ISIS militants have kidnapped roughly 90 Christians in Syria, including women and children after overrunning forces along the banks of the Khabur River near the town of Tal Tamr in Hassakeh province.
According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS sacked several small villages in northeast Syria around dawn Monday, driving back opposing Kurdish fighters and abducting roughly 90 people.
Nuri Kino, the head of the religious minorities’ rights group A Demand For Action, said the militants took between 70 and 100 Assyrians captive. Kino also said that some 3,000 people have managed to escape the Islamic terror army, seeking refuge in the cities of Hassakeh and the provincial capital of Qamishli.
Both activist groups said that most of the captives come from the village of Tal Shamiram, located roughly 50 miles southwest of Qamishli. The families of those kidnapped have lost communication and are scrambling to learn the fate of their loved ones, including an Assyrian woman from Tal Shamiram who now lives in Beirut. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of endangering the lives of her relatives, said she has been trying to find out what has become of her parents, her brother and his wife and kids.
“Land lines have been cut, their mobiles are closed. Have they been slaughtered? Are they still alive? We’re searching for any news,” she said on the phone with the AP as her voice was cracking. “My family visited me last month and returned to Syria. There were clashes but it was normal, nothing exceptional. I feel so helpless, I cannot do anything for them but pray.”
ISIS claimed on their online radio station, al-Bayan, Tuesday that they had captured a large number of “crusaders” while seizing 10 villages around Tal Tamr. ISIS frequently refers to Christians as “crusaders,” though they were Kurdish forces in actual clashes with the group. Meanwhile, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported that ISIS overran seven villages during an attack on Monday.
The kidnappings come after ISIS militants in Libya released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, and an increase in violence in the area close to the Turkish and Iraqi border. Kurdish fighters from the YPG launched an offensive over the weekend, quickly seizing some 20 villages from the Islamic State.
The fighting continued through Tuesday, as the YPG has captured another 10 villages, the Observatory said.