A Syrian city overrun by the Muslim Brotherhood was the scene of the execution of three Christian men who refused to convert to Islam, according to reports.

The Catholic young men were killed by rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad after they had taken control of the village of Maaloula, confirmed Todd Daniels, a spokesman for the American human rights group International Christian Concern.

“Based on the statement from the Melkite patriarch, these men were martyred because they refused to recant their faith,” Daniels said.

Also, 12 nuns were kidnapped at about the same time. They were identified as Mother Superior Pelagia Sayyaf and 11 nuns with her.

“There are serious concerns for the safety of these women based on the treatment of women throughout this conflict,” Daniels said.

He said a number of church leaders have been kidnapped and abused.

“We’ve seen repeated instances of the direct targeting of Christians by the rebel groups,” he said.

The violence comes amid U.S. support for the Islamic rebels in Syria. Many are tied to al-Qaida and have declared their intent to establish Islamic law the country.

International Christian Union President Joseph Hakim said the rebels forced their way into a monastery to take the nuns hostage.

He blames the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Free Syrian Army is powerless,” he said, noting the Muslim Brotherhood is starting to take a leading role.

“They’ve used the honest Syrian people who really want democratic rule and used them to open the door,” Hakim said.

“The entire terrorist movement is financed by the Saudi government and the Turkish government,” Hakim said. “Let’s be honest, how can the rebels have that much money?”

He called the name Free Syrian Army “cosmetic,” explaining that it amounts to the Muslim Brotherhood taking control.

Neither the Saudi nor Turkish governments responded to WND’s request for comment.

Dutch human rights activist Martin Janssen said that when fighting broke out in Maaloula, the nuns remained behind to care for the children in the monastery.

“A number of religious sisters from Maaloula remained in the monastery of St. Thecla, because a large group of orphans were there and they didn’t want to disappoint the children,” Janssen said.

“The jihadists forced their way into the monastery and demanded that the 12 nuns had to go if they wanted to save the lives of the children with them,” he said. “So the sisters were abducted and media reports say they are in Yabrud.”

Daniels noted the latest executions and kidnappings are only two acts of violence in a broader conflict.

“The situation in Syria more broadly is scary for Christians. You have both sides in the conflict guilty of what could be clearly classified as war crimes. The reality in many cases is that the desire to create an extremist Islamist state increasingly appears to be a place where Syrian Christians would be unable to live,” Daniels said.

“If this is the case, we may be witnessing the final days for Christians in a land they have lived in for nearly 2,000 years,” Daniels said.

Hakim echoed Daniels’ assessment that the Syrian civil war is only one part of a much broader power play by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“There’s a Christian cleansing going on over the entire Middle East. Unless we really connect the entire picture together, the full cleansing situation cannot be understood,” Hakim said.

“It started in Lebanon, now it’s in Egypt and then Syria. It seems there’s an entire cleansing of the Christian community,” he said.

Hakim said that the U.S. government is wrong to say the Christian victims of the Middle East conflicts are simply “casualties.”

“We should never allow the Christians to be casualties of war. Why is the U. S. allowing the Christian communities to suffer and become casualties of war?” Hakim said. “They would never say people killed in violence in Arizona or in New York are casualties of war, so why do they say Christians are simply casualties of war?”

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