ISIS frees 37 kidnapped Syrian Christians

November 7, 2015  

ISIS released 37 Syrian Christians Saturday, most of them women, who were among more than 200 people kidnapped in February, an NGO said.

The group of Assyrian Christians consisted of 27 women and 10 men, most of them elderly, the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights.

They arrived on Saturday morning in the town of Tal Tamr in the Khabur region of Hasakeh province in northeastern Syria, the group said.

AFP reports that the releases were confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, which said most of those freed were from other towns in Khabur.

The former hostages were among a group of 220 Assyrians captured by ISIS when they overran parts of the region in February.

Since then, a trickle of prisoners has been released, with between 140 and 150 believed to be still held by ISIS.

The Assyrian Monitor said the releases were the result of negotiations carried out by the church, but other reports suggest ISIS has been paid to free the hostages.

Assyrians numbered about 30,000 among Syria’s 1.2 million Christians before the country’s conflict began. They lived mostly in 35 villages in Hasakeh.

In February, ISIS overran many of the villages, but Kurdish forces later expelled them.

ISIS has captured hundreds of hostages, including Christians from different denominations, in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.

Elsewhere, the Britain-based Observatory said at least 10 civilians, among them a child and a woman, were killed in air strikes on rebel-held Douma, outside Damascus.

The group said the strikes were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes, but could not confirm.

The Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman said the toll was expected to rise because of the number of people seriously wounded.

Douma lies in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus and is a frequent target of government air strikes.

The Observatory also said Saturday that the toll in Thursday air strikes on the town on Albu Kamal on the Syrian border with Iraq had risen to 49 people, at least 31 of them civilians.

It had previously said at least 22 people were killed in the strikes, but it was not able to confirm who was behind the attacks.

Russia, Syria’s government and a US-led coalition are all carrying out bombing in Syria, sometimes operating in the same areas.

The Observatory said at least four of those killed in the attacks on the ISIS-held town were children.

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