(Photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)
Assyrian Christians have reported a new attack by terror group ISIS in the city of Hassaké in Syria, where the jihadists were successfully pushed back by local Kurdish militia before the latest insurgence. Reports have said that negotiations for the previously 232 kidnapped Assyrian Christians have stalled, among whom are 51 children and 84 women.
"We are going through a terrible moment. The jihadists of the Islamic State attacked Hassaké for two days. They were warded off by the army and Kurdish militias. But we are cut off, like an island surrounded by jihadists from all sides," said Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, head of Archieparchy in Hassaké-Nisibi, according to Fides News Agency.
ISIS has captured a number of cities across Iraq and Syria and has raided Assyrian villages on a number of occasions.
In February it kidnapped close to 300 people from 35 different villages in the Hasakah province. The terror group later released dozens of the hostages, but has since been demanding close to $30 million to free the others.
Hindo revealed that negotiations for the release of the hostages have stalled, however.
"According to the information we have, it is almost certain that the 232 Assyrian Christians the jihadists took hostage when they attacked the villages in the valley of the river Khabour are still held in al-Shaddadi," he revealed, adding that 51 children and 84 women are among those taken.
While new reports have put the number demanded by ISIS closer to $23 million, the Syrian archbishop admitted that the money is simply beyond the reach of Assyrians in the region.
"Those of Daesh usually ask what they know they can get. In this case, the goal of getting $100,000 for each hostage would be completely unattainable, and they know it," he said.
"Let us not forget that every day we deal with people who come to us and act as intermediaries, and ask for money. There are people who take advantage of the sufferings of Christians to make money. And this does not only happen here. Now we are thinking about a new attempt to reopen negotiations on a new basis."
Earlier in April, an officer within the Assyrian leadership who wasn't named also told Fox News that the money is too much, and suggested that ISIS is hoping to force other countries to help gather it.
"They know we cannot come up with this kind of money, so they are hoping other groups and countries will come up with the money," the official said.
Earlier this week AINA News reported that ISIS has bombed Assyrian and Armenian churches in another attack in Syria, close to the Khabur river where the hundreds of hostages were kidnapped in February.
The report added that all 3,000 Assyrians living in those villages have now fled the region, with some emigrating to Lebanon.