Islamic State militants abduct 90 people from Christian village

Human rights organisation says the raids took place in the town of Tel Hmar in Syria

A fighter of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units  stands near a Turkish army tank, which took position at the new site of the Suleyman Shah tomb in the northern Syrian village of Esmesi, Aleppo province on Tuesday. Photograph: Mursel Coban/Depo Photos/Reuters

A fighter of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units stands near a Turkish army tank, which took position at the new site of the Suleyman Shah tomb in the northern Syrian village of Esmesi, Aleppo province on Tuesday. Photograph: Mursel Coban/Depo Photos/Reuters

 

Islamic State militants kidnapped 90 Christians in north-east Syria as the jihadis retreated in the face of a Kurdish counter-offensive, a monitoring group has said.

The reported kidnappings are the latest blow to the Christian presence in the region, heightening insecurity after a video was released by militants claiming allegiance to Islamic State that purported to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by IS near Tal Tamr. There was heavy fighting in the area between IS and the YPG, the Kurdish militia that, backed by the US-led coalition, beat back an advance on the border town of Kobani last month.

The YPG has launched a counter-offensive to retake IS-held villages in the north-eastern Syrian countryside.

The rights monitoring group said its sources on the ground had overheard IS militants on wireless radios refer to the captives as “crusaders”, the same term used by militants to describe the Egyptian Copts apparently killed in Libya.

IS militants have often singled out Christians and minorities for persecution. Thousands of Christians fled Mosul and Nineveh in Iraq after IS’s lightning advance last summer, fleeing their ancestral homelands amid reports of forced conversions. Many took refuge in Kurdish-held territories or in Lebanon. The IS rampage through Iraq’s Nineveh plains cleared Chaldean Christians and other minorities from areas in which they had co-existed for more than 2,000 years

The jihadi group was especially brutal towards the ancient Yazidi minority in Iraq, attempting to starve thousands who were stranded on Mount Sinjar, north-west of Mosul. It also sold many hundreds of Yazidi women into slavery and forced others to marry.

Coalition air strikes had earlier targeted Isis fighters near the Syrian Kurdish stronghold of Qamishli on the Turkish border.

More than 1,600 people, the vast majority of them from IS, have been killed by the US-led coalition air strikes in Syria, according to Syrian human rights observatory. Many of the jihadi casualties were in the Kurdish town of Kobani, on the Turkish border, where IS estimates its losses to be at least 1,400.

Guardian service