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Exclusive: Negotiations underway to free Assyrians held by ISIS

Negotiations are underway between ISIS and the Assyrian leadership in an effort to free the hostages held by the militant group, according to a leader of the Assyrian Patriotic Party. No deal has been struck yet to release the Assyrian hostages held by the Islamic State, confirmed Emanuel Khoshaba, secretary general of the Assyrian Patriotic Party, who said the talks are currently being brokered by third-party Syrian Sunni Muslims from the local area. Rumors circulated Friday morning about the release of all the hostages. Khoshaba denied any such news. The total number of hostages is approximately between 250 and 375, according to Syrian media sources, after an Islamic State attack February 23 on villages in the northern province of al Hasakah. “We don’t have any news yet, but this would be in exchange for Jizya, money they charge minorities,” Khoshaba said. Assyrian officials announced the release of 19 of the hostages Sunday. Four more hostages were released Tuesday. The reason behind their release was not known, but according to some of the freed hostages, they were prohibited from going back to their homes in Syria and instead told to leave the country. The February 23 attack was a coordinated raid on 35 Assyrian villages in the Hasaka province, an area where the native Christian community thrived for generations. Nine Assyrian fighters were killed in battle attempting to defend their villages. In late January, lisadaftari.com reported on a similar raid by the Islamic State on the same area, threatening to bomb churches if crosses were not removed. The Islamic State has desecrated Churches and Christian graveyards in wholesale fashion in both Iraq and Syria.
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