Al Qaeda-linked rebels in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on Monday abducted a prominent Italian Jesuit priest who championed the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, activists told the Reuters news agency.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant kidnapped the priest, Paolo Dall'Oglio, while he was walking in the city which recently fell under the control of Islamist brigades, the sources said.
Syrian authorities expelled Dall'Oglio from the country last year after he helped victims of Assad's military crackdown from a monastery north of Damascus.
Over the past several weeks, a second civil war has begun brewing in war-ravaged Syria, between the more moderate, Western-backed rebel groups and the Islamist extremist groups.
The 13-member Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, which split off from the Syrian National Council opposition force, declared the northern commercial hub city of Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state months ago.
One of the jihadist groups, Al-Nusra Front, has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Members of Al-Nusra and other Syrian rebels groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
Earlier this month, Syrian rebels linked to Al-Qaeda killed a senior figure in the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Kamal Hamami, a member of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, known by his nom de guerre Abu Bassel al-Ladkani, was meeting with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the port city of Latakia when they killed him.