Ten Assyrian Christian hostages have been freed by the Islamic State group, which has come to be known for its violence and terror tactics, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. The hostages had been held in Syria since February.
The militant group, also known as ISIS, captured 220 Assyrian Christians when they took over territory in northeastern Syria in the province of Hassakeh. Five women were among those released Tuesday and the Assyrian Network for Human Rights reported that all ten people released were in good condition. There were approximately 30,000 Assyrian Christians in Syria before the start of the Syrian civil war, with the majority living near Hassakeh.
While ISIS has been associated with enslaving women and girls and killing Christians, the group has previously released other hostages. Efforts by the Assyrian Church of the East in Syria have resulted in the release of 98 Assyrians, the Assyrian Network for Human Rights has said.
Earlier in November, ISIS released 37 Syrian Christians, AFP reported. The 37 people released were mainly elderly and part of the 220 people kidnapped in February. It remained unclear if ISIS was paid to release those hostages. Ransoms have been paid to gain the release of Yazidis, a religious group from Iraq that has also been held by ISIS.
ISIS and its affiliates have claimed responsibility for several recent terror attacks that have affected the Western coalition launching airstrikes against the militant group in Syria. In October, a Russian aircraft was downed over the Sinai in Egypt, resulting in the death of all 224 people on board. The Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris killed at least 130 people and injured more than 350.
The U.S., France and Russia have all increased their collective airstrikes in Syria aimed at hitting ISIS, especially in its de facto capital of Raqqa. ISIS has captured large areas of territory in Syria since the country plunged into a deadly civil war in 2011. The war has resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 people and the displacement of millions, partially triggering the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.