The Islamic terror group known as ISIS carried out its first mass abduction in Syria on Tuesday, kidnapping at 90 Assyrian Christians in two villages from that war-torn country.
According to an Agence France-Presse report, the kidnappings took place after seizing two Syrian villages, Tal Shamiram and Tal Hermuz, from forces known as Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based out of Britain, told AFP that the ISIS abductions were in retaliation for a major Kurdish offensive aimed at freeing villages from the terror group's control.
"The jihadists attacked the two villages in retaliation against the Kurds, who four days ago launched a bid backed by the US-led coalition to reclaim villages around Tal Hamis, also in Hassakeh province," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Rahman added that four Kurdish fighters died on Tuesday, while 132 ISIS militants were killed over a four-day period.
"A fifth man, a Westerner who had travelled into Syria to fight alongside the YPG, was also killed," Rahman said.
Patrick Cockburn of The Independent reported that ISIS frequently asserted its power in the region through taking hostages, both individuals and whole communities alike. Johanna Towaya, a Christian community leader in the Iraqi city of Erbil, relayed information gathered from people in the area.
"Twelve village guards were killed, and between 150 and 200 villagers were taken hostage," Towaya said.
Cockburn reported that information coming out of the area where the Christians were kidnapped have been limited due to the fact that phone lines are down. However, he noted that two churches were burned down by ISIS militants, and 3,000 people fled to territory secured by Kurdish forces.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission told AFP that ISIS placed fighters in the remains of a burned-out church in that area. The American-led coalition, which has backed Kurdish forces, then bombed the building on Monday, killing ISIS militants stationed there.
AFP described how ISIS treated Christians in its occupied territories.
"The group has destroyed Christian shrines and churches in the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, and demanded a tax known as jizya from Christians who remain in its self-declared Islamic 'caliphate,'" AFP wrote. "It regularly refers to Christians as 'crusaders,' and has carried out brutal executions of foreigners held hostage in Syria."
Cockburn reported that the Assyrian Christians in that part of Syria descended from the survivors of two infamous 20th century massacres.
"The first was the genocide, which was not just confined to Armenians, conducted by the Turkish government between 1915 and 1918," Cockburn wrote. "There was a further smaller slaughter of Assyrian Christians in Iraq in 1933 at the conclusion of the British Mandate which culminated with the killing of at least 600 Assyrian at Simele in northern Iraq."
Cockburn added that some Assyrian Christians in Syria referred to their villages and towns as "camps," hoping that they would return to their original places in Iraq.
According to AFP, the overall Christian population in pre-war Syria was around 1.2 million people, 30,000 of them Assyrian Christians. Cockburn reported that 700,000 people, or 40 percent of the Christian population, have left the country since 2011.