Syria: Christian town in attacked by Islamists

March 29, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

SyriaSyria, March 27, 2014: The population of a Christian town in north-west Syria was forced to flee when it was besieged by Islamist rebels; 80 people were killed, at least 13 of whom were beheaded, churches desecrated and homes looted.

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham attacked Kessab on the Turkish border early on Friday 21 March.

Around 3,000 Armenian Christian residents fled for their lives, taking refuge in neighbouring Latakia and Bassit. Some are staying with relatives and friends, but the rest are sheltering in over-crowded church

A dozen or so families with members too elderly to leave remained in Kessab and were subsequently taken hostage.

Barnabas Fund partners in Syria have been helping the displaced Christian families, who fled empty-handed. We are providing food, clothing, hygiene materials and other essentials.

Following the Islamist takeover of Kessab, a strategically important town, the Syrian army launched a counter-offensive in an effort to regain control of the territory, and fighting has continued. Kessab was the last border crossing with Turkey still in Syrian government hands. It had previously been relatively peaceful and was full of refugees who had fled violence in other parts of Syria.

TURKISH INVOLVEMENT

Turkey, which has sided with the rebels in the Syrian civil war and provided access for fighters, money and supplies, allowed hundreds of Islamist militants to cross its border on Friday to attack Kessab.

Tensions between the Syrian government and Turkey intensified when the Turkish military shot down a Syrian fighter jet that crossed its border on Sunday during a battle over the town.

The Armenian National Committee – International condemned the attacks on Kessab and Turkey’s role in them, adding:

For months, we have warned the international community of the imminent threat posed by extremist foreign fighters against the Christian minority population in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has written to US President Barack Obama calling on him to press NATO ally Turkey to stop facilitating attacks by foreign fighters associated with US-designated terrorist groups.

The ANCA said that Turkey’s actions were “a horrifying and bitter reminder” of the Armenian genocide; between 1894 and 1923, more than 1.5m Armenian and Assyrian Christians were killed by the Turks.

– barnabas team

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