ARSEL, Lebanon, March 10 (UPI) -- Thirteen Greek Orthodox nuns held by Syrian rebels since December were released as part of a prisoner exchange, officials said.
The nuns, along with three secular helpers, were released Sunday in exchange for the Syrian government's release of more than 150 Syrian female prisoners, the (Beirut) Daily Star reported.
The exchange followed mediation by Lebanese and Qatari officials, ending the sisters' months-long ordeal that garnered sympathy around the globe.
Officers from Lebanon's General Security took custody of the nuns near Arsel, a town in northeastern Lebanon.
"Congratulations. The nuns are now in the custody of General Security and are on their way to Jdaidet Yabouss," Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, head of general security, said during a news conference Sunday in Jdaidet Yabouss, a Syrian village near the Lebanese border.
The nuns, who are mostly Syrian and Lebanese nationals, along with their three helpers, were working for an orphanage of Mar Takla convent in Maaloula, 40 miles northeast of Damascus, Christian Today reported. They were snatched by the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate operating in Syria, which said it was trying to protect the women from government shelling.
Pelagia Sayaf, the mother superior of the Maaloula convent, told media the nuns were treated well.