Islamic State releases 15 Christian hostages in Syria’s Homs

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Syria Christians perform prayers in Damascus church. File photo

ARA News 

DAMASCUS – On Friday, the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) released 15 Syrian Christians who had been held by the group in the town of al-Qaryatain in the central Syrian province of Homs, activists reported. 

ISIS had takes more than 250 civilians as hostages after seizing control of al-Qaryatain town last month. The hostages included at least 60 Christians. 

The Assyrian Network for Human Rights reported Friday that the extremist group has released 15 Christians who arrived to Fayrouzah area in the southeastern countryside of Homs.

The network added that the freed people were in a good health.  

In the meantime, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the hostages have been released after paying Jizya –a tax imposed on non-Muslims. 

More than 2000 Christians used to reside al-Qaryatain before the outbreak of the anti-Assad uprising mid-March 2011. Most of them left the town after violence hit Homs province. 

In May, IS gunmen abducted Father Jacques Mourad, a Syriac Catholic priest and head of Mar Alyan monastery in al-Qaryatain town, after seizing the nearby ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria. Father Mourad’s destiny remains unknown. 

In August, militants of the Islamic State took over the entire town of al-Qaryatain after clashes with regime army forces. Some 37 regime soldiers were killed, while 23 IS militants were killed during the battle for al-Qaryatain.

The town holds a strategic importance because of its location along a road linking the ancient city of Palmyra with Qalamoun region in Damascus province.

Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi 

Source: ARA News 

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