Jihadists claiming to represent Islam have abducted at least 150 Assyrian Christians in Syria with the Islamic State terror group seen to be retaliating after paramilitary troopers made significant advances in their positions.
Though authorities are still grappling with the exact figures, a church official feared about the fate of the Christians, especially since the execution of several IS captives in the past few months.
In an interview with Asianews.it, Latin the apostolic vicar to Aleppo Georges Abou Khazen described the situation as "tragic."
"A church was destroyed, at least three Assyrian villages have been occupied and people have had to flee," he said. "We do not have accurate information, but the initial evidence points to a tragic situation."
On Feb. 23, IS extremists raided several Assyrian villages such as Tel Tamar, Tel Shamiran, Tel Hermuz, Goran Tel and Tel Khareta in northeast Syria.
Reports said the jihadists purportedly raped and murdered a woman in the course of the attacks, but the information has yet to be verified.
Bassam Ishak, president of the paramilitary group Syriac National Council, said that at least 150 persons had been taken away by the jihadists in Al-Hasakah Governorate, where Assyrian Christian communities have established themselves for centuries.
The council explained that the latest attack appeared to be an "an act of revenge" after the IS forces lost in Kobane and nearby areas due to a combined international offensive.
"Christians feel they have been abandoned," said Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus Bishop Mario Zenari of the latest attack. "I see blood everywhere, in the cities, in the neighborhoods. The desert has changed color. It is no longer golden yellow but blood red."
At the rate of the attacks, Bishop Abou Khazen said it appeared that IS is still bent on clearing the area of all traces of Christianity, which has flourished there for centuries and coexisted with other religious such as Islam.
"Many want to run away and this is a very dangerous sign. Removing Christianity from these lands would be a tragedy for everyone. Maybe the aim is to create another Afghanistan, in the hands of new Taliban," he said.
"This is our reading of the situation," the prelate coted. "They want to empty the Middle East of its Christians and create many small confessional states."
"We Christians are the only ones spread across the territories of Syria and Iraq. We are the only ones who defend national unity and uphold the principle of pluralism . . . something that they increasingly want to destroy," he said.