ASIA/SYRIA - The scourge of kidnappings, more than 1,700 in the Syrian conflict: appeal for an American reporter

Beirut (Agenzia Fides) - Austin Tice, American reporter kidnapped in Syria on August 13 and collaborator of the "Washington Post" and "McClatchy Newspapers" group, is one of the most famous victims, but the scourge of kidnapping in the Syrian conflict has currently caused at least 1,753 victims, nearly all civilians. Kidnappings are used by armed groups present in the galaxy of the Syrian opposition or by infiltrated groups, to obtain ransom, revenge, or exchange of prisoners. The American journalist Austin Tice, 31 years of age, comes from a Catholic family who arrived in Beirut today: his parents, Marc and Deborah Tice, devout Catholics, have launched an SOS and tell Fides that in the coming days they will launch an appeal to the kidnappers to the release Austin. In a video posted on youtube the journalist seems to be forcibly taken by Islamic militants shouting "Allah is great." Among other stories of kidnappings, reported to Fides, there is that of Fr.Naïm Garbi’s two brothers, Rector of the Greek-Catholic Seminary of Raboueh, who were kidnapped from their village of Dmeineh Sharkieh, near Qusayr, in June 2012. In the case of the seven Armenian Christians kidnapped by an armed group in recent days, while they were traveling by bus from Aleppo to Bierut (see Fides 6 and 8/11/2012), it seems that the kidnappers have demanded, in exchange for their release, the release of 150 among soldiers and militants of the Syrian opposition, captured by the regular army. According to the local committees of the "Mussalaha" ("Reconciliation") initiative - the popular movement that brings together dozens of Syrian families and tribes, of all religions - summing all the cases which have occurred in areas of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Daraa, Deir Ezzor, today the hostages are on the whole 1753, but new cases are continually being reported. The kidnapping of civilians "is a human drama that - say sources in the Church in Syria - should attract the attention of the international community." Civilians are exploited by armed groups or jihadist groups present on the ground (according to the latest estimates there seems to be more than 2,000 groups): Due to the fragmentation of these gangs, their heterogeneous origin and identity, of their full autonomy of work, unrest , banditry, and attempts to pollute the Syrian conflict with sectarianism and jihadism spreads. Some of the kidnappings, as in the case of Fr. Fadi Haddad (see Fides 25/10/2012), end up in a barbaric manner, with torture and beheading of the hostages. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 09/11/2012)