ISIS frees Syrian Christians held since 2015 for ransom

BEIRUT -- The Islamic State group on Monday released the last of some 230 Assyrian Christians kidnapped a year ago in Syria after the receiving millions of dollars in ransom, Christian officials said.

See Full Article

Younan Talia, of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, told The Associated Press that about 40 remaining Christian captives were released early Monday and are on their way to the northeastern town of Tal Tamr.

Younan said the release came after mediation led by a top Assyrian priest in northern Syria.

The extremists captured the Assyrians, members of an ancient Christian sect, last February after overrunning several communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in northeastern Hassakeh province.

Kidnapping for ransom is a main source of income for the extremists. In November, IS said it killed a Norwegian and a Chinese captive after demanding ransom for their release two months earlier.

Talia said IS demanded a ransom of $18 million for the Assyrian Christians. He said the figure was later lowered following negotiations. He said he did not know the final amount.

Osama Edward, director of the Stockholm-based Assyrian Human Rights Network, said 42 Christians, mostly young women and children, were released. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said 42 were released, including at least 17 women.

A Syrian Christian figure said the worldwide Assyrian community launched a campaign for the captives' release shortly after they were abducted. He said a bank account was opened in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and donations began to flow in from around the world.

"We paid large amounts of money, millions of dollars, but not $18 million," said the man, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the sensitive mediation. "We paid less than half the amount."

The official added that the fate of five Assyrians who went missing during the abductions was still unknown.

IS attacked a cluster of villages along the Khabur River, sending thousands of people fleeing to safer areas and capturing the Assyrians over a period of three days. Over the next two days, the extremists picked up dozens more from 11 communities near Tal Tamr.

The Hassakeh province, which borders Turkey and Iraq, has become the latest battleground in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. It is predominantly Kurdish but also has Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians.

On Friday, the predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces captured the IS stronghold of Shaddadeh in Hassakeh, where some of the kidnapped were once believed to have been held.

Many Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million, left for Europe over the past 20 years, with the flight gathering speed since the country's conflict began in March 2011.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Ontario bill seeks to ban mandatory high heels

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - An Ontario Liberal is introducing a bill today that would ban the province's employers from requiring women to wear high heels at work. The private member's bill from Cristina Martins would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect workers from being required to wear unsafe footwear as part of dress and uniform codes. Source
  • Kurdish forces pull out of Sinjar after losing Kirkuk

    World News CTV News
    IRBIL, Iraq - Iraq's Kurdish fighters have lost more territory in Iraq, a day after Iraqi forces pushed them out of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. In the town of Sinjar, commander of the local Yazidi militia, Masloum Shingali, says the Kurdish forces left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Shiite-led militiamen who are fighting with Iraqi forces to move into the town. Source
  • China's president looks to extend power at Communist Party congress

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Having bested his rivals, Chinese President Xi Jinping is primed to consolidate his already considerable power as the ruling Communist Party begins its twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday. From meetings largely cloaked in secrecy, powerful players will emerge publicly in new roles, and Xi will address the nation to lay out his political and economic vision for the world's second-largest economy over the next five years. Source
  • Californians brace for emotional toll from wildfires

    World News CTV News
    SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A week after fleeing wildfires, tens of thousands of Californians are drifting back into their neighbourhoods. Some will face the prospect of destroyed homes. All will face possible lasting emotional damage. Source
  • Calgary's Naheed Nenshi re-elected as mayor as Alberta votes in municipal elections

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - A tight and sometimes nasty political race is coming to an end in Calgary, where incumbent Naheed Nenshi looks likely to be re-elected as mayor for a third term. With about half of polls reporting, Nenshi is headed toward beating Calgary lawyer Bill Smith by a significant margin. Source
  • Calgary's Nenshi re-elected as mayor as Alberta votes in municipal elections

    Canada News CTV News
    Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has handily won a third term after a bitter and divisive campaign during which his at-times prickly personality was a focus. His main challenger, former Progressive Conservative Party president Bill Smith, conceded around midnight Tuesday. Source
  • U.S., Japan agree to ramp up diplomatic pressure on North Korea

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO - U.S. and Japanese diplomats agreed Tuesday to maximize pressure on North Korea to resolve tensions over its nuclear program, while citing the need to be prepared for the worst if diplomacy failed. U.S. Source
  • Naheed Nenshi has been re-elected as Calgary mayor, CBC News projects

    Canada News CBC News
    CBC News has projected that Naheed Nenshi will be re-elected as mayor of Calgary. Nenshi has maintained a strong lead in Calgary's mayoral race throughout Monday night over his closest competitor, Bill Smith, as results trickled in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Source
  • Nenshi re-elected as Calgary's mayor as at least 9 incumbent councillors keep their seats

    Canada News CBC News
    CBC News has projected that Naheed Nenshi will be re-elected as mayor of Calgary. Nenshi has maintained a strong lead in Calgary's mayoral race throughout Monday night over his closest competitor, Bill Smith, as results trickled in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Source
  • Authorities make final arrest in U.S. border agent's killing

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX - Authorities in Mexico have arrested the final of seven defendants accused in the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent whose death exposed a bungled federal gun operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Source