ISIS has captured at least 150 Christians from Assyrian Christian villages in Syria. Among the captured are also women and elderly. Dawn raids were held on rural villages. Ancient Christian minorities lived in these villages. ISIS has not confirmed they kidnapped the Christians. However, people have posted pictures online of ISIS fighters in Tel Tamr, a town near the village where the Christians were kidnapped. The men were dressed in camouflage, looking at maps and firing machine guns.
Sunday, the United States led airstrikes while the Syrian Kurdish carried out two offensives with the Iraqi peshmerga. This was the part of Syria where horrors were committed against the Yazidi, another religious minority last summer. Territory controlled by ISIS borders this part of Syria. The offensive Sunday came within five kilometers of Tel Hamis. Tel Hamis is controlled by ISIS. Fourteen ISIS fighters were killed in the offensive. Eight civilians were also killed by the Kurds heavy shelling. Several Arab villages were taken from ISIS control.
Beirut is reporting that 70 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped. ISIS took the women and children too. This is one of the largest religious minority kidnappings of the militant group thus far. According to the Washington Post, ISIS said it held “tens of crusaders,” ISIS’ term for Christians.
ISIS has targeted religious minorities before. Last year they captured and killed Yazidis in large numbers. The Christian captives could be used to gain a piece of land that is strategic to linking its territory in Syria and Iraq. However, ISIS is also quick to enact revenge on the people they capture. Earlier this month 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians were beheaded by the militant group.
That area of Syria is a primary battlefield. That region has seen repeated airstrikes from the U.S. led coalition. However, ISIS is able to carry out these kidnappings during raids. ISIS has some sort of advantage or cut paths. Monday, when ISIS attacked the Christian Assyrian villages by the Khabour River, they tore through the villages abducting or killing its residents. Those that were kidnapped are in unknown danger and many more are homeless. ISIS is eliminating Christians one village at a time.
ISIS has gained more territory and is continuing the religious cleansing of the area. New Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s positive comments about counter-terrorism strategy and the Counter Violent Extremism conference falls to disbelief in the Middle East. ISIS is still winning on all sides. They have a religious agenda to make the territory “pure” or cleansed for Islam. This fact seems to be missed by those in charge of creating strategies or non-Islamic religious groups would be protected.
Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church in the East reported that 3,000 villagers escaped to Hassakah or Qamishly and were being protected by churches. Captives included 26 families in Tel Gouran, 50 families in Tel Shamiran, 28 families in Tel Jezira, 14 young people; 12 were males and 2 were females that were defending Tel Hormiz. A 17-year-old-man was martyred. Each family averages five people, totaling to over 120 Christians captured.
Captives have been separated into men, women and children. The same was done when they attacked the Yizidi village on Sinjar Mountain. It is unknown what ISIS will do to the Syrian Christians but they could face murder, slavery, traded as a hostage or raped….or worse. Churches in the captured villages were set on fire.
Archbishop, Jacques Behnan Hindo says the Christians feel “abandoned.” Yesterday American fighter planes flew over the area multiple times, but did nothing. One hundred Assyrian families have run to Hassakah but no one has offered them any help; not the Red Crescent or the Syrian aid workers. There is no United Nations High Commission for Refugees anywhere.
However, the U.S. military reports there were coalition airstrikes Monday near Hassakah. Ten airstrikes hit two jihadists vehicles in a convoy of 40 jeeps on the way to Khabour near the Iraqi border. If President Obama, the UN and all other military leaders could understand the religious agenda of ISIS, they would understand that primary targets are non-Islamic religious groups.
By Jeanette Smith