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    » 03/02/2015, 00.00


    Islamic State group frees 19 Syrian Christians in Syria after a ransom is paid

    After jihadists seized the ​​Tal Tamr area and at least ten Christian villages, they took 220 people hostage. Judged by an "Islamic court", 19 were released after paying US$ 1,700 per person. Assyrian and Islamic tribal leaders are negotiating the release of the other hostages.

    Damascus (AsiaNews) - Islamic State (IS) terrorists on Sunday freed 19 of the 220 Assyrian Christians they took hostage in Tal Tamr (Syria) last week, after a US$ 1,700 ransom per person was paid for their release, activists said.

    "Nineteen Assyrian hostages arrived on Sunday at the Church of Our Lady in Hasakah after they were released by IS," said Osama Edward, the director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights.

    "They arrived on two buses from Shaddadeh," the IS stronghold in the north-eastern province of Hasakah.

    Edward said an IS "religious court" decided on Saturday to release the 19 Christians in exchange for a sum of money paid by each family. IS considers the ransom as "jizya".

    The "jizya" is a poll tax, based on the Qur'an, that Muslims can impose on Jews and Christians living in Islamic lands for "protection". In return, they are not require to convert to Islam.

    Negotiations for the release of the hostages began on Saturday between Assyrian officials and local Arab Muslim tribal chiefs. According to local sources, IS controls ten Christian villages.

    Negotiators are trying to secure the release of 201 Assyrians still held captive.  "We're trying to contact any party that might help. We're working through our friends the tribal sheikhs," said Younan Talia, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Organisation.

    "Some friends of Daesh are trying to send messages," he added, but there have been no response yet. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

    After the Angelus Marian prayer, Pope Francis called on the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square to pray in silence for the people of Syria and Iraq, hit by Islamist violence.

    "Unfortunately," he said, "unending tragic news continue to come out of Syria and Iraq, about acts of violence, abduction and harassment against Christians and other groups. Let those involved in these situations be aware that we have not forgotten them, that we are close to them, and that we are praying insistently for an end to the intolerable brutality of which they are victims."

    "Together with the members of the Roman Curia, I offered, according to this intention, the last Mass the Spiritual Exercises, last Friday. At the same time I call on everyone, according to their possibilities, to work to alleviate the suffering of those who are tested, often only because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters, who suffer for their faith. In Syria, in Iraq. Let us pray in silence."

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    See also

    09/03/2015 SYRIA
    Nuncio to Damascus: IS releases 52 abducted Christian families without a ransom payment
    No money was exchanged for the hostages, who were part of a group of 250 people taken by jihadists. Some 16 people, eight Christians and eight Kurds, are still in IS hands. The hostages were seized for use as "human shields," Mgr Zenari said. Meanwhile, fighting continued yesterday in Damascus and Aleppo.

    13/03/2015 SYRIA
    Nuncio to Syria has no news about abducted Christians, but is "confident" in a positive outcome
    Mgr Zenari told AsiaNews that the Islamic State group still holds about 200 Christians. He regrets that a previous release attempt failed because of an ambush that forced the Jihadists to retreat. For the prelate, there is still enough "good will to find a solution."

    27/02/2015 SYRIA
    Despite their uncertain fate, Mgr Audo denies rumours that 15 Christians have been killed
    The Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo, who contacted the vicar in Al-Hasakah, denies reports that the Islamic State group executed hostages. The Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus renews his call for caution "because it is difficult to have accurate information." The fate and number of kidnapped Christians by jihadists remain uncertain.

    26/02/2015 SYRIA
    IS holding more than 250 Christians, for vicar to Aleppo, pope's prayers are a source of courage
    Pope Francis is closely monitoring the situation in Syria and praying for the Christian minority. For Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, the pope's closeness is a source "of great consolation and help." The road to peace "is long, but the only one possible." At least 5,000 Christians fled from the Islamists. The UN Security Council condemns the abductions.

    13/10/2015 SYRIA
    Joy for Fr Mourad, fear for the fate of 190 Christian prisoners held by the Islamic State
    Syrian Christians are happy for the clergyman’s escape after five months in jihadi captivity but greatly concerned about the fate of their co-religionists, and possible reprisals against them. In spite of repeated death threats, Fr Mourad “never signed a statement to renounce Christianity.”

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