Activist: ISIS now holds 262 Assyrian hostages in Syria
(CNN)ISIS has seized even more Assyrian Christian hostages after taking over nearly a dozen Assyrian villages in northeastern Syria in the past few days, an activist said Thursday.
The Sunni extremist group now holds 262 Assyrians captive, said Osama Edward, founder of the Assyrian Human Rights Network.
“ISIS is taking over more and more Assyrian towns,” he said.
The number has climbed steadily, from an initial estimate of between 70 and 100 people seized on Monday to 150 as of Wednesday, with women, children and the elderly among them.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of Assyrian hostages seized over three days at 220, in a statement released Thursday.
They were taken from 11 villages in the Tal Tamer area, the monitoring group said. Its information indicates that ISIS has taken them to the Mount Abdelaziz area, southwest of Tal Tamer.
Edward, who is based in Sweden but has family in the area attacked by the terror group, said Wednesday his information was coming from the Assyrian Human Rights Network’s team on the ground.
Edward has said he fears the hostages may face the same fate as as Assyrians targeted in Iraq and the more than 20 members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority slaughtered by ISIS in Libya last month.
Besides those captured by ISIS militants, thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes, he said.
After years caught up in the middle of a civil war, many of these Assyrians lack food, water, blankets and other basics.
The Assyrians are a proud group that’s overcome a lot in their history. They can trace their roots back some 4,000 years to the time of Mesopotamia, considered one of the cradles of civilization and birthplace of writing and literature. While their first religion was Ashurism, Assyrians have been predominantly Christian since the third century.
“How can Syria be Syria without the Assyrians?” Edward said. “We gave the country our name.”