Isis kidnaps 90 Christians in Syria, say activists

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Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Militants retreating from Kurdish attack seized 90 Assyrian Christians near Tal Tamr, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Egyptian Coptic Christian captured by Isis
A relative of one of the Egyptian Coptic Christians captured by Isis with a banner calling for their release. It is believed the men were beheaded. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
Tuesday 24 February 2015 09.49 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 24 February 2015 11.58 GMT

Islamic State militants have kidnapped 90 Christians in north-east Syria as the jihadis retreated in the face of a Kurdish counter-offensive, a monitoring group has said.

The YPG has launched a counter-offensive to retake Isis-held villages in the north-eastern Syrian countryside.

The rights monitoring group said its sources on the ground had overheard Isis militants on wireless radios refer to the captives as “crusaders”, the same term used by militants to describe the Egyptian Copts apparently killed in Libya.

Isis militants have often singled out Christians and minorities for persecution. Thousands of Christians fled Iraq’s Mosul and Nineveh after Isis’s lightning advance last summer, fleeing their ancestral homelands amid reports of forced conversions. Many took refuge in Kurdish-held territories or in Lebanon. The Isis rampage through Iraq’s Nineveh plains cleared Chaldean Christians and other minorities from areas in which they had co-existed for more than 2,000 years

The jihadi group was especially brutal towards the ancient Yazidi minority in Iraq, attempting to starve thousands who were stranded on Mount Sinjar, north-west of Mosul. It also sold many hundreds of Yazidi women into slavery and forced others to marry.

Coalition air strikes had earlier targeted Isis fighters near the Syrian Kurdish stronghold of Qamishli on the Turkish border.

More than 1,600 people, the vast majority of them from Isis, have been killed by the US-led coalition air strikes in Syria, according to SOHR. Many of the jihadi casualties took place in the Kurdish town of Kobani, on the Turkish border, where Isis estimates its losses to be at least 1,400.