Damascus (AsiaNews) - The Islamic State (IS) has released a group of 10 Assyrian Christians, kidnapped in February in north-eastern Syria. They are part of a group of over 200 Christians, dragged away from their villages in the region of Khabur, Hassaké province.
According to reports from the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights, there are five women among the hostages released by jihadists. The release came after a "grueling series of negotiations conducted by the Eastern Assyrian Church".
An estimated 140/150 faithful are still in the jihadists hands. Regularly, although not frequently, the jihadists release small groups of people, probably on payment of a ransom. Last August 22 people from the same community were released.
Their release was confirmed by the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to updated estimates there are now more than 250 thousand victims of the war, with millions displaced.
There are about 30 thousand Assyrian Christians in the country who count for 2.5% of the Christians in Syria (1.2 million). Most of them lived in the Hassaké, scattered among 35 villages; the area has long been the center of a struggle between the IS, the regular army and other Islamic extremist groups enemies of Bashar al-Assad and the IS.
In February, their area was occupied by the IS, who took hundreds of Christians hostage (perhaps to use them as human shields). Last May Kurdish forces defeated and expelled IS from 14 Christian villages.
During his captivity, Fr. Jacques Mourad, a priest of the Syrian Catholic Church and prior of the monastery of Mar Elian met with the Assyrian captives when he too was in the hands of the militia. Speaking to AsiaNews, he described his time spent with the dozens of believers still held hostage by jihadists.