Shahba (Agenzia Fides) - Since last Sunday no one is able to get in contact with Greek-Melkite priest Antoine Boutros and with Al-Said Abdun, who was driving him from the city of Shahba to Sama Hinadat, where father Antoine was supposed to celebrate Sunday Mass. The news of their disappearance was released by Assyrian organizations, commited to human rights. The circumstances and the reasons for their disappearance remain unknown, but sources consulted by Agenzia Fides believe that the two were abducted by a gang of criminals or jihadist formations operating in the area.
Father Antoine Boutros, 50, pastor of the Church of St. Philip the Apostle in the Syrian city south-east of Shahba (50 miles south-east of Damascus), is also known for his charitable and humanitarian initiatives he coordinated in the Syrian province of Suwayda.
On July 4, in the village of Yacoubieh (Idlib province, district of Jisr al-Chougour) father Dhiya Azziz, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land was kidnapped (see Fides 07/07/2015). At first the kidnapping was attributed to the jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra Front group, but then that faction had denied any involvement in the kidnapping of the priest, who instead fell victim to one of the many militia groups that infest the region and carry out kidnappings for ransom. Father Dhiya was then released on 10 July. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 16/07/2015)