An armed group kidnapped two bishops in a village in Aleppo province in northern Syria, the state news agency SANA reported late on Monday.
“An armed terrorist group today kidnapped Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church [in Aleppo] and Bishop Boulos Yaziji, head of the Greek Orthodox church [in Aleppo] while they were on humanitarian operations in the village of Kafr Dael in Aleppo province,” the news agency said.
“Terrorists intercepted the bishops’ car in Kafr Dael village, took the driver out of the car and kidnapped the bishops,” it added.
Reached by AFP, sources in the Greek Orthodox diocese of Aleppo declined to comment on the incident.
Christian residents of Aleppo reached by AFP said Ibrahim set out in his car to pick up Yaziji from the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border, which is under rebel control.
The car was intercepted on the way back by gunmen who kidnapped the bishops and killed their driver, the residents said on condition of anonymity.
Kidnappings have become increasingly prevalent in Syria as law and order has broken down with the spread of the conflict between rebels and loyalist troops.
Activists and human rights groups say minority groups, including Christians, have been particularly vulnerable.
Christians account for about five percent of Syria’s population, and they have remained largely neutral or supportive of the regime since the outbreak of the uprising against the government in early 2011.
But the Syrian opposition also includes prominent Christian members, including George Sabra, a long-time dissident who was named interim head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition on Monday.