The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has abducted at least 150 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria they had raided, Christian Syrian activists said on Tuesday, according to Reuters news agency.
A Syrian Christian group representing several NGOs inside and outside the country said it had verified at least 150 people missing, including women and the elderly, who had been kidnapped by the militants.
“We have verified at least 150 people who have been abducted from sources on the ground,” Bassam Ishak, president of the Syrian National Council of Syria, whose family itself is from Hasaka, told Reuters from Amman.
Earlier the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 90 were abducted when the militants carried out dawn raids on rural villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority west of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.
The United States condemned the attacks in Hasaka and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the civilians taken captive.
“ISIS’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,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Psaki added that Syrians are also threatened by President Bashar al-Assad’s intensified bombings and air strikes in an “unrelenting campaign of terror.”
ISIS did not confirm the kidnappings. Supporters posted photos online of the group’s fighters in camouflage attire looking at maps and firing machine guns. The website said the photos were from Tel Tamr, a town near where the Observatory said the abductions occurred.
Many Assyrian Christians have emigrated in the nearly four-year-long conflict in which more than 200,000 have people have been killed. Before the arrival of Kurds and Arab nomadic tribes at the end of the 19th century, Christians formed the majority in Syria’s Jazeera area, which includes Hasaka.
A resident of Hasaka, jointly held by the Syrian government and the Kurds, said hundreds of families had arrived in recent days from surrounding Christian villages and Arab Bedouins were arriving from areas along the border.
“Families are coming to Hasaka seeking safety,” said Abdul Rahman al-Numai, a textile trader said by telephone.
Last year, ISIS fighters abducted several Assyrians in retaliation for some of them fighting alongside the YPG. Most were released after long negotiations.