BEIRUT, April 23 (Reuters) - Western-backed Syrian rebels in the province of Aleppo denied on Tuesday that they had kidnapped two prominent Syrian archbishops but said they were working for their release and trying to find out who had taken them.
Colonel Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, head of the rebel military council in Aleppo, said in a statement that his group was "ready to negotiate with any entity, even if it is the regime (of President Bashar Assad), for their release".
The archbishops are the most senior church figures seemingly caught up in the fight between Assad's forces and rebels trying to end four decades of Assad family rule.
The conflict has killed more than 70,000 and sent a wave of fear across minority groups as rebels led by the Sunni Muslim majority gain ground in northern Syria. Many rebel units are joining Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front, which has allied itself to al-Qaida.