Father, son priests shot dead in northern Syria, ISIS claims credit

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain on October 17, 2019 as seen from the Turkish border town Ceylanpinar, Turkey. The military action is part of a campaign to extend Turkish control of more of northern Syria, a large swath of which is currently held by Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey regards as a threat. | Burak Kara/Getty Images

An Armenian Catholic priest and his father were murdered by terrorists Monday while traveling in a car in northeastern Syria.

According to Radio Free Europe Monday, Father Hovsep Petoian, who is the head of the Armenian Catholic community in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli near the border with Turkey, and his father, Father Abraham Petoian, were on their way to oversee the restoration of a church in Deir Al-Zor, when they were attacked.

A third man in the car with them, a deacon, was wounded in the attack.

The Islamic State is claiming credit for the killings.

Prior to the civil war in Syria, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Syria, primarily in the northwestern province of Aleppo. Many of them have since fled, including thousands back to Armenia.

A landlocked nation of approximately 3 million people that is sandwiched between the Middle East and Asia, Armenia is sometimes referred to as the land of Noah's Ark. Although physically located on far-east Turkish soil, Mount Ararat — long believed by many Christians to be the final resting place of Noah's ark — overlooks the Armenian capital city of Yerevan. The ark at the summit of the mountain with receding floodwaters is an icon that appears at the center of the Armenian coat of arms.

In recent years and at present, Islamic State militants have been and continue targeting Christians and other religious minorities in the region, displacing tens of thousands of them when they ruled large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Reports also indicate that on Monday three bombings took the lives of six civilians and wounded dozens of others in Qamishli.

"Two cars and a rigged motorcycle exploded near a cafe and a church, a statement from the region’s security forces said. The wounded included four security force members, it said, describing the blasts as a 'terrorist operation,'" according to Reuters Monday.

Qamishli, which is near the Turkish border and is mostly controlled by the Kurdish YPG — an acronym whose translation means People's Protection Units — is among the cities in Syria that have been targeted as a result of Turkey's incursion into the nation following President Donald Trump's controversial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the area last month.

"With the Kurdish YPG militia at its forefront, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated Islamic State across much of north and east Syria with U.S. help," Reuters reported.

Kurdish leaders assert that Islamic State "sleeper cells" continue to threaten the region and warn of a Turkish offensive at the border, enabling a jihadist resurgence.

Reports also emerged Monday that James Le Mesurier, the British founder of an organization that trained the Syrian rescue group called the White Helmets was found dead, having reportedly fallen from the balcony of his apartment in central Istanbul.

The White Helmets were known for rushing to the scenes of bombings to attempt rescuing the wounded from the rubble. They have also helped to document alleged war crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, the Guardian reported.

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