Beirut: Syrian Christian leaders and Sunni tribal sheikhs are reaching out to the Islamic State group to try to negotiate the release of more than 220 Christians who were kidnapped by the militants last week, activists said Sunday.
Islamic State fighters swept through a string of villages along the Khabur River in Syria's northeastern Hassakeh province last week, pulling families from their homes before transporting them to a nearby IS stronghold. The fate of the captives, most of them Christian Assyrians, remains unknown.
“We're trying to contact any party that might help. We're working through our friends the tribal sheikhs,” said Younan Talia, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Organization. “Some friends of Daesh are trying to send messages.”
Talia said there has been no response yet. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
The Sweden-based director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights in Syria, Osama Edward, also said efforts were underway to try to negotiate the captives' release.
The Assyrians are indigenous Christian people who trace their roots back to the ancient Mesopotamians.
The abductions have added to fears among religious minorities in both Syria and Iraq, who have been repeatedly targeted by the Islamic State group.
During the militants' bloody campaign in both countries, where they have declared a self-styled caliphate, minorities have been repeatedly targeted and killed, driven from their homes, had their women enslaved and places of worship destroyed.