Islamic State releases 19 Christian captives for ransom

Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported that the 19 Christians who were released by the Islamic State Sunday were freed because a ransom was paid for each of the captives.

The ransom, considered a jizya (tax paid by non-Muslims to Muslims in Islamic territory) by the Islamic State’s religious courts, was likely around $1,700 per person, the director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights told Arutz Sheva.

BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group released at least 19 Christians on Sunday who were among the more than 220 people the militants took captive in northeastern Syria last week, activists and a local leader said.

The news provided a modicum of relief to a Christian Assyrian community that has been devastated by the abductions, which saw Islamic State fighters haul off entire families from a string of villages along the Khabur River in Hassakeh province. But fears remain over the fate of the hundreds still held captive.

Bashir Saedi, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Organization, said the 16 men and three women arrived safely Sunday at the Church of the Virgin Mary in the city of Hassakeh. He said the 19 — all of them from the village of Tal Ghoran — had traveled by bus from the Islamic State-held town of Shaddadeh south of Hassakeh.

By Associated Press & Zach Noble – The Blaze –

ISIS Burns Churches, Takes Christian Hostages, Western Forces No Help

In the early hours of Monday, February 23, Islamic State fighters attacked several Christian villages along the Khabur River in north eastern Syria. As many as 200 Christians—including women and children—were taken hostage. Their families fear that they will either be sold as slaves and/or raped, or simply massacred, as many other Christian hostages of the Islamic State have been—most recently the 21 Coptic martyrs in Libya.

Several churches were also torched or damaged during the jihadi raid, including the church in Tel Hurmiz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, the Mar Bisho church in Tel Shamiran, the church in Qabr Shamiy and the church in Tel Baloua.

And, perhaps worst of all, this raid “brought to light deplorable conduct on the part of other persons,” namely the West. According to Archbishop Hindo:

“I wish to say quite clearly that we have the feeling of being abandoned into the hands of ISIS. Yesterday American bombers flew over the area several times, but without taking action. We have a hundred Assyrian families who have taken refuge in Hassakè, but they have received no assistance either from the Red Crescent or from Syrian government aid workers, perhaps because they are Christians. The UN high commission for Refugees is nowhere to be seen.”

By Raymond Ibrahim – D.C. Clothesline –

Sydney hostage crisis: 5 escape Islamic gunman

(AP) — Five people escaped from a Sydney cafe where a gunman took an unknown number of hostages during Monday morning rush hour. Two people inside the cafe earlier held up a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith that has often been used by extremists, raising fears that a terrorist incident was playing out in the heart of Australia’s biggest city.

The first three people ran out of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in downtown Sydney six hours into the hostage crisis, and two women sprinted from a fire exit into the arms of waiting police shortly afterward. Both women were wearing aprons with the Lindt chocolate logo, indicating they were cafe employees.

As the siege dragged into its 15th hour and second day, basic questions remained unanswered. Police refused to say how many hostages were inside the cafe, what they believed the gunman’s motives might be, whether he had made any demands or whether the hostages who fled the cafe escaped or were released.

“I would like to give you as much as I can but right now that is as much as I can,” New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said. “First and foremost, we have to make sure we do nothing that could in any way jeopardize those still in the building.”

Police were negotiating with the gunman and said they had no information to suggest anyone had been hurt. Scipione said they had not confirmed whether the siege was related to terrorism.

By Kristen Gelineau – Associated Press –