Aleppo, Syria, January 16, 2020
Two Syrian bishops, Boulos Yazigi, Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Alexandretta and brother of Orthodox Patriarch John X, and Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo were kidnapped by Muslim rebels in the vicinity of Aleppo on April 22, 2013.
Since that time, their whereabouts and condition remain shrouded in mystery, though there have been occasional reports that they are alive. For example, in October 2016 they were reportedly in Raqqa, occupied by the Daesh militant group, though earlier there had been reports of their execution.
According to a new investigation led by Mansur Salib, a Syrian researcher in the United States, the two hierarchs were killed in December 2016, reports Agenzia Fides.
Metropolitans Boulos and Gregorios were reportedly killed by militants of Nour al-Din al-Zenki, an independent group involved in the Syrian conflict, which was financed and armed by both Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
According to Agenzia Fides:
The investigation traces the story, focusing on details considered useful to reconstruct its dynamics. According to the authors, on April 22, 2013 the two Archbishops had left Aleppo aboard a Toyota pick-up truck, driven by Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, with the intention of going to deal with the release of two priests, Armenian Catholic Michael Kayyal and Greek Orthodox Maher Mahfouz, previously kidnapped by anti-Assad jihadist groups who then controlled the territories east of the Syrian metropolis. Mar Gregorios and Boulos Yazigi, dressed in civilian clothes, fell into what the reconstruction presents as a real trap. The car in which the two metropolitans of Aleppo were traveling was blocked by the group of kidnappers, and the driver Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, a Latin-rite Catholic, father of three children, was shot dead in the head. The kidnapping was not claimed by any group.
The investigation, published on medium.com, also suggests the involvement of people linked to the Turkish Intelligence Service. “The hypothesis that the perpetrators of the kidnapping aimed to force the two metropolitans to convert to Islam, to fuel fears and despair among the local Christian communities, is also highlighted,” Agenzia Fides reports.
The report also notes that false and misleading information about the hierarchs has been repeatedly issued over the years. Negotiations were reportedly underway for the release of the Syriac hierarch in March of this year, though the entire story continues to be shrouded in mystery.
Agenzia Fides continues:
The most relevant witness among those mentioned in the report seems to be Yassir Muhdi, presented as one of the jailers of the two bishops, who was later captured by Syrian forces. “The official investigation” acknowledges the dossier “is not yet complete, because it was not possible to find the mortal remains of the two ecclesiastics.” Among other things, the reconstruction claims - by presenting blurred clues or by aggregating information without objective evidence - that the two Archbishops were tortured, and that one of them, in 2015, was in a health facility in Antioch, the Antakya Devlet Hastanesi, in the Turkish province of Hatay. In the final section, the investigation claims that the two bishops were allegedly killed and buried in an unspecified place in December 2016, while areas east of Aleppo were about to be recaptured by the Syrian army.