Isis militants kidnap 150 Assyrians as activists warn attack could mark 'end of Christian presence' in Middle East

Number was raised from 90 on Wednesday

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The Independent Online

The number of people taken by Isis militants who stormed Assyrian villages in Syria is now believed to be at 150, as activists warned the latest attacks could mark “the end of Christians” living in the Middle East.

Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, told Reuters at least 150 people are now missing from villages along the Khabur River. "We have verified at least 150 people who have been abducted from sources on the ground,” he said. Habib Afram, President of the Syriac League in Lebanon, warned this latest assault puts the Christian population further in jeopardy. “We are witnessing the end of the Christian presence in the east,” he told The Guardian.

Canon Andrew White, dubbed "the vicar of Baghdad" for his work at St George's church in Mosul, made a similar apocalyptic statement when Isis militants stormed the capital and ordered Christians to convert, pay a tax or be put to death last year.

"Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near,” he said at the time.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said at least 90 people had been taken on Tuesdaym while Nuri Kino, the head of A Demand for Action, put the number between 70 and 100.

Rami Abdurrahman, the SOHR director, told The Independent  that women and children are believed to among those taken by the group.

The abductions come as the SOHR rights said 132 Isis militants had been killed in the last four days by a mixture of US-led coalition air strikes and fighting on the ground from Kurdish forces in the northeastern Syrian province of Hasaka.

Syrian Kurdish militia launched two offensives against the militants in northeast Syria on Sunday, helped by US-led air strikes and Iraqi peshmerga.

Military experts said militants were trying to open a new front to relieve pressure on Islamic State after several losses since being driven from the Syrian town of Kobani near the border with Turkey, according to Reuters.

"Isis are losing in several areas so they want to wage an attack on a new area," said retired Jordanian general Fayez Dwiri.

The group most recently beheaded 21 Coptic Christians in Libya and released footage of their brutal killings.