ASIA/SYRIA - Islamic State jihadists attack Christian villages along the river Khabur

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hassakè (Agenzia Fides) – In the early hours of yesterday morning, Monday 23 February, more than 40 pick-up vehicles carrying jihadist militia of the so-called Islamic State (IS) attacked several Christian villages along the river Khabur, in the north eastern Syrian province of Jiazira. Dozens of Syrian Christians were taken hostage by the jihadists, while churches in some villages were torched or damaged. This was confirmed to Fides by Syrian-Catholic Archbishop of Hassaké-Nisibi, Jacques Behnan Hindo,. “The terrorists first attacked the village of Tel Tamar, - said the Archbishop, then they took Tel Shamiran and all the many smaller villages as far as Tel Hermuz, where they set fire to everything. In Tel Hormuz and at Tel Shamiran they took dozens of hostages, with the intention perhaps of using them for obtaining a ransom or for an exchange of prisoners. Yesterday evening, at 9.30 pm Kurd fighters told us they had managed to take control of Tel Hormuz, with the help of Syrian Christian battalions. However as yet we have no confirmation of this news”.
According to Archbishop Hindo, this jihadist attack brought to light deplorable conduct on the part of other persons: “I wish to say quite clearly – the archbishop affirms – that we have the feeling of being abandoned into the hands of those Daesh (Arabic acronym or nickname for Isis militia: editor’s note). Yesterday American bombers flew over the area several times, but without taking action. We have a hundred Assyrian families who have taken refuge in Hassakè, but they have received no assistance either from the Red Crescent or from Syrian government aid workers, perhaps because they are Christians. The UN high commission for Refugees is nowhere to be seen”.
Along the banks of the River Khabur, perennial affluent of the Euphrates, there more than 30 Christian villages established in the 1930s, a safe haven for Assyrian and Chaldean Christians fleeing Iraq and the massacres perpetrated by the Iraqi army at that time. These villages were flourishing, each with a population of thousands, with churches and active communities running schools and social initiatives. But with the onset of war most had become empty and some were more like ghost towns. Tel Hormuz, which before the war counted some 4 thousand inhabitants, had dwindled in recent months to less than three hundred. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 24/2/2015).