Since his abduction in Syria on Dec. 23 there is no news about the fate of Fr. Dhiya Azziz, a Franciscan of Iraqi origins, parish priest of Yacoubieh in Syria. A Dec 26 statement by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land said that "all traces of the religious were lost on the morning of December 23 last" when he left Lattakia on board a taxi heading for Yacoubieh, via Hama. The 41-year old priest was on his way back to his parish for Christmas with his faithful, after a brief trip to Turkey to visit his family, that had taken refuge across the Turkish border after the arrival of the Islamic State (IS) rebels in Karakosh, in Iraq, his homeland. Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land told Vatican Radio there have been no updates on the 41-year old priest since Christmas Eve. He said perhaps some army or rebel group have abducted him, and “God forbid he is killed”.
Extremist groups or criminal gangs are suspected to be behind kidnapping, who use ransom money to fuel their terrorist network. Fr. Pizzaballa appealed to anyone who has information on the case to come forward, so they can try and salvage Fr. Azziz and his fellow travellers.