Syrian Rebels Seize Control of Christian Village

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Syrian rebels have reportedly taken control of an historic Christian village near Damascus.

On Saturday, rebel forces led by al Qaeda-linked jihadists reportedly captured the Christian village of Maaloula, situated in the mountains just north of Damascus. It's home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in the country.

The village is also known as one of the few places in the world where residents still speak Aramaic, which some scholars say is the language Jesus spoke.

Witness say Islamists burned churches and attacked homes, forcing hundreds of Syrian Christians to flee.

Rebel forces reportedly entered the village last Wednesday after breaking through government roadblocks.

On Saturday, President Bashar al-Assad's troops entered Maaloula and battled rebel forces, "but they left when rebels started pouring into the village," Britain's The Independent quoted a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to the spokesman, about 1,500 members of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Qalamon Liberation Front are in the village.

"The army pulled back to the outskirts of the village and both [rebel groups] are in total control of Maaloula now," he said.

Christians fear more such attacks if Islamist forces take over Syria.

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