Missing Jesuit still ‘held by rebels in Syria’

Nine months on, sources insist Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio

Sources in Syria have insisted that an Italian Jesuit priest missing for the last nine months is alive and in captivity.

According to rebels locally, Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio is still being held by the radical al Qaeda affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in territory controlled by the group, somewhere in the north of Syria.  The Jesuit, who had been resident in Syria for more than 30 years, had been on his way to meet members of another radical group, Jabhat al Nusra, when he was snatched from a street in the town of Raqqa on July 29, 2013. Since then, various groups and individuals have voiced their conviction that the priest remains alive.

On April 29, marking nine months since his disappearance, the family of Fr Dall’Oglio issued afresh appeal for his safe return. “We ask those who are holding Paolo captive to set him free so that he can return to his loved ones and we ask all institutions to continue working towards this,” they said in a statement.

The Italian government is reported to be working with contacts in Syria towards negotiating the Jesuit’s safe return.

Meanwhile, in separate reports from Syria last week ISIL announced that it had crucified two prisoners in retaliation for a grenade attack on its fighters.

Disturbing images have emerged on the internet of the two victims, showing them crucified in the centre of Raqqa.

Already disavowed by al Qaeda, which instructed ISIL to leave Syria, the group’s savagery in the country has already caused other rebel factions to turn their guns on fighters associated with it.