BEIRUT - A Syrian rebel group calling itself "Free Qalamoun" has claimed the kidnapping of 12 nuns and said it wants to trade them for a thousand female detainees held by the government, a pan-Arab newspaper reported on Friday.

Rebel spokesman Mohannad Abu al-Fidaa told Asharq al-Awsat that the nuns were safe but "will not be released until several demands have been implemented, most importantly, the release of 1,000 Syrian women held in regime prisons".

Reuters could not independently confirm the report.

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