Christians flee villages after Syria kidnappings

The kidnapping of dozens of Assyrian Christians by the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria has prompted an exodus of terrified families fleeing their homes, activists say.

The United States condemned the mass abduction of Christians — the first of its kind in the war-torn country — and demanded the release of the 90 hostages.

Nearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their villages in the northeastern province of Hasakeh since Monday’s kidnappings, says Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network.

About 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and 150 in Qamishli, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey, Edward says.

Most of the hostages were women, children or elderly, he added.

Edward tells AFP he believed the mass abduction was linked to the jihadists’ recent loss of ground in the face of US-led coalition air raids against IS that began in Syria in September.

“IS has been losing territory because of the international coalition’s strikes and they took the hostages to use them as human shields,” the activist says.

The jihadists, who are battling Kurdish fighters on the ground, may try to exchange the Assyrian Christians for IS prisoners, according to Edward.

He says the aim of the jihadists is to take over the Assyrian Christian village of Tal Tamer, which is located near a bridge over the Khabur river that links Syria to Iraq.

An Iraqi works on a temporary mosaic of Christian symbols made from the area's produce, including wheat, beans and lentils to commemorate an upcoming harvest feast, at the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary of the Harvest, in Alqosh,  June 15, 2014. (photo credit: AP)
An Iraqi works on a temporary mosaic of Christian symbols made from the area’s produce, including wheat, beans and lentils to commemorate an upcoming harvest feast, at the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary of the Harvest, in Alqosh, June 15, 2014. (photo credit: AP)

—  AFP

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