Two Syria-based activist groups confirm Assyrian hostages seized ancient Christian villages from northeastern Syria by Islamic State jihadists
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants have abducted at least 90 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, two monitor groups that track violence in Syria said on Tuesday.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the abductions took place after dawn raids in villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near the town of Tel Hmar, a mainly Assyrian town, in the western countryside of the city of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.
The latest offensive coincides with a push by Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border since Sunday that had compounded losses for the militant group in Syria.
Nuri Kino, the head of a separate activist group A Demand For Action that focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East, said Isil fighters are holding between 70 and 100 captive, most of them from the Christian Assyrian village of Tal Shamiram.
Kino said on Tuesday his group based its information on conversations with villagers who fled the onslaught and their relatives.
Tal Shamiram is located some 50 miles southwest of the Hassakeh provincial capital of Qamishli. Isil overran Tal Shamiram and other nearby Assyrian villages on Monday.
On Monday night, Christian groups had said they were checking a report that up to 200 civilians had been kidnapped by Isil jihadists in the fighting and were being held as hostages.
A number of fighters from a Christian militia, the Syriac Military Council, were also said to be missing.
The council, known by the initials MFS from its title in Aramaic, the ancient language of the Christian church, was founded in 2013 as jihadists began to dominate more of northern Syria.
It is allied to the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia involved in the defence of the town of Kobane, and on Sunday joined it in a drive against Isil in the north-eastern province of Hassakeh.
On Sunday night, it claimed to have driven the jihadists out of 22 villages, including a string of settlements occupied by the Assyrian Catholic minority between Hassakeh town and the Turkish border.
However, on Monday morning, Isil struck back, fighting its way into Tel Hormizd, nearby Tel Shamiran and Tel Tawil, and several other villages, according to a statement. According to one report, the Isil fighters were led by the infamous Chechen jihadist Omar al-Shishani.
A separate statement issued on the Facebook page of a group set up to campaign for Christians under threat from Isil said a large number of Christians had been seized by the group in yesterday morning’s attack.
“The men were later brought to a mountain called Abd al Aziz to be held as hostages,” it said. “The women and children were left in the village with Isil guards controlling them.
Edited by Andrew Marszal – The telegraph