Islamic State fighters have abducted at least 150 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria.
A Syrian Christian group representing several non-government organizations inside and outside the country said it had verified at least 150 people missing, including women and elderly, who had been kidnapped by the militants, Reuters reported.
“We have verified at least 150 people who have been adducted from sources on the ground,” Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, told the news agency.
Earlier the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 90 were abducted when the militants carried out dawn raids on rural villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority west of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.
Syrian Kurdish militia launched two offensives against the militants in northeast Syria on Sunday, helped by US-led air strikes and Iraqi peshmerga.
This part of Syria borders territory controlled by Islamic State in Iraq, where it committed atrocities last year against the Yazidi religious minority.
Islamic State did not confirm the kidnappings. Supporters posted photos online of the group’s fighters in camouflage attire looking at maps and firing machine guns.
The website said the photos were from Tel Tamr, a town near where the Observatory said the abductions occurred.
Many Assyrian Christians have emigrated in the nearly four-year-long conflict in which more than 200,000 people have been killed. Before the arrival of Kurds and Arab nomadic tribes at the end of the 19th century, Christians formed the majority in Syria’s Jazeera area, which includes Hasaka.
Sunday’s offensive by Kurdish YPG militia reached within five kilometers of Tel Hamis, an Islamic State-controlled town southeast of Qamishli, the Observatory said.
At least 14 Islamic State fighters died in the offensive, in which Assyrians fought alongside Kurds, it added.
Military experts said militants were trying to open a new front to relieve pressure on Islamic State after several losses since being driven from the Syrian town of Kobani near the border with Turkey.
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