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Fierce fighting underway near Christian shrine north of Damascus

September 05, 2013, 17:34 UTC+3
Groups of militants have forced their way to the gorge surrounding the monastery in Maaloula
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Photo flickr.com/upyernoz

Photo flickr.com/upyernoz

CAIRO, September 5 (Itar-Tass) - Fierce fighting is underway in the Christian area of Syria - Maaloula - where the Monastery of Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Thekla (disciple of Apostle Paul) is located.

According to the Al-Mayadeen television channel, groups of militants have forced their way to the gorge surrounding the monastery and the nearby town (about 70 kilometers north of Damascus). Hundreds of militants are involved in the attack.

As witnesses have told ITAR-TASS over the telephone, the attack began after terrorists from the group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant blew up a car bomb near a military roadblock at the entrance to the gorge.

“Syrian troops are trying to beat back the attack. Fierce fire exchanges are in progress," witnesses said. The military command has moved reinforcements to Maaloula.

Mother Superior Pelagea said that two mortar shells had exploded on the premises of the convent, causing material damage.

The militants have defiled and looted a nearby monastery and set fire to the Church of the Prophet St. Elijah.

Maaloula is regarded as a unique place in the Middle East. Its residents still use the Western dialect of the Aramaic language that was spoken by Jesus Christ and the apostles.

 

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