The State Department this evening responded to ISIS’ mass kidnapping of Christians in Syria by stressing that the terrorists harm all religious groups.
Estimates of the number of kidnapped Assyrians from villages near Tel Hmar have ranged from at least 90 to as high as 200. Thousands fled with no possessions as ISIS attacked in the early morning hours. Members of the ancient community speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
The Assyrian Human Rights Network said ISIS moved the hostages to the Abdul Aziz Mountains region, where they fear the terrorists will use the Christians as human shields against Kurdish fighters.
Said State Department press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement sent to reporters tonight:
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms ISIL’s attacks yesterday on predominantly Assyrian Christian villages in the northeast Syrian province of Hasakeh, where they kidnapped dozens of civilians, including women, children, priests, and the elderly. Hundreds of other civilians remain trapped in villages surrounded by ISIL fighters, and clashes continue between ISIL and local forces defending their communities. ISIL burned and destroyed homes and churches, and the violence has reportedly displaced more than 3,000 people. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the civilians taken captive yesterday and of all those held by ISIL.
ISIL’s latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs. ISIL continues to exact its evil upon innocents of all faiths, and the majority of its victims have been Muslims. People of all faiths and many religious leaders throughout the region have united in condemning ISIL’s depravity, including its mass killings, rape, sexual enslavement, lashing, stoning, crucifixion, torture, and public murders of hostages.
Earlier this month, ISIS was ordering Assyrians to remove crosses from their churches. About 600 families are now sheltering at the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Al-Hasakah, suffering from “a significant lack of blankets, water, food and heating fuel,” the Assyrian Human Rights Network said.