Kidnapped Assyrian Christians: Four more hostages released by Islamic State

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Carey Lodge
A church in the Assyrian village of Abu Tina, which was among those captured by Islamic State fighters last week.
Four more Assyrian Christian hostages being held by Islamic State have been released, a week after being abducted in the Khabour region of Syria.
Assyrian TV reported that a married couple, a woman and her 6-year-old daughter were released on Tuesday. The circumstances under which they have been released are as yet unknown.

The mother and daughter were from Tel Goran, a village from which 19 hostages – 17 men and two women – were released on Sunday. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR] said Islamic State released the captives after processing them through a sharia court.

The married couple were from nearby village Tel Shamiran, where 72 women and children were abducted along with an unknown number of men last week.

IS jihadists undertook dawn raids in a number of villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near Tel Hmar, south of the Khabour river, on 23 February. Further attacks bought the number of villages targeted to 35, forcing around 3,000 to flee.

Estimates vary as to how many were abducted in the attacks. SOHR has calculated 220, while the Assyrian Network for Human Rights claimed that as many as 250 people were taken. Several churches were also destroyed.

At a press conference yesterday, spokesman for the European Syrian Union, David Vergili, said vulnerable minority groups are enduring endless suffering in the region.

“There is ongoing genocide, killings and abductions against native people of [the] Middle East,” he said.

“We, as Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people, commemorate the centennial of Sayfo 1915 against us under the Ottoman-Turkish rule. Today, 100 years later, we face the same threat that can be the final step to end our existence in the homeland.

“As citizens of European countries, it is within our rights to ask for European and international support to our people in the Middle East. We do not have time to lose. There are new dynamics and actors in the region, and the international community also needs a new approach in order to stop this total collapse.”

Jeff Gardner, spokesperson for Restore Ninevah Now Initiative, a group working for the protection and relief of Assyrian Christians, said: “We are absolutely appalled, but not surprised, by the actions of the Islamic State. They continue to do what they do – terrorize, murder, and pillage.”