Isis releases 19 of the Christians it kidnapped in Syria last week

But fears remain over the fate of those still held captive

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The Independent Online

Isis has released at least 19 Christians who were among more than 220 people captured in north-eastern Syria last week.

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

Bashir Saedi, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Organisation, said the 16 men and three women arrived safely at the Church of the Virgin Mary in the city of Hassakeh today. The Assyrian Human Rights Network published photographs on its Facebook page of a crowd dressed in winter coats greeting the returnees.

It was not clear why Isis freed these captives, who were all aged about 50 or older.

The Network said the captives’ release had been ordered by a sharia court after paying an unspecified amount of money levied as a tax on non-Muslims. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said a sharia court had ruled the captives be freed, but the reasoning behind the decision was unknown.

The fate of the more than 200 other Christian Assyrians still in Isis’s hands remained unclear.