A group of nuns from the historic Christian-majority town of Maalula in Syria appeared in a new video broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera today.
The women are reportedly 12 nuns from a Greek Orthodox convent of Mar Takla in Maalula who were taken by gunmen in early December. Al-Jazeera said the video it broadcast today was recorded on February 5.
They appeared in the recording without audio, but a commentator said "they say they are in good health, haven't been mistreated... and they are waiting for their release to return to the convent".
The report gave no indication of where the nuns were being held, but said that they were "Syrian and Lebanese" and had been "kidnapped".
In the footage, the nuns "thank all those who are seeking to obtain their release and call for the release of all prisoners", Al-Jazeera reported them as saying.
It said "the kidnappers are demanding the release of women held in Syrian prisons to set the nuns free", without elaborating.
On December 6, the station broadcast a short video of the nuns in which they denied they had been kidnapped.
They were reported missing from the town north of Damascus after militants , including jihadists, seized control of Maalula in early December.
Religious officials said 12 nuns and three maids had gone missing from the convent, although one of the nuns in the video said they were 13 nuns and 3 "civilians".
Maalula, a picturesque village cut into the cliffs some 55 kilometres from Damascus, has long been a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria. Its residents are some of the few left in the world who speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken.