Banner Icon WAR IN SYRIA The kidnapping of nearly 100 Assyrian Christians by Islamic State militants in Syria has prompted terrified families to flee their homes, activists said, as Washington vowed to defeat the group.
Nearly 1,000 families have fled villages in the northeastern province of Hasakeh since Monday’s kidnappings, according to the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network.
About 800 of them have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and 150 in Qamishli, a Kurdish city on the Turkish border, the group said, adding that the number of displaced people came to about 5,000.
Most of the hostages were women, children or elderly.
The United States and United Nations condemned the mass abduction — the first of its kind in the war-torn country — and demanded the release of the hostages.
“ISIL’s latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, using another acronym for IS.
Her comments were echoed by US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
“The international community stands united and undeterred in its resolve to bring an end to ISIL’s depravity. The United States will continue to lead the fight to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”
The UN Security Council also condemned the abductions, demanding the hostages be immediately and unconditionally released.
Osama Edward, director of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, said he believed the abduction was linked to the jihadists’ recent loss of ground in the face of US-led air raids against IS that began in Syria in September.
“They took the hostages to use them as human shields,” he told AFP.
The jihadists, who are battling Kurdish fighters on the ground, may try to exchange the Assyrians for IS prisoners, he said.
Their aim was to take the Assyrian Christian village of Tal Tamer, near a bridge that links Syria to Iraq, he said.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish fighters recaptured three Assyrian villages and a nearby Arab village Wednesday.
“The (Kurdish) People’s Protection Units (YPG) have reclaimed Tal Shamiran, Tal Masri, Tal Hermel and Ghbeish,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
But fighting continues in the area, he added.
– ‘Brutal and inhumane’ –
In Tal Shamiran, the jihadists burned down part of a church.