Syrian bishop: Ambiguous US policy favors Islamic state. Fears for kidnapped Christians
Damascus (AsiaNews) - US air strikes in Syria are window-dressing, and have little real effect on the militias of the Islamic state (IS), who are left free to act on the ground. Instead the Russian attacks in recent days have been effective, forcing jihadists to fall back towards the Iraqi desert. This is according to Msgr. Jacques Behnan Hindo, referring to testimonies of people living in areas of conflict theater.
"Moscow’s intervention has been positive - said the prelate who leads the archieparchy Syrian Catholic Hassaké-Nisibis, - because they are really targeting Daesh [Arabic acronym for the IS, ed] and the militia are beginning to flee. They fled from the area in about 20 cars in a hurry in the direction of Iraq, leaving another 20 cars on site. A sign of a real retreat. "
The bishop of Hassaké-Nisibi lives under constant threat from IS: "I am less than three kilometers from the town - he says - a month ago their offensive was repelled and they folded around the city. In the past two weeks, thanks to the attacks of the Russians, they began to retreat. "
In contrast, Msgr. Hindo reserves rather harsh words for the United States, who are not bombing the positions of jihadi militias but the Syrian government.
"It's not about being for or against the government - he says - but people never believed in America’s attacks. Only the Kurds have really fought on the ground, but to hold their ground "and it is not plausible that they can, alone, solve the emergency. Besides the United States, France, Britain only speak of "attacking the Daesh, but do not speak of the Nusra Front and other Islamist militias linked to Al Qaeda. Indeed, there are extremist groups that have changed names to rebuild credibility, and these are not even mentioned. This is also a big problem. "
The prelate denounces Washington's "ambiguity" seen in the American’s attitude during the seizure of hundreds of Christians originating in the villages of the valley of the river Khabur. "On the night of Feb. 23, when Daesh attacked, the American planes – he says - flew over the area for a long time without intervening. Then for three days we saw no more jets, leaving the field open to the militants. This makes us think that in some way have been helped by the Americans and their ambiguous attitude”.
The Islamic State have released a video (click here to see excerpts released by the Lebanese OTV television and relayed by Aina) showing the execution of three of the more than 200 Assyrian Christians still in the hands of the jihadist militants.
"They have executed three - said Msgr. Hindo - and they are preparing another three for an upcoming execution. At first they demanded a huge sum for the liberation, almost 120 thousand dollars for each of 203 people. They have rejected the proposal of a million for the release of all, has now been made a new proposal and we are waiting for an answer. "
The prelate said that is difficult to deal with the kidnappers, the contacts "are very short" and "do not leave much room for maneuver." "I answer yes or no - he says - and then act accordingly. Now the Assyrian bishop, who was in Erbil [for the election of the new patriarch] has returned, to continue negotiations and follow the episode in first person.
"In recent days have released an elderly man of 89 was released to break the news of the execution and hand over the video that was shot around 23 September, the Islamic feast of the sacrifice. "By analyzing the video - said Msgr. Hindo - we see that the sun was still strong, while in the last 10 days it has dropped in intensity. This suggests plausible date of 23 as the time of execution even if there are no references to the celebrations. "
The story of Christians is also associated with the tragedy experienced by the people of Deir ez-Zor, the town of 250 thousand inhabitants in eastern Syria, long besieged by the militias of the Islamic state. "People are dying of hunger - says the bishop – they lack food and medicine. Just think that today 50 kg of sugar costs as much as a car or a house. People sell the car to buy it. The IS has imposed a real blockade, men, women, elderly and children are starving". For this reason the prelate appeals to the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar asking them to "really do something" to deal with the emergency and rescue a civilian population that is weary and tired.
Msgr. Hindo concludes with a charge against Western governments, who he says "are working for Israel's security and to divide Syria and Iraq, so as to put their hands on the riches of these countries. It's not just oil, because off our coasts a major natural gas field has recently been discovered. And yet - he adds - the pipelines that Saudi Arabia and Qatar expect to arrive in the West are at stake. Damascus did not accept the passage on its territory, and this is the result ".
It is a "very complex" issue, says Msgr. Hindo, behind which "there is the economic problem; but for the West t all boils down to religion, the Sunnis and Shiites, Christians and Muslims but in this war, the Daesh and other groups hide only economic interests and aim to divide the country "against the will of a people who for the most part are " united and want to remain united ". (DS)