Family: Italian priest missing in Syria since 2013 may still be alive



ROME, Alvise Armellini (dpa)- An Italian Catholic priest may still be alive six years after he went missing in Syria, his family said on Monday.
Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit missionary who was considered one of the most influential voices on Syria within the Catholic Church, disappeared in al-Raqqa, a former Islamic State stronghold, on July 29, 2013.




"It's been six years that we haven't been able to know what happened to him," his sister Francesca said in a press conference in Rome marking the anniversary of the disappearance.
Recalling cases of people found alive after several years of captivity in the Middle East, she said that her family had not given up hope.
"The silence [on what happened] does not necessarily mean that he is dead, he may still be alive," she said. "At home we have a place where Paolo will find all his things, when he returns," she added.
Dall'Oglio, 64, lived in Syria for decades, running a centre for Muslim-Christian relations. At the outbreak of Syria's civil war, he sided against President Bashar al-Assad.
That got him expelled from the country in June 2012. He returned a few months later, and it is understood that he went to al-Raqqa to meet Islamist militias and negotiate the release of some hostages.
Dall'Oglio is one of tens of thousands of people who vanished in the Syrian conflict, which has been raging since March 2011, as a result of abductions or arbitrary killings.
Pro-Assad forces are responsible for "about 60,000" missing cases, and Islamist militias for "several thousand" more, Riccardo Noury, spokesman of Amnesty International Italy, said in Rome on Monday.
Last week, the US Department of State offered a reward of up to 5 million dollars for information on Dall'Oglio and four other Christian priests who disappeared in Syria earlier in 2013.
The US move is "something that rekindles some hope" because the money may help "tear down the wall of silence" on the case, Dall'Oglio's sister said.
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Tuesday, July 30th 2019
dpa
           


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