Rights group: Islamic State releases 19 Assyrian Christians from captivity

The move comes a day after an Islamic State Sharia court reportedly ordered free 28 Assyrians, nine of which remain in captivity.

By Fred Lambert

TELL TAMER , Syria, March 1 (UPI) -- A human rights observer group says the Islamic State freed 19 Assyrian Christians from captivity after over 200 were captured from northwestern Syria last week.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that 28 Assyrian Christians were ordered free Saturday by an IS Sharia court in the countryside of Tell Tamer. On Sunday 19 were freed, including two women, while the other nine remain in captivity. The reasons for the release are unclear.


The move comes after IS forces took nearly a dozen Assyrian villages in the al-Hasakah province last week. SOHR, which gets information from a network of sources on the ground in Syria, estimated that 220 -- among them elderly, women and children -- had been taken.

The Assyrian Human Rights Network, which also gains information from ground-level sources, puts the number over 262 and says the 28 were ordered free after paying a non-Muslim tax.

IS forces are known for targeting ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, enslaving women and destroying places of worship. Last year thousands of Yazidis were displaced as IS forces assaulted into Iraq, sending at least 40,000 into hiding on Mount Sinjar, where several starved to death or expired in the elements.


Last month the group's Libyan affiliate claimed responsibility for the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt.

SOHR estimates that IS militants have executed 1,238 civilians, including six children and eight women, since declaring a Caliphate in June of last year.

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