ISIS releases dozens of Christian hostages north Syria

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ARA News 

QAMISHLI – The radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) released Saturday a new batch of Assyrian hostages who were abducted from the Christian villages surrounding the town of Tel Temir in Hasakah province, northeast Syria, the Assyrian Human Rights Network (AHRN) reported. 

The extremist group had abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians in February, after storming the western countryside of Hasakah. 

“The Islamic State released 37 kidnapped Assyrian citizens on Saturday morning, all of them are from the elderly people but they are in a good health condition,” AHRN said in a statement on Saturday.

The network noted “when abductees arrived in the mostly-Assyrian town of Tel Temir, Bishop St. Ephrem Otnaial greeted them at the headquarters of the St. Church in Tel Temir.” 

The majority of the released are from the towns of Tel Shamiram and Jizeera, the source said.

“The  release of the new batch of hostages brings the number of all released since last March to about 80 people from a total of 230 civilians kidnapped in February 23, 2015, following the invasion of ISIS into the Assyrian areas in the western countryside of Hasakah,” the source added.

Last August, ISIS freed 22 Assyrian hostages after six months of abduction in Tel Temir town in Hasakah province. The office of the Assyrian Archbishop in Hasakah said that the released hostages included 14 women and eight men.

“They were released after intensive efforts by the Assyrian Archbishopric in cooperation with local mediators who assisted during the negotiations with the group,” the office said in a statement.

Speaking to ARA News, Denho Dawood, Assyrian activist and cousin of a released hostage, said: “ISIS group freed 14 women.”

“Most of them are in bad health conditions. However, they expressed their relief for being freed from the group’s detention,” he added. 

The radical group has demanded a ransom of $12 million for the release of the Assyrian hostages.

Speaking to ARA News, director of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, Osama Edward, said there have been indirect negotiations with ISIS in order to release the hostages. 

“However, the negotiations, led by Bishop Ephrem Otnaial, head of the Church of the East in Syria, have been suspended due to the unbearable demands of the terror group,” Edward said. 

“ISIS threatened to execute 180 hostages if we didn’t pay the ransom,” he added.

“The terror group has demanded $12 million as ransom. Therefore, internal rifts emerged among Assyrian officials on how to respond to ISIS,” a member of the Civil Peace Committee in Tel Temir told ARA News under the condition of anonymity. 

Speaking to ARA News, an abductee who was released last March said “We were kidnapped and kept in an unknown place, where men and women were separated from each other. The hostages were also separated according to their villages and birthplaces.” 

“We were offered canning and bread, while we could not see the face of those militants who were speaking different dialects,” he said, on the condition of anonymity.

In October, ISIS published a footage showing the execution of three Assyrian hostages, vowing to execute 180 more from the Assyrian minority in Hasakah.

In February, ISIS militants launched a major offensive on Assyrian villages in the vicinity of Tel Temir town in Hasakah province, during which they took hundreds of civilians as hostages.

Reporting by: Jan Nasro and Ahmad Shiwesh

Source: ARA News

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