Islamic State Militants Seize Christian Villages

By on February 24, 2015
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Islamic State militants (ISIS) attacked and commandeered a group of Assyrian Christian villages in northeast Syria, capturing dozens of men, women and children, according to human-rights groups and local residents.

The group performed its takeover ritual by raising its black flag over the villages, which lie on the outer areas of the provincial capital Hasakeh, on Monday. The militants raided homes and kidnapped a large number of innocent civilians, including priests. There were unconfirmed reports that a church had been blown up, according to media outlets.

Local reports said the militant group had seized control of about 10 villages and were still trying to seize others but were engaged in firefights with local forces and fighters with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD.

Estimates varied on the number of people kidnapped by the Islamic State.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 90 civilians were kidnapped. One of the militants was overheard confirming to another militant that they had captured “56 crusaders”.

An opposition activist in the nearby city of Hasakeh said that 30 civilians had been kidnapped from that town as well as 30 fighters from a local Assyrian security force. He said that 55 families were missing. Dozens of civilians were reported kidnapped from surrounding villages as well.

Since the beginning of the U.S.-led coalition air campaign against the Islamic State in August, the group has painted the conflict as one between Muslims and Christian crusaders, in an attempt to rally global Muslim sympathies toward them.

The kidnappings come a week after the militant group released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

Since seizing large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State has routinely targeted minorities as well as Sunni Muslims it deems apostates. In the summer as it made a swift advance through western Iraq, it took over towns belonging to Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion the extremist group has condemned as devil worship.

Islamic State kidnapped many Yazidis, killing the men and enslaved the women.