Kurdish militia pressed a big offensive against ISIS in northeast Syria on Wednesday, cutting one of its supply lines from Iraq, as fears mounted for dozens of Christians abducted by the hardline group that recently beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts.
The Syriac National Council of Syria says ISIS seized 150 Assyrian Christians from villages in Hasaka province in a mass abduction coinciding with the offensive in the same region by Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes.
Hundreds more Christians have fled to the two main cities in Hasaka province, according to the Syriac council and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is tracking the conflict.
It is reported that ISIS militants are planning to murder 150 Christian hostages if the U.S. does not stop air strikes.
ISIS has killed members of religious minorities and Sunni Muslims who do not swear allegiance to its self-declared “caliphate.” The group last week released a video showing its members beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
“They want to show themselves strong, playing on the religion string, at a time when they are being hit hard,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the British-based Observatory, speaking by telephone.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, last month drove ISIS from the Syrian town of Kobani, since when further signs of strain have been seen in the group’s ranks.
The Assyrian Christians were taken from villages near the town of Tel Tamr, some 20 km (12 miles) to the northwest of the city of Hasaka.
“The Observatory said at least 132 ISIS fighters had been killed in the fighting since Feb. 21. Mahmoud, the Kurdish official, said seven members of the Kurdish YPG militia had been killed, including one foreigner.”
Some Christians are fighting under the umbrella of the YPG in Hasaka province, but not in that area, he added.
Kurds inflict new losses on ISIS
The new Kurdish offensive launched over the weekend was focused on dislodging ISIS from areas some 100 km (60 miles) further to the east, including Tel Hamis, a town that is one of its strongholds.
The Observatory said at least 132 ISIS fighters had been killed in the fighting since Feb. 21. Mahmoud, the Kurdish official, said seven members of the Kurdish YPG militia had been killed, including one foreigner.
In a telephone interview from the city of Qamishli, he said the YPG had cut a main road linking Tel Hamis with al-Houl, a town just a few kilometers from the Iraqi border.
“This is the main artery for Daesh,” he said. The Kurdish YPG militia had seized more than 100 villages from ISIS in the area, he added.
“We believe we will finish the battle of Tel Hamis in this campaign,” he added.
In other side Government forces and allied militia are waging their own campaign against ISIS, while also battling other insurgents in western areas.