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90 Christians abducted by ISIL in Syria


Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christians in northeast Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday.
The Observatory said the abductions took place on Tuesday after ISIL fighters seized two Assyrian villages from Kurdish forces in the province of Hassakeh, the Reuters news agency reported.
The villages are inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near the town of Tel Tamr, a mainly Assyrian town, in the western countryside of the city of Hasaka – a city mainly held by the Kurds.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from Amman, said the kidnapping appeared to be in direct response to recent gains made by Kurdish forces in Syria’s northeast.
Our correspondent said there were few details about the fate of the hostages and that the Observatory was the only group who had been able to confirm the incidents.
Much of Hassakeh is divided between Kurdish and ISIL control.
Kurdish offensive
Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been on the offensive in the province in recent days.
They have taken 24 villages and hamlets as part of an operation to try to recapture the town of Tal Hamis and surrounding areas, the AFP news agency reported.
Tal Hamis lies to the east of the villages taken by ISIL on Tuesday.
YPG forces have also been on the offensive in Raqa province, which neighbours Hassakeh, seizing 19 villages as they advance following their recapture of the strategic border town of Kobane last month.
The Kurdish forces have been backed by US-led air strikes launched by the international coalition fighting ISIL.
The Observatory said the coalition carried out a series of strikes around Tal Hamis on Tuesday that killed 14 ISIL fighters.
This part of Syria is strategically important in the fight against ISIL because it borders territory controlled by the group in Iraq, where last year the armed group committed attacked the Yazidi community.
ISIL has destroyed churches and Christian shrines in Syria, and demanded that Christians living under its rule pay a tax known as jizya.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies