According to new reports, there are more members of an Assyrian Christian community in north-eastern Syria were abducted by ISIS militants than at first thought.
Sources in the community said as many as 200 people might have been seized on February 23 in raids on a string of villages near Tal Tamr, in Hassakeh province.
Most of the captives were women, children and the elderly.
Some 1,000 local Assyrian families are believed to have fled their homes in the wake of the abductions.
Kurdish and Christian militia are battling Islamic State in the area.
At least 90 Assyrians were seized by the militants on February 23 as they captured 12 villages along the southern bank of the Khabur river before dawn, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition group that monitors the conflict in the country.
The Syriac National Council of Syria put the figure as high as 150, while Afram Yaboub of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden said sources on the ground had told him that at least 60 and up to 200 people were missing.
Osama Edward of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network told the AFP news agency that the captives had been taken to the ISIS stronghold of Shaddadi, as did Syria’s state news agency, Sana.
“People were expecting an attack, but they thought that either the Syrian army, which is just 30km [20 miles] from there or the Kurds or the [US-led] coalition’s strikes would protect them,” Osama Edward said.
Hundreds of Assyrians who were living in villages on the north bank of the Khabur River and elsewhere are reported to have fled following the attack to the largely Kurdish-controlled provincial capital of Hassakeh, to the south-east, and Qamishli, another city to the north-east.
“Since Monday, 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hassakeh and another 150 in Qamishli,” Osama Edward reported.
The Syriac Military Council had about 400 fighters in the area and at least four had been killed in clashes with the jihadists, he added. The YPG has deployed between 1,000 and 1,500 fighters.
The YPG was also reported to be continuing a major offensive launched on Sunday against IS some 60 miles to the east, near the border with Iraq – an area of vital importance to the jihadists.
The Syrian Observatory said at least 132 ISIS militants had been killed in the offensive, along with seven members of the YPG.
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