 35fa366e79e9008ade1595448c0e32c0 MEEX Syria Christian Funerals Bashar Assad Damascus Syria Middle East General news Social affairs
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