Islamic State fighters ravaged the Syrian town of Qaryatain and seized a number of Christians from their homes Wednesday, Syrian Orthodox leaders announced Friday. The fall of Qaryatain, with a population of 40,000, occurred during U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in different parts of Syria and Iraq.
Of an estimated 230 civilians including 45 women and 19 children held captive by IS, some 60 are believed to be of the Christian faith.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Islamic State has begun holding Syrian Christians for ransom or prisoner swap as opposed to executing them outright as in Libya and Egypt. Rami Abdul Rahman of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released the following statement on IS strategy.
“They know that the international community and media will be interested in a case of kidnapping Christians. It’s all to send a message to the international community that it’s strong and no matter what the international community does, it will not affect Islamic State.”
According to U.S. News, the Islamic State blitzkrieg on Qaryatain Wednesday followed three suicide bombers, who detonated their baggage to destroy army checkpoints at town entry points. The casualty report stands at 37 pro-government troops and 23 IS fighters killed.
Meanwhile, as Qaryatain succumbed to Islamic State aggression, coalition forces conducted airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. Department of Defense tallied up these hits against enemy positions in both countries where the IS caliphate has taken root.
Of 11 airstrikes in Syria, seven targeted five Islamic State tactical units and destroyed 11 IS fighting positons, three motorcycles, and two bunkers near Hasakah. Two airstrikes on two IS tactical units near Aleppo decimated three IS fighting positions and a building. Near Raqqah, an air attack on a large IS tactical unit destroyed four buildings and a checkpoint manned by the enemy. An airstrike on an IS tactical unit near Kobani destroyed an IS fighting position.
Of the 16 airstrikes in Iraq, two airstrikes on two Islamic State tactical units near Huwayjah destroyed an IS checkpoint. Near Beiji, an IS tactical unit was targeted by four airstrikes, resulting in the elimination of three IS staging areas along with a vehicle. Three airstrikes conducted near Habbaniyah demolished two IS tactical units, two armored personnel carriers, two structures, a roadside bomb, and a vehicle. An airstrike on an IS tactical unit near Hit destroyed a light machine gun and an IS fighting positon. Near Makhmur, three air attacks on an IS tactical unit, neutralized 17 IS fighting positions and a weapons cache. Near Ramadi, an airstrike took out an IS tactical unit. An airstrike on an IS tactical unit near Sinjar decimated two IS fighting positions and a light machine gun. Near Tal Afar, an air attack on an IS tactical unit destroyed an IS fighting position and a light machine gun.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense report, the coalition nations participating in the airstrikes in Iraq under Operation Inherent Resolve include the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Those involved in the Syria airstrikes are the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
While flaunting Christian captives as trophies in the strategic capture of Qaryatain linking its Palmyra stronghold with the Qalamun area, Islamic State forces continue to suffer hits elsewhere.
[Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images]