Conflicting reports suggest demands for ransom, negotiations
Aleteia partner Aid to the Church in Need is reporting that some of the Assyrian Christians taken hostage by the Islamic State group last week have been released but that the fate of hundreds of others may depend on a Sharia court.
Quoting the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ACN said 19 captives have been released—18 were from the village of Tel Goran, one of the Assyrian Christian villages in Hassake governorate taken over by the Islamist group February 23. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) has photos of the released captives after they arrived at St. Mary’s Church in the town of Hassakah.
AINA says ISIS is still holding six-year-old Mariana Mirza. Her aunt on her father’s side has stayed behind with the girl, even though she had been granted her freedom. Mariana’s father, Abdo Mirza, was given a letter guaranteeing safe passage by the Islamic State and told to bring a ransom for his daughter’s release.
There are conflicting reports about the release of the hostages. AINA says their release followed three days of negotiations mediated by local Arab tribal leaders. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, says the release followed an Islamic State court order that 29 hostages be set free. ACN’s contact in the region, Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, said that different sources reported a number of hostages had been taken to Mount Abdul Aziz, an area controlled by ISIS. He also said that a Sharia court in the town of Shadadi (about 40 miles south of Hassakah) is hearing the hostages’ cases according to Shari’a law.
There is also dispute about reports last week that the Islamic State killed at least 15 Assyrian Christian hostages who were defending their villages. “I contacted the vicar of the Chaldeans in Al Hassake, Fr Nidala. He told me that reports about Christians being killed [are] not true,” Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo said.
Finally, ACN says the number of captives from Tel Shamiran are now said to be only 155 people, lower than previously believed, bringing the total number of captives to around 290.