1. ITV Report

Fears over fate of nuns missing from Syrian town

The statue of Christ that overlooks the road leading to Maaloula. Photo: ITV News

Fears are growing for the safety of a group of nuns thought to have been kidnapped by Islamist fighters in Syria's ancient Christian town of Maaloula.

Their order has been based in the town's convent of Saint Takla for centuries, but the building now lies in ruins.

Islamists claimed to have taken the nuns away from the town for their own safety, but some believe they are being held hostage.

ITV News Diplomatic Editor John Ray reports:

The town of Maaloula - nestled in mountains north-east of Damascus - has been the site of fierce fighting for months.

In September, a van carrying an ITV News crew including International Editor Bill Neely was fired upon as it approached the town.

Maaloula and the wider Christian community in Syria have strong associations with President Bashar al-Assad, who visited Saint Takla last year.

Fires burning in the convent of Saint Takla in Maaloula. Credit: ITV News

Prince Charles has expressed his own concerns about the plight of Christians living in Syria on a visit to the Syrian Orthodox cathedral in west London yesterday.

He said the situation has "reached a crisis where bridges [between Christianity and Islam] are rapidly being deliberately destroyed".

The head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Britain, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod, has also described a "dangerous situation" with Syrians being killed, kidnapped and displaced.