IS attacks Christian villages in northeast Syria, kidnaps scores of people
Sources in the Apostolic Nunciature told AsiaNews that they "were checking the reports". Scores of IS pick-ups flying the group's black flag raided villages, destroyed churches, and abducted men, women and children. IS wants to exchange civilian hostages for their fighters held by Kurdish troops.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - Islamic state (IS) militias abducted scores of Syrian Christians, following a series of raids yesterday in a number of villages in the northeast of the country, near the border with Turkey.

Yesterday morning, IS fighters in pick-up trucks and jeeps flying the group's black carried out raids along the Khabur River in al-Hasakah province in northeast Syria, including the Assyrian villages of Tel Tamar, Tel Shamiran, Tel Hurmiz, Tel Goran, and Tel Khareta.

Initially, Chaldean Christians were thought to have been taken. Later, reports indicated that they were Assyrians. Those who managed to escape made their way east to the largely Kurdish-controlled city of al-Hasakah (Hesîçe).

Contacted by local witnesses, Canadian activists were first to report the abductions. Today, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the situation in Syria, repeated the story, saying that men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids. And that thousands of people had fled the violence.

Sources in the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus told AsiaNews that they "were checking the reports", but that they "did not have any official statement and that it was difficult to get detailed information" from the area where the abductions are said to have occurred.

The same sources urged caution because "it is easy to raise the alarm, but not so easy to figure out the situation since we are in a war situation."

A number of churches were destroyed, AINA reported, including the church in Tel Hurmiz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, the Mar Bisho church in Tel Shamiran, the church in Qabr Shamiy and the church in Tel Baloua. However, Church sources have not confirmed the information.

Some suggest that IS seized at least 90 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria to exchange for IS fighters held by Kurds. Others believe that extortion was behind the multiple abductions; however, the latter explanation appears less credible.

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, it rapidly pushed forward, seizing large swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it began imposing a virtual reign of terror. (DS)