Armenians kidnapped near Aleppo

Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has confirmed reports that on October 29 ten passengers of a bus traveling from Beirut to Aleppo, among them seven Armenians, have been kidnapped.

Five of the Armenian passengers have been identified, said MFA spokesman Tigran Balayan. They are: Garo Pampalian, Arsen Aroyan, Levon Zeitounian, and father and son Bashar and George Rabat.

According to reports, armed men clad in black stopped the bus owned by Zeitouni Tours, an Armenian owned tour bus company half an hour before it was scheduled to reach Aleppo on Monday. They ordered women to leave the bus, after which they beat the remaining male passengers and took them away on a van.

Jirair Reisian, spokesperson for Aleppo’s Armenian Prelacy, said community leaders were working on securing the safe return of the kidnapped to Aleppo, writes the Armenian Weekly. Reisian also denied that the kidnappers have demanded ransom.

Earlier reports said the kidnappers demanded that the government release 150 prisoners within three days in exchange for the kidnapped, otherwise threatening to kill all of them.

Also on Monday an Armenian church was burned in Aleppo and several Syrian Armenians were feared killed or wounded in a bomb blast in capital Damascus.

About four dozen Syrian Armenians have reportedly been killed since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011. Hundreds of an estimated 80,000 Syrian Armenian, mostly concentrated in Aleppo, have taken refuge in Armenia since fighting between government and opposition forces reached the city last July.