Terror group ISIS has kidnapped 150 Assyrian Christians and is planning on murdering them, reports have said. The number is an update on estimates from Tuesday, when 90 Assyrians were thought to have been captured.
CNN reported on Wednesday that Osama Edward, founder of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, has said that his organization's team on the ground in Syria has been collecting information about the kidnappings.
"Maybe they are facing the same destiny. That's why we call on all over the world, like the U.S, Europe, coalition forces — protect Assyrians, save Assyrians in Syria," Edward said.
"They are facing death, people are unarmed, they are peaceful. And they need help, they are just left alone — no one's protecting them."
ISIS, which last week released a video showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, is expected to release a new message detailing its plans to kill the 150 Assyrian hostages.
Edward added that he expects the latest video message to be directed at U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S.-led coalition of allies, which has been hitting ISIS targets across Iraq and Syria with airstrikes.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the kidnappings on Tuesday, and said: "ISIS' 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."
Psaki highlighted that ISIS has targeted people of all faiths, and that the majority of its victims have been Muslims — a point echoed by Obama.
The Assyrian Christians, kidnapped from villages near Tal Tamer in northeastern Syria, are believed to have been taken to a location controlled by the jihadists, the network said. As many as 35 Assyrian towns and villages have been captured by the terror group, which has forced thousands of families to flee the region.
Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern added that at least four churches were destroyed in the raid. Edward told the group that most of the hostages are women, children, and elderly people. He said that ISIS could have attacked even more villages and taken even more people, but heavy rainfall prevented the group from doing so.
"In summer time you can cross the river, but the past three or four weeks have seen a lot of rain. So ISIS was able to attack the villages just on one side of the river," Edward said, referring to the Khabur River.
Steve Oshana, executive director of A Demand for Action, said that ISIS continues to heavily target Christians and indigenous people in Syria.
"The recent violence against the Assyrian Christian communities in Khabor is only the latest in an escalating campaign of violence against these indigenous people. The siege of Mosul was just the beginning; soon the Nineveh Plains, the cradle of civilization, fell to the hands of the Islamic State, and now the very presence of Christianity in Syria is threatened by this siege," Oshana said.