Update as of 6:30 p.m. EST: The U.S. government on Tuesday strongly condemned the abduction of 150 Assyrian Christians, including women and children, by militants of the Islamic State group, and demanded their immediate release.
“ISIL’s latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs. ISIL continues to exact its evil upon innocents of all faiths, and the majority of its victims have been Muslims,” Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said, in a statement released Tuesday.
Update as of 5:25 p.m. EST: At least 150 Assyrian Christians are being held by the Islamic State group in Syria, Christian activists in the region said on Tuesday. ISIS is reportedly planning to release a message on Wednesday threatening to kill the captives.
"We have verified at least 150 people who have been abducted from sources on the ground," Bassam Ishak, president of the Syrian National Council, told Reuters.
Militants of the Islamic State group abducted 90 Assyrian Christians from villages in northeastern Syria early on Monday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing “reliable sources.” The abductions reportedly took place in the villages of Tal Shamiram and Tal Hormuz, located in the Hassakeh province, which is currently under Kurdish control.
The villages are believed to be populated mostly by Christian minorities, and have come under frequent attacks from the Sunni Islamist militant group.
Nuri Kino, head of the activist group A Demand For Action, said that ISIS had abducted between 70 and 100 Assyrian Christians during the raid, adding that his group, which focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East, received the information from villagers who had fled the attack, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The abductions come just over a week after the militant group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. The video sparked global outrage and prompted Egypt to authorize airstrikes on ISIS targets in the country.