BEIRUT – The number of Assyrian hostages held by the Islamic State jihadist group, in the last three days in the Syrian province of al-Hasakah (northeast) amounted to 220 people, including women and children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday.
The Assyrians, a Christian ethnic minority, were kidnapped by jihadists from the outskirts of the town of Tal Tamr in the al-Hasakah province, where the IS has taken over 11 villages.
According to the SOHR, there are unconfirmed reports that the hostages could have been brought to the area of Jabal Abdelaziz, southwest of Tal Tamr.
Assyrian sources, cited by the Observatory, said that they are currently conducting negotiations to free the hostages.
A large number of Assyrians have been displaced from their homes due to the presence of extremists in the area.
At least two churches have been burned to the ground by the IS in the last week.
On Tuesday, the Observatory said at least 90 Assyrians civilians had been kidnapped by the IS in the towns of Tal Hurmuz and Tal Shamiram, although Assyrian sources said they believe that the figure could exceed one hundred hostages.
Al-Hasakah is the home of most of the Assyrians living in Syria, although there are clusters of the ethnic minority also living in parts of Iraq and Turkey.
Before the outbreak of the Syrian civil conflict in March 2011, there were 200,000 Assyrians in the country, although the number has now been reduced to only 15,000 to 20,000 Assyrians due to the displacements caused by the war.
The Assyrian language, Akkadian, is a combination of an ancient language of Mesopotamia and Aramaic, which is also used in liturgy.
The kidnappings come at the same time an offensive was launched by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units to push IS out of al-Hasakah’s oil-rich areas.
The Assyrians live in thirty villages on the southern bank of the Khabur river in al-Hasakah, while the Kurds inhabit the northern side.