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At least 70 people are believed to have been seized by the now most feared Islamic militants from Assyrian villages
By Samuel Otachi Abuya
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters have kidnapped dozens of Assyrian Christians in Hassakeh province, northeastern Syria, after capturing the villages from Kurdish forces, activists reports indicate.
The exact number of those taken hostage was not yet clear Tuesday with early reports saying it could be around 70 to 150 people.
While speaking to news agencies, the National Council of Syria, a team representing various NGOs inside and outside the country, confirmed having verified that at least 150 people, including women and elderly people, were missing after the ISIL raids on the villages.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its part that the militants seized 90 people, while another group known as Demand For Action which is led by Nuri Kino who spoke to news agencies as well, said at least between 70 and 100 Assyrians were abducted by the ISIL fighters.
The early Monday raid forced about 3,000 people to flee from their homes and seek refuge in Hassakeh and Qamishli cities.
Kino said his group’s reports were based on the conversations that they had with the villagers who managed to escape the deadly ISIL attacks on their villages.
One Christian woman from the affected villages told the Associated Press that they are still looking for the missing persons though they really don’t know what has become of them.
“Have they been slaughtered? Are they still alive? We’re searching for any news,” she said.
The woman, now living in Beirut, Lebanon, confirmed having been trying to contact her parents, her brother as well as his wife in vain. She said she couldn’t reach anyone from her rural village which is among those attacked by the ISIL fighters.
The Assyrian Network for Human Rights posted on its Facebook page that the militants had moved their captives to the Umm al-Masamir village on Mt. Abdulaziz, about 25km south of Tel Tamr town.
It is believed that the ISIL kidnapping is a direct response to Kurdish forces gains in northeast Syria.
It is widely feared that the militants might use the captives as human shields against Kurdish militiamen, or even execute them as the ISIL branch in Libya recently did, beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians less than two weeks ago; the life of a Christian living under the Islamic State is precarious at best, as Christians have to pay jizya, a tribute to purchase their safety, and churches and shrines are brought down as soon as they are spotted.