AL-HASAKAH, Syria — The barbaric Islamic group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has released 19 people among the 200 that it kidnapped from a predominantly Christian area of Syria, according to reports.
As previously reported, members of ISIS launched a door-to-door abduction in the early hours of Feb. 23, taking residents captive throughout about a dozen villages along the south bank of the Khabur River. Another 3,000 in the north of the river fled for their lives, taking refuge in Al-Hasakah and Qamishli.
al-Bayan, an ISIS-run radio station, reported that it had detained a number of “crusaders” and taken over approximately 10 villages near Tal Tamr. Initial reports had stated that at least 90 people had been abducted, but figures continued to grow.
“We have verified at least 150 people who have been abducted from sources on the ground,” Bassam Ishak, President of the Syriac National Council of Syria, told Reuters last Monday.
Current estimates are now near 220.
According to reports, 19 hostages—all from the village of Tal Ghoran—were released on Saturday after an Islamic court agreed to free them in exchange for payment of jizya, a tax that is paid by non-Muslims. Osama Edward, the director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights, told the AFP that while it is not known how much was paid for their release, in November, a number of Syrian hostages were set free after a payment equating to $1,700 per person was received.
He said that the 19 arrived at a Roman Catholic facility in Al-Hasakah by bus.
“They arrived on two buses from Shaddadeh (the place where the hostages have been held) ,” Edward explained.
It is not yet known what is to happen to the 200 who still remain in ISIS custody, but an unidentified Assyrian commander told CNN that he had been informed that “the fate of the other kidnapped Assyrians has yet to be decided by ISIS Sharia jurists.”
The incident occurs just weeks after video was released of ISIS beheading 21 Egyptian men that it likewise called “crusaders.”
“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together,” a man stated with a North American English accent. “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama Bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”
In the five-minute video, 21 men are shown on their knees in orange jumpsuits having their heads cut off by black-clad Islamists with a caption that reads: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”
CNN’s Michael Holmes told the network that the actions of the Islamist terror group send a message to Christians that “We are coming to get you.” He noted that ISIS has “global ambitions” as it seeks to expand its Islamic caliphate.
“al-Baghdadi himself has said, ‘If we’re lucky, we’ll conquer Rome, and then move on to Al-Andalus, which is Spain,’” Holmes explained. “So, they have a presence in Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq [and] Europe … and you are going to see ISIS-inspired attacks elsewhere.”