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Islamic State Kidnaps Scores of Christians in New Military Assault in Syria

AP

John Burger - published on 02/24/15

Action comes as Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes continue to advance.

The  BBC and other media are reporting that the Islamic State group has abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in northeastern Syria.

Quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the BBC said that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.



Some Assyrians managed to escape and made their way east to the largely Kurdish-controlled city of Hassakeh.


It comes as Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes continue to advance into IS-held territory.

On Monday, a Kurdish official said IS militants had been forced back to within 5km (3 miles) of the town of Tal Hamis by the Popular Protection Units (YPG).

The Syrian Observatory confirmed the advance by the YPG and said at least 12 IS fighters had been killed on Monday.

According to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Mar Aprim Athniel of the Assyrian Church of the East reported that the local church and community hall are overloaded with people and that Church officials are now sending people to families in Hassake city.”



Reportedly, more than 100 local residents have been captured by ISIS and many others were trapped in their villages as the fighters advanced. At least two villages—Tal Shamiran and Tal Hermiz—were still surrounded by ISIS as of last night. The churches in both villages have already been torched.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who heads a Christian aid program (CIPNA) in Dohuk, Iraq, told ACN, “The fight started Monday early morning Syrian time when ISIS opened a 425-mile long battle front from Tel Shamiram to Tel Hormizd. ISIS took advantage of [the fact that the] PYD (Democratic Union Kurdish Party) [had] been fighting in other places—mainly the Syrian-Iraqi borders. So, there was less resistance to confront the attackers.”

Father Youkhana reported that,” in general, ISIS was supported by Arab Sunni neighboring villages,” but added that “Arab Sunni villagers nearby Assyrian village of Qaber Shamiat rescued 15 Assyrians (13 males and two females) who are protected by them and are expected to be guided and transported to Hassake City.”

“There are no firm figures as to the numbers of the Christian families affected, but more than 600 families managed to flee. Most of them are in Hasseke and around 200 in Qamishly,” the cleric said.

Archimandrite Youkhana said that 50 families in Tel Shamiran, 26 families in Tel Gouran, 28 families in Tel Jezira, and 14 young people (12 male youth and two young women) who were defending Tel Hormiz had been seized by ISIS militants, who have separated the men from the women and children. He added: “Knowing the brutal barbaric record of ISIS with the captured, the destiny of those families is a major concern to us.”

However, said Father Youkhana, as of today, “with Kurdish troops joining the fight from other places—aided by Syrian army air strikes—it is believed that there will be no further ISIS advances.” There are a total of 35 Assyrian villages along the Khabur River.

Hassakeh province is strategically important in the fight against the Islamic State because it borders both Turkey and areas controlled by the group in Iraq, according to the BBC report.

Aid to the Church in Need contributed to this report.

Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastIslamist MilitantsSyria
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