According to a report published in al-Akhbar newspaper on Saturday, the two bishops are “in good health” and are currently detained in the region of Tal Abyad, which is located in north of Raqqa governorate, near the Turkish border. The two bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, were kidnapped at the end of April, reportedly near the rebel-held town of Kafr Dael, near Aleppo in northern Syria. The al-Qaida-affiliated Asbat al-Ansar is allegedly the group behind the abduction of the two bishops.
The newspaper said that Asbat al-Ansar, which was loyal to al-Nusra Front, became discreetly loyal to ISIL. The kidnappers reportedly didn’t realize the fuss that the abduction operation would create, prompting them to ask ISIL leadership for assistance. The ISIL group then was handed over the two bishops and moved them to al-Raqqa. No group has officially claimed responsibility for their kidnap, but sources close to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Syrian authorities have claimed the kidnappers were “Chechen jihadists”. Christians constitute some five percent of Syria’s population, a patchwork of religious and ethnic groups. Rights groups say Christians are especially vulnerable in the chaos that has engulfed Syria ever since the outbreak of a conflict in March 2011, which has so far killed some 90,000 people.