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Reports: ISIS release some Assyrian Christian families, but others still held

Syrian refugees near the Turkish border (CNS)

Unconfirmed reports suggest that a number of Assyrian Christian families abducted from villages in north-eastern Syria by ISIS last month have been released, although not 52 families as had been previously reported.

Mgr Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, had told AsiaNews that the 52 families were released on March 5 and 6 “without payment of any ransom.”

However, the situation is increasingly unclear with the papal envoy now telling AsiaNews that new information suggests that some families were released but others, who had been scheduled to be freed, are still being held captive and that more hostages have been taken from other villages.

“My source tells me that the release had already been decided upon and seemed a done deal,” Mgr Zenari said. “A few dozen families had already boarded the bus and left the area where they had been kept captive.”

The remaining Syrian families were preparing to board buses to leave, when ISIS were attacked, possibly by Kurdish fighters, and the operation was halted.

“ISIS still holds many families,” he added. “In fact, they took some more from three villages”.

On February 23, ISIS militants raided a cluster of villages along the Khabur River near Syria’s northeastern province of Hassakeh and abducted more than 200 Assyrian Christian residents and other minorities.