Fr Antoine Boutros and his driver have not been seen since July 12

Fears are growing that a Melkite Greek Catholic priest has been kidnapped in Syria, according to Fides news agency.

Fr Antoine Boutros, pastor of a parish in the city of Shahba, and Al-Said Abdun, who was driving him, have not been seen since July 12, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights first reported. Fr Boutros was said to be on his way to celebrate Sunday Mass in the nearby town of Sama Hinadat but never arrived.

The exact circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the two men is not known, but reports suggest that they may have been taken by a criminal gang or jihadists operating in the area.

Fr Boutros, 50, is pastor of the Church of St Philip the Apostle in the Syrian city south-east of Shahba. He is known for co-ordinating a number of humanitarian initiatives in the Syrian province of Suwayda.

Last week in Syria, an Iraqi priest, Fr Dhiya Azziz, was released after being abducted on July 4. That kidnapping was suspected to have been carried out by Al-Nusra Jabhat, although the Islamist group denied responsibility.

BLOG: The desperate search for Syria’s kidnapped clergy, by Ed West