A $4 million ransom was reportedly paid to the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front for the release of 13 Greek Orthodox nuns that were held by the rebel group for four months, Lebanese media reported on Monday.
In addition to that, some 150 imprisoned Syrian women were to be released in exchange for the nuns from Syrian government jails, along with three other women were taken from their convent in the Christian-dominated town of Maaloula during clashes in December.
The nuns’ release was reportedly delayed because the kidnappers added further conditions before agreeing to hand over the hostages.
They were released early Monday in a rare deal between the Syrian government and rebels of the Nusra Front, mediated by the Gulf country of Qatar, traditionally a rebel supporter.
The freed nuns arrived in Damascus on Monday morning, where they received a warm welcome at the Church of the Cross in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Qassaa, official news agency SANA reported.
“All of Syria is happy today (for their return),” Bishop Luka al Khoury told Reuters. “These are women who do nothing but pray…They don’t have weapons or bombs. On the contrary, they pray for people to be safe and secure.”