Aleppo (AsiaNews) - "Reports that Islamic State militias killed at least 15 Assyrian Christian Syrians are not true," said Mgr Antoine Audo, Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo. His denial comes after several international media this afternoon reported that jihadists had begun executing hostages they held." I contacted the vicar of the Chaldeans in al-Hasakah, Fr Nidala," the prelate added. "He told me that reports about Christians being killed is not true."
Yet, many fear the hostages might end up like the 21 Egyptian Copts executed in Libya. But so far nothing has emerged to indicate that they might share the same fate. As the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus did a few days ago, Mgr Audo called for caution, reiterating the need to wait and see regarding the abduction of hundreds of Assyrians, at least 250 - 350 if other sources are to be believed - by the Islamic State group at the start of its push into the north-eastern governorate of Al-Hasakah.
Contacted by AsiaNews, Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Mario Zenari, said the same. He called on everyone "to be cautious and careful because it is hard to have accurate information, and this could cause unnecessary alarm. Even the numbers are not accurate, between 90 and 350, from 12 villages. We must be careful."
For his part, Pope Francis, who is involved with members of the Roman Curia in spiritual exercises that end today, has been praying for Syrian Christians and has been closely following developments in the Arab country.
"This kind of solidarity is a source of great consolation, help and courage for us Syrian Christians, in this period of crisis and difficulties," said Georges Abou Khazen, apostolic vicar of Aleppo of the Latins.
The Chaldean Church is also getting involved in helping Assyrians. "The Chaldean Patriarch, Raphael I Mar Luis Sako, sent money to the Assyrian bishop as a concrete sign of his solidarity," said Mgr Audo. "This is something very beautiful and worthy of Christian brotherhood."
Since the beginning of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al Assad in 2011, more than 3.2 million people have fled the country whilst another 7.6 million are internally displaced. At least 200,000 people have been killed in the fighting, many of them civilians.
In the spring of 2013, the Islamic State group emerged out of the cauldron of Syria's civil war, in all its violence and brutality. From that moment onward, it pushed forward rapidly, seizing large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory, where it imposed a virtual reign of terror. (DS)